Blood centers across nation report critical shortages

Independent blood centers from coast to coast are facing critical shortages, according to information compiled by their trade association.

Of the 59 organizations in America’s Blood Centers, which includes the South Texas Blood & Tissue Center, just 12% are reporting what is considered a normal level on blood available for patients – enough to meet needs for three or more days.

Centers reporting a two-day supply are considered to be running low and need donors.

Those with one day’s supply or less are considered critically low and need donors immediately.

In a recent survey, 20% of centers reporting their statistics were at one day’s supply or less.

During the Thanksgiving holiday, South Texas Blood & Tissue Center averaged around a 1-2 days supply for all blood types.

Current shortages are blamed on fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic: Canceled drives at schools, colleges, churches and businesses, which make up large portions of donations in a typical year.

Blood shortages mean doctors and hospitals are forced to delay treatments and make difficult decisions about who should receive a transfusion.

The South Texas Blood & Tissue Center needs donors to schedule appointments as soon as possible. Donors can visit SouthTexasBlood.org/Give or call 210-731-5590 to make an appointment at a donor room or blood drive.

Donors also can give at the University Hospital Blood Donor Room. To schedule an appointment with University Hospital, call 210-358-2812 or visit DonateBloodToday.com.

Healing During the holidays

Holidays are supposed to make us think of words like “thankful,” “merry” and “happy.” But for some of us, the holidays are a painful reminder of a loved one’s absence—a hole in our hearts, a hole in our lives, and of being broken and in pain.  

During the season when grief and the holidays collide, it’s OK to acknowledge grief and joy. Both are a part of healing.  

When we embrace grief, give it a voice, allow our pain to surface, and we can experience healing and transformation.  

You may be thinking, “Really? How!?” Here are some ways to use the holiday times to heal: 

  • Start with You. Be kind to YOURSELF: Remember the oxygen mask goes on you first. Give yourself the gift of permission to just “be.” Ask for what you need … I know personally this is easier said than done, but let’s try, OK?  
  • Eliminate unnecessary stressors: Watch out for being “too busy.” You really don’t have to do it all. We need balance between being busy and talking about or feeling our grief.  
  • Having down time is OK: This takes practice for some of us. It can also be scary, when the thoughts and feelings come. But know this is OK, because you need to let those feelings come.  
  • Feel your feelings and express them! No grief, no healing. KNOW grief, KNOW healing. We love; therefore, we grieve.    
  • Break the silence: Speak your loved one’s name(s), as often as possible. It’s better to create an atmosphere of connection through sadness versus alienation by pretending everything is OK or fine. Remember, everyone feels sadness.   
  • Tweak traditions: It’s OK to change things up, to not do something you’ve always done or to do something new. 
  • Implement a 15- or 20-minute rule: Go out but give yourself a time frame – and remember if you’re grieving, your energy level is already tapped.  
  • Exercise: MOVE around. 
  • Drink lots of water: It’s important to stay hydrated. Flush out toxins like excess cortisol (the stress hormone that contributes to not being able to concentrate, focus, and leads to you feeling run down). 
  • B-R-E-A-T-H-E: Do some 4×4 breaths. 
  • Know/remember that healing is a process, a journey: It takes time. Think of an actual wound. Did it heal instantly? Did it ever get re-injured?  Most importantly, know that you aren’t alone on this healing journey!  
  • Practice personal grief rituals: These are activities that help us remember our loved ones. They give us a sense of connectedness, healing and peace. You can buy a special candle and light it in memory of your loved one; get a vase (or an ornament) and fill it with “memories” of your loved one; plant a bush/tree/flowers; hang a wind chime; journal; make a scrapbook; have a balloon release; have a burning of bad memories or regrets; remember something funny and laugh. It’s OK to laugh and have a good time even when we’re grieving.

These suggestions are for YEAR ROUND holidays, since there are holidays every month. By taking care of you, you heal.

If you would like more, check out these 64 tips from What’s Your Grief.

As you navigate grief and healing during this season, please know that I’m here for you, too. Feel free to reach me at 210-757-9428 during business hours, or you can email me.

David McCoy

When it came to giving, David was often the first in line to help, no matter the time of day.

“A lot of people expressed how they could rely on him and he was there to help them through so many things when they were in need,” said Cathy, David’s wife.

His kind-hearted nature came from being surrounded by loving friends and family, especially his mother.

“She loved him unconditionally,” Cathy said. “Her care and love really formed him to a kind-hearted person—very sensitive, very loving and very caring.”

