MUSCATINE, Iowa–Since the COVID-19 pandemic first started directly impacting Muscatine in March, the Mississippi Valley Blood Center, like other organizations, has experienced many changes. Kirby Winn, a spokesperson for the blood center remembers that not long after COVID-19 first appeared in Washington in February, groups across Iowa, and then throughout Muscatine, began canceling blood drives at their locations. The closures of colleges, universities, and schools further reduced the number of donors giving blood. Across their entire multi-state region, Winn estimates the Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center lost more than 20,000 donations due to canceled drives.
However, as Winn put it, “the use of blood never does stop,” so the Muscatine blood center itself, located next to Hy-Vee on Second Avenue, stayed open. Even when Governor Kim Reynolds closed many businesses to slow the spread of COVID-19, Winn reported, “we were always exempt from that because the blood supply is considered essential.”
In order to keep donors, staff members, and the blood they send off to regional hospitals, including UnityPoint Trinity Muscatine Hospital, safe, the blood center did institute a variety of new policies. These include having everyone in the blood center wear a mask, requiring donors to make an appointment before coming in, pre-donation screening questions to ensure no donors have symptoms of COVID-19, and increased cleaning of the donation center.
With these procedures in place, Kirby has found the general public feels safe donating blood and has continued to do so. “People are coming out to give blood,” he said. “We’ve seen a good level of support.” To keep the levels of donation at a healthy level though, Kirby still encourages people to contact the Muscatine blood center at 563-264-2967 to learn more about blood donation eligibility or to schedule an appointment.
Since the FDA granted an emergency use authorization for convalescent plasma as a treatment for COVID-19, many people have had questions about who can donate it and if local blood banks can collect it. Winn shared that the Muscatine branch of the Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center can collect convalescent plasma and in fact has done so since April. “This is a donation type we’re very confident with because we’ve collected plasma previously,” he stated.
In order for people to donate convalescent plasma, they must have had COVID-19 as confirmed by a nasal swab test, which provides the most accurate and consistent results. They must also have not experienced any symptoms of the disease for at least 28 days before donating and meet all regular qualifications for donating blood. If you would like to learn more about convalescent plasma, you can find additional details by visiting the Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center’s website.