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St. Mary hosting blood drive Thursday

NATCHEZ — Blood services are experiencing a critical shortage of donations in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak due to the closing of schools, churches and other facilities, they said.

Although the church itself is closed, St. Mary Basilica is hosting a blood drive this Thursday with Vitalant to combat the shortage. Mississippi Blood Services is also hosting a drive Monday at Natchez Walmart, representative Sheri Book said.

Thursday’s drive lasts from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the O’Connor Family Life Center, 613 Main St., organizers said. Monday’s drive will last from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in the Walmart parking lot, Book said.

“With the cancelation of school and other organizational gatherings, blood shortages have been something that we’re also having to deal with,” Book said. “We are having to look for alternative areas to host blood drives.”

United Blood Services representative Chassidy Kent also said blood banks have experienced a drop in donations nationally.

“Our donations have dropped about 25%,” Kent said. “… Our scheduled blood drives outside our donation center make up about 60% of our supply.”

Kent said COVID-19 is a respiratory disease and medical professionals believe it cannot be transmitted through blood transfusions. Blood suppliers said only those who feel healthy and well should attempt to donate and said their staff will measure the potential donor’s temperature, blood pressure and ask a series of health-related questions before taking blood.

Specific guidelines and more donor eligibility requirements are listed at vitalant.org, Kent said.

“Blood drives are not considered to be mass gatherings. They are an essential healthcare need,” she said. “… We will have our donors sign in, put their phone numbers down on a list and ask them to wait until we call them so there are never more than 5 to 6 people in the room at a time. We also sanitize all of our equipment and chairs after each person.”

While many businesses and organizations have closed their doors, the need for blood for emergency health procedures still exists, Book said.

Book said individuals could schedule a blood drive for their community by contacting her at 662-571-9978.

“We are going to have to have more blood. It’s not going to stop,” she said. “… We are practicing every precaution by national guidelines. … Our staff is moving very quickly and carefully to take care of our donors. … We hope everyone will come out so that we can continue to supply blood to our hospitals. Mississippi Blood Services loves our loyal donors from Natchez and we look forward to seeing them.”