The 39th annual Blood Battle will begin on Oct. 28 and continue until Nov. 25, despite the COVID-19 pandemic. During the Blood Battle, students at the University of Michigan and Ohio State University compete to see who can collect the most units of blood in blood drives on each campus leading up to the rivalry football game.
The Blood Battle will look different compared to past years, according to LSA junior Elizabeth Rooney, a member of the executive board of Blood Drives United, which hosts the Blood Battle in conjunction with the Red Cross and Ohio State University. She said the executive board spends more than 100 hours each semester organizing and participating in events such as the Blood Battle.
Despite this week’s stay-in-place order issued by the county to U-M undergraduates, Blood Battle organizers say the drive will be largely unaffected.
“As blood drives are deemed essential activities by the state of Michigan, they will continue,” Rooney wrote in a statement to the Daily. “Our advertising efforts such as handing out flyers and doing tablings will be paused but the blood drives on campuses will continue and undergraduates are encouraged to donate/volunteer as long as they have no symptoms and zero close contacts.”
Rooney said drives would happen almost every day and all across campus in a normal year, but they will be smaller and happen at fewer locations this year. Only large spaces such as the Michigan League, the Michigan Union, Pierpont Commons and nearby off-campus sites within the same zip code as the University will have drives. None will be held in dorms.
“It’s going to be smaller,” Rooney said. “It’s gonna be less focused around the whole social aspect. There won’t be as many donors. Everything’s kind of COVID-based. Everybody that donates blood will get a free t-shirt, and our t-shirts this year have people wearing masks on them.”
In light of these changes, the Blood Battle also aims to collect less blood than years prior. Nursing senior Jacob Doxen, who is also part of Blood Drives United, said the goal for this year is to get 1,500 donations on the U-M campus, compared to nearly 2,000 in previous years.
Doxen said the Blood Battle is putting its best effort forward to ensure the event is as safe as possible for donors and volunteers. He said all volunteers are required to wear masks regardless and everyone must complete ResponsiBLUE screening.
“We’ve essentially brought out a new volunteer position exclusively to take people’s temperatures as they come in the door, just to make sure that they’re safe,” Doxen said. “We don’t want anybody to be put into a situation where they’re not comfortable, so we’re just constantly trying to communicate with people and work with people to make sure that we’re being as safe as we can.”
Nursing junior Jess Bach, an executive board member of Blood Drives United, said it is important for students, staff and community members to donate despite the pandemic, especially considering the nationwide blood shortage.
“It’s really sad that we are almost always at a nationwide blood shortage just because people are afraid to donate blood,” Bach said. “People are still in the hospital and they still need blood. One donation can save up to three lives, which I think is so incredible. And I think we, as the Blood Battle and Red Cross, are taking lots of steps to try to make people feel as safe as possible.”
Doxen, who is a nursing assistant at the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, said he has seen firsthand what happens when patients don’t receive the blood they need, including surgeries and procedures being canceled. He said the Blood Battle is an easy way to donate blood.
“It only takes about an hour. In one hour, you can save three lives and watch an episode of Netflix, is the way I see it,” he said. “If you donate during the Blood Battle, you get entered into raffle drawings for a bunch of different cool prizes from restaurants, and a bunch of sports prizes. Once you’re done with your donation, you get a free Blood Battle t-shirt. You get free snacks and free drinks. And you just get to meet a lot of cool people and hear a lot of cool stories just by donating blood.”
Nursing freshman Isabelle Weathersby has donated blood before, but never in the Blood Battle.
“I would definitely encourage anyone who is able to give blood,” Weathersby said. “It’s not a difficult process, really, it doesn’t take very long, and it can help literally save people’s lives. So it’s definitely worth an hour of your time and something that I always try to do whenever there’s a shortage.”
People interested in donating can sign up to donate blood through the Blood Battle’s website.
Daily News Contributor Martha Lewand can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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