Blood centers’ enhanced safety protocols linked to reduced spread of COVID-19

Oct. 13, 2020

By Jay Lewis, AABB Communications Staff

The implementation of new and enhanced safety measures at blood facilities—including mandatory social distancing, masks, temperature screening and heightened disinfection protocols—appears to be associated with a reduction in the spread of infection, according to the results of a study presented at an Oral Abstract Session on COVID-19 during the AABB 2020 Virtual Annual Meeting and summarized on the association’s blog.

The study found that fewer employee sick days were taken following blood centers’ implementation of enhanced safety protocols. The study results were presented by Emily Coberly, MD, medical director of the Missouri/Arkansas Region at the American Red Cross. Coberly said since blood collection center employees are considered essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, understanding methodology to reduce the spread of infection among them is a critical public health issue.

For the study, Coberly and her colleagues tracked 19,517 blood collection center employees working in facilities throughout the United States. According to Coberly, all facilities included in the study implemented contact tracing and quarantining interventions for employees on March 13, 2020. The additional safety measures of mandatory social distancing, masks, temperature screening and heightened disinfection protocols were implemented during the following weeks; all facilities had all of these measures in place by April 16, 2020.

The researchers tracked employee sick days and assessed a callout rate, which was defined as the percentage of scheduled employees unable to report to work for any cause during the time period. Causes included COVID-19-related symptoms and asymptomatic quarantine. The results showed that weekly callout rates increased in the first few weeks following implementation of the initial measures. This was likely due to the number of asymptomatic employees quarantining after coming in contact with someone who had, or was suspected of having, COVID-19. However, following the implementation of the additional safety measures (in place by April 16), the weekly callout rate declined and has remained relatively low since then.

Coberly said the implementation of safety protocols was particularly important during the pandemic. “Safety measures implemented have overall resulted in decreases to the overall callout rates,” said Coberly. “However, since multiple interventions were implemented simultaneously, it is not possible to determine the individual impact of each measure.”

Visit AABB for more news