SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. -- For a third straight year, NewsChannel is partnering with Vitalant during for its annual MLK National Day of Service blood drive.
"We are urgent right now on all types, except for O-negative, where we're critical, so it's not great," said Mona Kleman, Vitalant Senior Manager Donor Recruitment. "We hope to build it up next week and make the inventory more solid."
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for blood is more urgent than ever before.
"Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we have not seen a decrease in other medical problems that require blood transfusions, whether that be trauma, or ulcer disease, or cancers," said Dr. Eric Salinger, Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center Chief of Staff. "People still need to have blood transfusions as part of their medical treatment so they can continue to have healthy lives."
Over the past 10 months since the pandemic began, Vitalant has seen a significant dip in blood donations due in large part to a reduction in the number of blood drives held.
"We have not been utilizing our buses," said Kleman. "That's the main thing we utilize out in the community to hold blood drives. Immediately (after the pandemic), people were cancelling blood drives right and left."
According to Vitalant, since the beginning of the pandemic, more than 14,000 Vitalant blood drives nationwide have been forced to cancel due to COVID-19, representing about 363,000 uncollected donations.
Kleman stressed Vitalant would like the public to know people should feel comfortable and secure when donating blood.
"We wipe down surfaces between every contact point," said Kleman. "Everyone has to wear masks. We take temperatures of initially entering the building, and then again in the screening room, so there's all these added steps that we take now that we didn't use to on a regular basis."
As in years past, Vitalant will provide a little extra incentive for people to take part in the blood drive, providing free giveaways.
"We have t-shirts for everyone donating, all the way down at all the centers," said Kleman. "We also have individually wrapped really good cookies that we're going to be handing out (except in Ventura) and for San Luis Obispo and Santa Maria, we'll have coupons for a pint of ice cream at Doc Burnstein's."
Kleman added spots are already filling up on Monday, so the giveaways will be available for anyone who donates during the entire week.
"We are going to extend the entire week," said Kleman. "If you want to sign up, you'll still get a t-shirt. We'll still recognize you and we'll include you in hte count for this event."
The MLK National Day of Service blood drive will be held Monday, Jan. 18 at Vitalant locations in San Luis Obispo, Santa Maria, Santa Barbara and Ventura.
"It can be less than an hour of your time in one day and you can actually help save a life," said Kleman. "You might even help save more than one life.
For more information, visit www.vitalant.org or call (877) 25-VITAL