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Coming together during a pandemic to provide life-giving blood.

Service member gives blood while wearing a mask. Captain Aaron Hew Len, assigned to Task Force Oahu’s COVID-19’s response team, donates blood during the Armed Services Blood Program drive held April 24, 2020, at the 29th Infantry Brigade Combat Readiness Center in Kalaeloa, Hawaii. The blood donated by activated guardsmen will be used by service members on the front line and homefront, and by their civilian counterparts. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Mysti Bicoy)

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As the nation continues to battle the spread of COVID-19, the Armed Services Blood Program has instituted new safety measures and programs to ensure the warfighter will receive the blood products they need. When people think of donating blood, they probably envision whole blood, explained Army Col. Audra L. Taylor, ASBP division chief. But blood donations are also broken down to blood components, including plasma, platelets, and red blood cells. These blood products — including whole blood — are sent to combatant commands around the world, as well as to military treatment facilities. Blood products do expire, which makes the need for blood donors ever constant, Taylor added.

Service members are taking action by giving blood to support their brothers and sisters in arms during this worldwide pandemic. Donors include Army Sgt. Samantha Delgado, who recently reached the one-gallon donor milestone at the Lackland Blood Donor Center in Texas. As a universal blood-type donor, Delgado knows that her blood can go to anyone and has given it readily over her five years in the Army. “I feel as though it’s a civil duty for me to give as it’s the only blood type that can go to everyone,” she said.

Delgado is among thousands of service members throughout the country who are rolling up their sleeves to save lives by donating blood. From coast to coast and around the world, military communities are coming together to support a fit and ready force by coordinating and supporting local blood drives hosted by the ASBP. The ASBP is the official blood program for the Department of Defense, tasked with ensuring the Military Health System has blood products wherever and whenever needed.

In response to COVID-19, the ASBP has implemented additional safety measures at blood drives and centers to ensure a safe donation environment following recommended guidelines by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as the Food and Drug Administration. Newly implemented procedures include staff wearing appropriate personal protective equipment, taking of a donor’s temperature before entering the collection area, keeping groupings of staff and donors to 10 or less, increasing cleaning products on site, and cleaning of all reused items such as pens.

“There is no known or reported risk to a donor at this time to contract COVID-19 during the donation process,” said Taylor, adding anyone interested in donating blood or organizing a local blood drive can contact the ASBP.

Due to social distancing and stay-at-home orders throughout the country, the ASBP has seen numerous blood drives cancelled and a significant decrease in donor turnout. Thanks to military communities coming together, the blood program has been able to meet the current demand for blood abroad and within military treatment facilities. However, the situation can change rapidly and the need for donations is critical to support present and future readiness.

Marine Lance Cpl. Mark Cody, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment in Twentynine Palms, California, decided to donate at his local ASBP blood drive because he heard giving blood will support service members on the front lines. “I am simply donating blood because it’s the right thing to do,” said Cody. “When you have the chance to help the forward deployed units, you just do it. We have to have each other’s back and giving blood is one way to show we care for one another.”

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