LifeSouth Road Sign

A sign in front of LifeSouth Community Blood Centers in Opelika asks for locals to donate in the midst of a need for blood donors during the coronavirus outbreak.

Opelika’s LifeSouth Community Blood Centers saw countless locals help the cause last week after being in an emergency need for blood donations.

Although the donation center is no longer in dire need, there is still a need for people to donate in the days and weeks to come.

Sharon Carpenter, LifeSouth’s South Alabama district director, said the area had more than 200 people donate in a seven-day period last week in order to help meet the donation center’s needs.

With the coronavirus threatening stay-at-home orders and lockdowns in the future, however, she explained it’s imperative for people to donate while they are still free to leave their homes.

“We aren’t in emergency need anymore, but we always need a consistent donor flow every day in order to supply our hospital. Even though our inventory is better, we still need donors to come in on a daily basis to donate,” Carpenter said. “Right now it’s really important for people to realize we need a consistent supply, especially since the next few weeks are kind of unknown as to what is going to happen.”

LifeSouth provides 100 percent of the blood products used at East Alabama Medical Center.

EAMC spokesman John Atkinson said the hospital has a shorter supply of blood donations than usual, and it could reach a critical stage if donations remain low for a period of time.

LifeSouth has made several adjustments to ensure donors are protected once they step into the center. Would-be donors have their temperatures checked upon entry to make sure they are not running a fever, and anything a donor touches is sanitized immediately after use.

The center’s chairs have been spread out to follow the six-foot social distancing recommendations, and the staff is constantly wiping down commonly-touched areas such as the doorknobs in the building.

Carpenter explained LifeSouth’s hours of operation have remained the same as has its staffing, but it has adjusted where it sends its mobile units due to local businesses and schools being closed.

She added that blood donation centers are considered an essential industry like hospital workers, and if a quarantine or lockdown took place it would still be open.

Additionally, Carpenter said blood donation would be an acceptable reason for people to leave if such a situation occurred.

Carpenter said the Opelika location saw a doubling and tripling of its average donor numbers last week in response to the low blood supply. Although that help was incredibly important, she emphasized it’s also important for others to do their part as soon as they can.

“If everyone gets a stay-in-place order or a shelter-in-place order, then it makes it a little more difficult for us to find blood donors,” Carpenter said. “We’re just trying to make sure we have adequate supply right now and build up that inventory so that in the next week or two if it changes and we’re not able to get out there and get donors then we’ll still have that supply for the hospital.”

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