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Pandemic Impacting Central, South Coast Blood Collection Efforts; Emergency Supplies Low

(KCLU photo)
Bill Gratke of Moorpark make a blood donation at Vitalant's Ventura blood collection center.

Kim Vega is doing something which might help save the life of a person she doesn’t even know.  The Camarillo woman is making a donation at a Ventura blood bank.  But, fewer people are doing it these days, because of the pandemic.  While the need for blood, and blood products hasn’t dropped, the amount coming in has taking a big hit, and a lot of concern for blood collection centers.

Susan Noone is Regional Director for Vitalant.  The non-profit is the nation’s largest independent non-profit blood services provider.  It has four collection centers on the Central and South Coasts, including one in Ventura.

She says COVID-19 safety concerns mean that you can’t use mobile bloodmobiles, because there isn’t enough room inside for social distancing.  And, mobile drives account for as much as half of the blood collected annually.  Some of the gap has been filled by non-profits and businesses with space hosting drives.

Noone says in addition to the loss of many drives, some donors are afraid to come to collection centers because of COVID-19 safety concerns. She says they’ve worked hard to insure they are safe, with steps like temperature tests, masking, and social distancing.

Noone walks us into a large room at Vitalant’s Ventura Collection Center.  There are dozens of what look like comfortable lounge chairs separated by what appear to be IV poles.  She says on a good day, 50 people a day will be here donating blood and plasma.

You don’t have to convince the people here this morning about the need, because they have taken the time, and trouble to come to a blood center.

Longtime donor Kim Vega says she feels comfortable, with everyone masked and social distancing taking place.

A few feet away, Bill Gratkey of Moorpark is also donating.  He says when his father was seriously ill, he received transfusions.  Gratkey feels that being a regular donor allows him to give back.

While the mobile drives have been harder to find on the Central and South Coasts due to the pandemic, Vitalant has four permanent centers where people can donate.  They are in Ventura, Santa Barbara, Santa Maria, and San Luis Obispo. 

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral.