LifeSouth to restart blood drives Saturday in Alachua

LifeSouth Community Blood Center on Saturday will host its first high school-sponsored blood drive in 11 months at an event that will benefit Santa Fe High School.

Before the pandemic, LifeSouth would set up mobile donation centers at most local high schools about four times a year. Those on-campus events accounted for 15 percent to 20 percent of the area’s donations, said Laura Bialeck, LifeSouth district community development coordinator.

“It’s been a pretty significant blow for us not to be able to go on campus,” Bialeck said.

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Blood donations Saturday also will benefit Santa Fe High School. LifeSouth will give the school a grant based on the number of donors. The more donors at the event, the higher the grant amount.

The blood drive will run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Hal Brady Recreation Complex Gymnasium, 14300 NW 146 Terrace in Alachua. The large indoor location allows for social distancing while donors are waiting and during donation. Masks are required, and LifeSouth will take temperatures at the door.

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While the blood center needs donations from people with any blood type, Bialeck said area supplies are “very, very low” for O-positive and O-negative.

LifeSouth supplies 100 percent of the blood to the hospitals in Gainesville and surrounding communities, so any donations would provide local benefit.

The blood center tests all the eligible blood donors for COVID-19 antibodies and also is looking for recently recovered people who can donate plasma.

Plasma collected from recently recovered patients – called convalescent plasma – is being used to treat hospitalized COVID-19 patients. Antibodies in the plasma can help people with COVID-19 recover.

“We can’t keep up with the demand,” Bialeck said.

Before the pandemic, LifeSouth collected 80 percent of its blood donations from its blood mobile events. The Saturday event is part of the center’s efforts to find an alternative community-style blood drive.

Bialeck said LifeSouth hopes Saturday marks the return of school-based events.

“If it does go well, we would love to partner with other high schools to do the same thing,” she said. “We want to be able to host high school blood drives in an alternate way that benefits the community and the high school.”

Donors must be at least 17 years old, or 16 years old with parental permission. They must be in good health and weigh at least 110 pounds. Donors also will need a photo ID.

LifeSouth will be giving donors a thank you gift that includes an event T-shirt and a coupon for a free one-topping pizza from Dominos.

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