‘Rampant’ COVID cases, low hospital staffing levels threaten Rotary fall blood screenings

BUCKHANNON – A representative from St. Joseph’s Hospital said the Sept. 25 blood screenings are still scheduled to occur – at least for now.

Lisa Wharton, vice president for public relations, marketing and Foundation at St. Joseph’s Hospital, said previous blood screenings dates were canceled due to high COVID numbers during the Monday, Sept. 7 Rotary Club of Buckhannon-Upshur meeting.

“We’re just going to have to wait and see where we are. Right now, COVID is rampant in this county. The hospital is full, and staffing is an issue,” Wharton said. “I just talked to [St. Joseph’s lab tech] Mike Walton, hoping we can pull the one off on the 25th, but we’re just going to have to watch the numbers and see where we are.”

The current blood screening dates are Sept. 25, Oct. 9, Oct. 23 and Nov. 13 at St, Joseph’s Hospital. According to a press release from St. Joseph’s, basic blood profile tests will be offered at $35, with additional testing for thyroid for $5, hemoglobin A1C for $15, colon cancer screening for $5 and prostate testing for $20.

An additional test for the Hepatitis C antibody will be offered for $20. These blood screening dates are by appointment only, scheduling an appointment can be done online at https://RotaryBloodScreening.as.me/ or over the phone at 304-997-9839.

Although it’s yet-to-be-determined if the blood screenings will take place as scheduled throughout the fall, Wharton said that locally and nationally, the blood shortage is so critical that the Sept. 15 blood drive at the Event Center at Brushy Fork is still on, no matter what.

“We are definitely going forward with the blood donation drive,” Wharton said. “I spoke with Vitalant, and they feel totally confident with social distancing and masking, they can be completely safe. We are having it at the Event Center (at Brushy Fork), and blood shortage is so critical right now – it’s critical across the country – so we will be doing that on Wednesday Sept. 15 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. In addition, we’re doing a donation of food for the Parish House, whether they’re giving blood or not.”

According to a press release from St. Joseph’s, to make an appointment to donate blood, go online to Vitalant.org and use group code W4310005 or call 304-473-2164 or 412-209-7000.

Wharton said she does not think they will do large clinics for COVID-19 booster shots any time soon.

“For boosters, we don’t think we’re going to be running the big clinics again, primarily because so many people will become eligible for them at different times,” Wharton said. “The guidelines say you can get a booster eight months after your last shot. It may change to six, so we wouldn’t have those huge numbers all come in at the same time; they’d be staggered, so we’re probably going to direct them through primary care clinics.”

Patients that are immunocompromised are eligible for a booster shot now.

“Right now, you can get a booster shot if you’re immunocompromised, meaning you go through chemo or have some other kind of illness,” Wharton said. “They’re not requiring proof of that as long as you go somewhere and say, ‘yes, I am immunocompromised,’ then you can get the shot, but we’re hoping by Sept. 20 they’re going to announce that it’s going to be available to everybody.”

Updates on blood drives and blood screenings may be found on the Rotary Club of Buckhannon-Upshur Facebook page.

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