If giving blood has been an MU Homecoming tradition for you, the Central and Northern Missouri Red Cross and MU’s Blood Drive organizers want you to know that you can still donate. And your donation is more important than ever.

Before it was canceled because of COVID-19, the 2020 MU Homecoming blood drive was going to be the 35th consecutive year of partnership with the Red Cross to collect blood donations. An important tradition for many, it took a pandemic to put an asterisk on a record for what some claim is the largest student-run blood drive in the nation.

Students are still being encouraged to donate on their own at various locations when the blood drive would have taken place, a campaign that has brought in over 100,000 pints of blood since it began.

“We’re in the Speakers Circle, and we’re giving buttons and swag out, but mostly promoting the blood drive and informing everybody of why it’s important,” said Homecoming Tri-Director Rebecca Shyu, who is in charge of the blood committee this year. “We’re just doing a lot of things virtually, like engagements on social media, just because we can’t do much in person this year.”

Without the competition aspect of homecoming within the Greek community and other organizations, donations are expected to be a lot lower.

Donations from MU’s Homecoming blood drive accounted for about 27% of the total donations collected from the Central and Northern Missouri Red Cross last year. This year, the estimated donations are expected to be around 800 pints, said Abigail Anderson, the executive director of the Central and Northern Missouri Red Cross.

To make matters worse, there’s a dire need for donations, partly because of a decline during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A safe way to donate

A lot of blood drives have been canceled as businesses, schools, churches and other organizations that would typically host events have moved their work online. With fewer opportunities to donate in the community and less people doing so, donation centers are able to implement safety measures easily.

“Everybody’s required to wear a mask at a Red Cross blood drive,” Anderson said. “We’re very similar to a medical facility because giving blood is in fact a medical procedure. So it’s a very safe practice.”

The Red Cross checks the temperature of anyone entering their building at 1511 S. Providence Road, Columbia. Masks are provided for those who arrive without one and social distancing is abundantly obvious. Beds are sanitized in-between use, and a special 30-second antiseptic scrub is used on the arm in place of the regular alcohol wipe.

“We make it a very safe environment to give and we’ve had great success with this practice thus far,” Anderson said.

The blood donations collected from the Homecoming blood drive help serve the local community, as well as other locations.

“That could be St. Louis, it could be Ohio, it’s wherever there’s a shortage and where hospitals are showing that they’re in need of blood quickly,” Anderson said.

In some cases, really rare blood types can get shipped internationally through the Red Cross international network.

“If you have a really rare blood disorder, we have this program where you can actually get matched with a specific blood donor so you’re receiving that same donor’s blood every time you get a transfusion,” Anderson said. “Some of those are matched cross country and some of them are matched internationally, depending on the rarity of the blood.”

Your body and antibodies

According to the American Red Cross website, all blood, platelet and plasma donations will be tested for the COVID-19 antibodies.

“As part of that effort, plasma from whole blood donations that test positive for COVID-19 antibodies may now help current coronavirus patients in need of convalescent plasma transfusions,” according to the Red Cross’s website.

The more people that donate, the more they can determine how many people have the antibodies for the coronavirus. They cannot predict your level of immunity, as researchers are still trying to understand this, but they can let you know if you test positive for the antibodies.

“We’re experiencing a huge shortage during the month of October,” Anderson said, “so I would recommend donating sooner rather than later.”

Those who are able to donate during homecoming week can help with the shortage of donations nationally. Each donation can save up to three lives and donors will be entered for a chance to win MU gear, receive a homecoming T-shirt and will be entered for a chance to win an Amazon gift card from the Red Cross.

For more information on where to donate, visit the Mizzou Alumni Association.

For more COVID-19 related news, see our section dedicated to COVID-19 updates.
  • Public safety and health reporter, fall 2020 Studying photojournalism Reach me at hestvp@umsystem.edu, or in the newsroom at 882-5700

  • I'm the public safety and health editor at the Missourian and a professor in the School of Journalism. I'm experienced in directing investigative projects. Call me at (573) 882-1792 with story tips, ideas or complaints.

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