David also left an impression on many young basketball players. Having been a star high school basketball player, he loved the sport and would go to games even if he didn’t have a child playing.

“A lot of kids said he would go to their games and coach them, encourage them, support them,” Cathy said. “They were going to miss him when they were playing.”

His love of basketball carried over to his daughter, Natalie, who plays at Austin College. In fact, she was the MVP in the ‘Roos championship game last year. The name “McCoy” is engraved on the side of her championship ring.

“To see that name etched on that ring, his legacy really lives on forever,” Cathy said.

When David passed away unexpectedly on July 4, 2016, he gave one more lasting gift—his tissue donation gave up to 75 people hope and healing.

When Cathy looks back on the moment when she decided that David would be a donor, she is grateful that his gift continues.

“It was just part of him and how he lived when he was alive, so why not continue that gift of being caring and loving as he passed.”

“Laboratory in a box”: Community Labs rapidly ramps up COVID-19 testing

Community Labs soon will be performing up to 10,000 COVID-19 tests a day and expects to reach capacity of 20,000 or more per day by January, BioBridge Global executives told members of The Blood & Tissue Center Foundation board of directors on Monday.

The organization, which is a nonprofit partnership among local charitable foundations and BioBridge Global, is expanding its community reach for its highly accurate test for COVID-19.

“The real focus is to get schools up and running,” said Richey Wyatt, General Counsel and Chief Compliance Officer at BioBridge Global, who noted that this week, testing was being expanded to seven school districts, mainly on the South Side.

Testing also is projected to start soon for the 300 employees of the state’s Child Protective Services in San Antonio, as well as Trinity University.

“When we started with Somerset ISD, we were doing 500 tests a week, and that ramped up to 500 tests a day,” Wyatt said. “We should have the capacity to be able to perform 10,000 tests per day within a couple of weeks.

“I’d say probably by January, we should be able to double that capacity to 20,000 to 24,000 tests a day.”

Community Labs, which is just the second high through-put “PCR” COVID-19 testing laboratory of its kind in the United States, is beginning to attract outside attention, with interest from officials in the hard-hit El Paso area, as well as Louisiana, Idaho and Georgia, Wyatt said.

All the technology and procedures the lab is using will be made available to anyone who asks, said Dr. Rachel Beddard, Chief Medical Officer at BioBridge Global.

“They’re calling it ‘laboratory in a box’” she said. “They are putting all the information together for any city that might want to do this.”

Community Labs is using the highly accurate PCR test, Dr. Beddard said, checking for three different genetic sequences from the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

“Some PCR tests look for just one or two, but this one looks for three,” she said. “It’s one of the most sensitive tests out there.”

The tests are designed to identify the so-called “silent spreaders” of COVID-19, individuals who do not have any of the common symptoms. The goal is to make testing much more economically feasible, at just $35 a test vs. $150, and provide a turnaround time of less than 24 hours, to help stop the spread of the virus.

More information about Community Labs is available at CommunityLabs.org and on the BioBridge Global website.

Santikos to test employees weekly using Community Labs

San Antonio-based theater chain has seven theaters open 

Santikos Enterprises has teamed with Community Labs to provide weekly COVID-19 testing to its 300 employees, the San Antonio-based movie theater chain announced Wednesday. 

“This is just one more thing that we can do for our employees to ensure that they are coming back to a safe place,” Santikos Enterprises CEO Tim Handren said at a news conference. “We will be the only theaters in the world that are doing this.” 

Santikos, which is operated as a nonprofit, currently has seven theaters open in San Antonio, with limited hours and disinfection protocols in place. 

Looking for ‘silent spreaders’ 

BioBridge Global is conducting the tests for Community Labs to identify “silent spreaders” of the coronavirus – people who have COVID-19 but do not have any symptoms. 

Dr. Rachel Beddard, Chief Medical Officer at BioBridge Global, said Community Labs has been expanding testing across San Antonio and will soon be processing 5,000 tests a day. 

“I’m honored that (Santikos) chose to join us,” she said. “Theatergoers are going to be much more assured this is a safe environment.” 

Keeping theaters safe 

Santikos is part of a nationwide effort called Cinema Safe, a program “promoting protocols and guidelines developed and supported by leading epidemiologists to support a safe return to movie theaters.” 

