Blood Bank of Hawaii blood drives to resume on the Big Island

  • Tribune-Herald file photo Phlebotomist Connie Ryan marks the location of a vein on Linda Quarberg’s arm as Quarberg prepares to donate blood during a Blood Bank of Hawaii blood drive in January 2019 at Aunty Sally’s Luau Hale in Hilo. The blood bank will resume blood drives on the Big Island later this month.

The Blood Bank of Hawaii is returning to the neighbor islands for the first time since March to collect blood from donors.

The blood bank stopped collection services when the COVID-19 pandemic spread to Hawaii and the stay-at-home order was enacted in March.

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“We are exceedingly grateful to Mayor (Harry) Kim for giving us permission to host our Hawaii Island drives this fall,” said Todd Lewis, Blood Bank of Hawaii chief operations officer. “Our staff is excited to return, and will do everything possible to make saving lives a safe and enjoyable experience.”

In addition to whole blood donations, healthy donors who have a positive, lab-confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis and have been symptom-free for 28 days can contact the blood bank to learn how they can donate plasma.

According to the Food and Drug Administration, anyone who has fought a coronavirus infection will have COVID-19 antibodies in their plasma. These antibodies provided one way for the person’s immune system to fight the virus, so donated plasma can be used to help others fight off the disease.

“The greatest need, and focus of the Hilo blood drive, is for red cells and plasma for transfusion to replenish the blood supply,” said Kim-Anh Nguyen, Blood Bank of Hawaii president and CEO.

However, if there are eligible COVID-19 convalescent plasma, or CCP, donors, “we’re happy to facilitate a donation, or we can plan for a future opportunity in Hawaii County,” Nguyen said.

The blood bank is specifically seeking O-negative and O-positive donors, because Hawaii experiences a chronically low supply of type O blood, according to the blood bank.

While all blood is needed and welcomed, O-negative is the highest in demand because it’s accepted by everyone. O-positive can be used by anyone with a positive blood type, which is about 80% of local residents.

Blood donors do not need to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test before collection because the virus is not spread through the blood. However, additional COVID-19 protocols and procedures recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will be followed at all collection locations.

“We are following stringent sanitizing guidelines and checking vitals before allowing people to donate,” said spokeswoman Kashmira Reid. “Face masks are also required of course.”

To further protect donors, walk-ins will not be allowed. Donors must make an appointment online or by telephone.

People interested in donating blood can do so for three days at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints Hilo Stake Cultural Hall. Collection times are 7 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 22; 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 23; and 6 a.m.-3 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 24.

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Donors can register at bbh.org or call 808-848-4770.

Email Kelsey Walling at kwalling@hawaiitribune-herald.com.