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Montana Red Cross works to ensure safe blood drives during COVID-19 pandemic

Posted at 9:15 AM, Mar 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-26 11:15:59-04

GREAT FALLS — A Wednesday’s blood drive at the American Red Cross Donation Center in Great Falls brought in 47 donors, a rarity for the country during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Nationally there’s been more than 7,000 cancellations which has resulted in 200,000 less donations,” said Red Cross donor recruitment representative Scott Shanahan. “We have a serious need for blood and we’re asking everybody if they’re healthy to come donate.”

The American Red Cross has several precautions in place to make sure donors can give blood in a safe, sterile environment. They have limited the number of people allowed inside the donation center at one time and enforce social distancing among people in the waiting room.

Now obviously it’s hard to practice social distancing when someone sticks a needle in your arm, but phlebotomists are taking extra measures to ensure donors aren’t at risk.

“Before donors even come in, we’re taking their temperature,” Shanahan said. “We’re using sterile gloves, we have hand sanitizer before you go back to donate and after you’re finished. We’re wiping down the stations before and after donors.”

With fewer numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Montana than elsewhere around the country, blood drives in the state haven’t slowed down as much.

“We have several mobile drives and community drives scheduled,” Shanahan said. “We’re actually in Fort Benton tomorrow. Most of our drives are in large locations so we can practice social distancing. I think in Montana people are really standing up.”

But Shanahan stresses that the need for blood is constant. And it’s important to continue holding drives as long as it is safe to do so.

“We’re asking people to make appointments,” Shanahan said. “We’ll still take walk-ins, but you might not be able to be seen with the steps we’re taking.”

To sign up for a blood drive, visit and enter your ZIP code to find the nearest location and reserve a time to donate.