As the nation emerges from the pandemic, and the restrictions it brought with it, blood collectors nationwide, and in Rhode Island, are concerned that “cabin fever” will lead to “a really bad case of spring fever” followed by an even more difficult summer for blood collection, according to a Rhode Island Blood Center spokeswoman.

To encourage donations, RIBC Marketing Communications Manager Kara LeBlanc said the blood center is opening its Westerly Center seven days a week and plans to open its other fixed sites for additional times and days. In Middletown, the Blood Center, now owned by the New York Blood Center, operates a fixed site at the Polo Center. Besides Westerly and Middletown, the blood center operates satellite sites in Woonsocket, Narragansett, and Warwick. Its main facility is in Providence.

“After a winter of lockdown, people are feeling that cabin fever,” LeBlanc said. “We’re seeing a really bad case of spring fever. People are vaccinated, and it’s understandable people want to get out and live their lives. We’re concerned that spring may also lead to one of the worst summers.”

The fears about a difficult summer are national, with blood center officials in various states expressing similar concerns as those in Rhode Island. “Blood donation has been severely affected by COVID-19,” said Marisa Marques, M.D., director of Transfusion Services at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Hospital in a recent news article. “As we head into summer – traditionally a time when blood shortages are common – the situation may become critical if donations do not increase now.”

LeBlanc said the Rhode Island Blood Center, which has curtailed many blood drives, is seeing a 10 percent no show for appointments.

Summer is typically a challenging time for blood collection, with many donors focused on summer activities, and regular blood drives at high schools and colleges mainly on hold until fall.

“We’re trying to pre-empt shortages,” said LeBlanc, referring to plans to extend blood center hours and days. “A little bit of their time can equate to a lifetime for someone.”
Leading up to the spring, however, LeBlanc said the blood center was “holding its own … hospitals weren’t admitting as many people, they weren’t doing elective surgeries.”