The closing of schools and colleges in Calcasieu Parish for the last week has had many consequences for area residents — including creating a dire situation for area blood banks.
Shawn Melancon, who serves as the regional director for Lifeshare Blood Centers, said Friday that the Lake Charles area blood bank numbers are down around 4,000-6,000 units because at least 40 percent of blood donors are students attending high schools or colleges in the area.
"We are really in an urgent situation," Melancon said. "Not because so many people are needing blood donations due to the coronavirus, but because Lifeshare relies heavily on the donations from students."
Area blood banks are in need of every blood type at this time, Melancon said.
"We absolutely have a critical need for donations," he said. "The demand never stops. We still have cancer patients and heart patients needing blood transfusions; traumas are still occurring. We need donors right now to help offset the shortage caused by the closure of schools."
Lifeshare is planning to be open throughout the weekend for those people willing to give blood. The donation center, located at 214 Dr. Michael DeBakey Drive, will 8 a.m.-2 p.m. today, and "anyone wishing to donate blood can head down to the center," Melancon said.
Asked if there would be any new restrictions in place with regards to who can and cannot donate, Melancon said that as yet there hadn't been any specific restrictions imposed upon Lifeshare directly as the result of the coronavirus, but he did urge potential donors to take stock before heading out.
"As long as folks are feeling well, without fever of course, and aren't exhibiting any respiratory symptoms, we welcome their donations. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is the government agency that places restrictions on blood donors," Melancon explained. "At this time all of the normal rules apply for donors," he said. "We haven't been notified of any changes to protocol."
One message that Melancon wanted to get out to everyone planning to donate in the days and weeks to come is to ask donors to consider becoming repeat Lifeshare customers.
"This crisis looks like it is going to have a substantial impact on us for a good deal of time," Melancon explained. "We urge those people donating this weekend and in the coming weeks to please schedule their second donation, which can be made 56 days following their first. We are going to have a critical need for some time to come."
Residents can also check out Lifeshare's website, www.lifeshare.org for more information about donation opportunities and bloodmobile locations around Calcasieu Parish.