April 5, 2020

On March 19, 2020, after Governor Wolf issued a Proclamation of Disaster Emergency in response to the novel Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) on March 6, 2020, the Governor and Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine issued Orders directing all non-life sustaining businesses to cease in-person operations. The Pennsylvania Department of Health (Department) recognizes the importance of blood donation during public health crises and pandemics. The Department has received inquiries requesting additional guidance and clarification regarding blood donation during the COVID-19 outbreak. As life-sustaining businesses, blood banks are eligible to continue operating certain activities under the current “stay at home” Orders and other mitigation efforts ordered by the Governor and Secretary of Health so long as these organizations are open for the sole purpose of blood donation.

The Department is providing the below guidance in response.

Use of Space and Eligibility for Blood Drive

Blood banks are authorized to hold blood drives and blood donation events in both life-sustaining and non-life sustaining business locations. Non-life sustaining businesses that allow blood drives at their locations must limit activities to those required to conduct the blood drive and shall not conduct non-life sustaining business. All other business activities of the blood bank must adhere to the Governor’s order for life-sustaining business.

Blood banks should screen potential donors for symptoms of illness, including COVID-19, and consider only healthy individuals for blood donation.

The below guidelines should be followed by the blood bank to ensure safety. This information reinforces routine measures that are currently followed by blood centers, provides additional public health measures, and complements Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) Interim Infection Control Guidance on COVID-19 for Personnel at Blood and Plasma Collection Facilities. These measures will help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Infection Control and Environmental Management

  • Adhere to routine infection control procedures, including appropriate respiratory hygiene/cough etiquette and sharps handling precautions for preventing the transmission of infectious agents;
  • Follow hand hygiene guidance to help prevent person-to-person spread of COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses; 
    • Staff and volunteers should regularly wash their hands, including in-between contact with different donors, with soap and water for at least 20 seconds;
    • If gloves are used, change gloves and cleanse hands between contact with different blood donors;
  • Clean and disinfect environmental surfaces in accordance with standard facility protocols after each donor has vacated the station and before setting up for arrival of a new donor at that station;
  • Regularly clean and sanitize surfaces and equipment that are in high traffic areas, high touch areas and donation spaces.

Screening Staff/Donors and Stay Home When Sick

Educate staff, volunteers, and donors about recognizing symptoms of COVID-19 and infection control measures. Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, and shortness of breath.

  • Screen all donors, staff, and volunteers before they enter the facility;
  • The screening process should include asking the individual if they are experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19 or may have been exposed to an individual who tested positive for COVID-19, in addition to regular screening practices;
  • A staff person who develops symptoms while at work must cease collection facility activities, notify supervisor, minimize contact with others in facility, and go home promptly;
  • Implement and reinforce sick leave policies that are non-punitive, flexible, and consistent with public health guidance.

Educate Staff and Maintain Social Distancing

Maintain social distancing practices by ensuring that all donor spaces are a minimum of six feet apart; this includes beds, waiting areas, and screening areas.

  • Adjust the physical configuration of the donor cots during blood collection so that donors are at least 6 feet apart;
  • Ensure that those in the facility are able to keep at least a 6-foot space between individuals, including limiting access to the facility to smaller numbers if required.

Other Information

This guidance will become effective immediately and continue in effect through the duration of the Governor’s COVID-19 Disaster Emergency Declaration. The Department may update or supplement this guidance as needed. With the Governor’s authorization as conferred in the Disaster Emergency Declaration, all statutory and regulatory provisions that would impose an impediment to implementing the guidance outlined in this letter are suspended. Those suspensions will remain in place while the proclamation of disaster emergency remains in effect.