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Carolina honored for blood drive effort

The American Red Cross honored Carolina for hosting the largest single-day blood drive in the country during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Garret Reid hands a certificate to Chancellor Guskiewicz.
Garrett Reid, donor services executive with the Eastern North Carolina Region of the American Red Cross, presents Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz with a certificate recognizing Carolina for hosting the largest single drive nationwide during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Jon Gardiner/UNC-Chapel Hill)

On Feb. 1, the American Red Cross recognized Carolina for hosting the largest single-day blood drive operation in the country during the COVID-19 pandemic. The June 2020 Carolina Blood Drive safely collected 808 units of blood, despite numerous challenges presented by the pandemic.

A group of masked and physically distanced American Red Cross representatives, including Garrett Reid, donor services executive for the Eastern North Carolina Region, gathered at the Old Well on Monday morning to present Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz with an award honoring the University’s accomplishment.

Only 3% of the U.S. population gives blood, even though the need for blood is constant, and just one donation can help save multiple lives. According to the Red Cross, every two seconds someone in the U.S. needs blood.

“The need for blood doesn’t stop because of a pandemic,” said Reid.

Jen DeNeal, the University’s associate director of ethics and policy and the chair of the Carolina Blood Drive planning committee, said that Carolina’s partnership with the Red Cross is an important one.

The Carolina Blood Drive, which started more than three decades ago in 1989, is one of the largest and longest-standing blood drives in the American Red Cross Eastern North Carolina region.

“The significance of this partnership is especially clear when you look at the numbers,” DeNeal said. “Carolina’s record-breaking summer blood drive during the COVID-19 pandemic is emblematic of a commitment that has, over the years, impacted more than 100,000 lives.”

The Red Cross adheres to the highest standards of safety and infection control and implemented extra precautions during the pandemic to ensure the health of donors, staff and volunteers at the June blood drive. Face masks, social distancing and temperature checks were required for everyone at the drive.

Later in June, the Red Cross tested blood, platelet and plasma donations for COVID-19 antibodies to let donors know whether they may have been exposed to the virus. Additionally, plasma from whole blood donations that test positive for COVID-19 antibodies can be used in convalescent plasma transfusions for current COVID-19 patients.

The Carolina community came together again to donate the gift of life on Nov. 19, 2020, and collected nearly 300 more units of blood. Combined, the June 2020 Carolina Blood Drive and the November 2020 Holiday Carolina Blood Drive collected well over 1,000 units of blood, a number that will save thousands of lives.

“We are so thankful for the University of North Carolina’s commitment to hosting Carolina Blood Drives,” Reid said. “It was amazing to see how the University’s Employee Forum was able to rally community members to roll up their sleeves to provide lifesaving blood for patients in need. We are proud to be UNC’s partner in service during this critical time.”