In addition to COVID-19 testing, Santikos guidelines include: 

  • Required masks for staff 
  • Social distancing in seating 
  • Reduced theater capacity 
  • Increased ventilation 
  • Frequent handwashing 
  • Widespread availability of hand sanitizer 
  • Disinfection between screenings 
  • Modified concessions, arcade, bowling, laser tag and hologate 
  • Changes to handling of cash 
  • Mobile ticketing 
  • Symptom screening at theaters 

Community Labs expands 

Community Labs was co-founded by tech entrepreneur Graham Weston, bank executive J. Bruce Bugg Jr. and J. Tullos Wells, managing director of the Kronkosky Charitable Foundation. Its goal is to slow the spread of COVID-19 with widespread, fast-turnaround testing. 

The largest number of tests is coming from the Somerset Independent School District, which is offering weekly testing to students and staff. Bugg said more than 100 schools have contacted Community Labs about testing. 

Bexar County has provided funding for Community Labs to provide testing at other school districts soon, and the City of San Antonio is working with the nonprofit to expand testing for asymptomatic individuals. 

Blood centers: U.S. facing critical shortage

COVID-19 impact on blood drives 

Blood donations are plummeting from coast to coast and putting a wide range of patients at risk, according to a joint statement by the organizations that provide virtually all the civilian blood needs in the United States. 

“Since the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, the blood community has experienced unprecedented fluctuations in both supply and the need for blood,” the American Association of Blood BanksAmerica’s Blood Centers and the American Red Cross said in statement.  

“A variety of events — including wildfires in the western states, recent hurricanes and other storms — have led to additional disruptions to the collection of blood, compounding the impact of canceled blood drives at schools, businesses and community organizations due to remote work and closures.” 

South Texas is experiencing the same critical shortages. The South Texas Blood & Tissue Center needs about 500 donations a day to keep up with requests from hospitals – but is averaging just 300 donations a day. Without a significant increase in blood donations, hospitals are at the point of making difficult choices on who they can treat with limited resources. 

Much of the decline can be attributed to the cancellation of more than 1,000 community blood drives, and thousands of lost blood donations, this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Normally, 70% of donations in South Texas come from community drives. 

As a result, the South Texas Blood & Tissue Center only is able to provide half the critically needed type O blood requested by hospitals. 

Donors can call 210-731-5590, or visit SouthTexasBlood.org to make an appointment at one of the South Texas Blood & Tissue Center’s seven donor rooms or locate a blood drive.  

Blood collections typically increase during the fall from high school and college drives, but fewer than half the usual school drives are scheduled through the end of the year. 

In normal times, when donations decline, blood centers help each other with shortfalls. But centers today have no donations to share. 

Blood donations are needed for a range of treatments, from cancer to trauma to childbirth, even during the pandemic. The impact of COVID-19 and the upcoming flu season could further compound challenges, the national statement said. 

“Blood donors are needed now to help maintain the adequacy of the blood supply and to ensure that blood is available,” the statement said. “Blood donors are needed now 

and will continue to be needed to ensure patients continue to have access to blood throughout the remainder of 2020.” 

Community blood banks, including the South Texas Blood & Tissue Center, have put numerous protocols in place to keep donors safe, from mandatory masks to social distancing to appointment-only donations. All donations are tested for COVID-19 antibodies. 

To make an appointment at a donor room or blood drive, donors can call 210-731-5590 or visit SouthTexasBlood.org  

Quick Community Labs launch possible only through local cooperation

COVID-19 testing facility based at BioBridge Global receives $1 million boost 

Getting the Community Labs COVID-19 testing program up and running in just three months is a testament to the collaborative nature of the San Antonio healthcare community, leaders of the efforts said in a panel discussion during San Antonio City Fest on Thursday. 

“I’ve never seen anything like this in my many decades in the field,” said BBG Chief Medical Officer Dr. Rachel Beddard, who played a major role in getting the testing laboratory established. “It was honor to be a part of it, and I am proud of what our city and our team have accomplished.” 

Organizers of Community Labs, led by former Rackspace chairman Graham Weston, were able to go from an idea over lunch in July to more than 1,700 tests of students and staff in the Somerset Independent School District as of Thursday. 

The tests are designed to identify individuals carrying and spreading the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 who do not have symptoms, what Weston refers to as “super-spreaders.” 

The short-term plan is to scale up testing in a lab located on the third floor of the BioBridge Global Headquarters Building, using widely available equipment and testing materials to avoid supply chain issues that have hampered other testing efforts. 

Community Labs received a boost this week, Weston announced during the panel discussion, when Carlos Alvarez, chairman and CEO of The Gambrinus Company, pledged $1 million to double the current testing capacity of the lab from 12,000 to 25,000 tests a day. 

“Our goal is to test 100,000 kids in schools,” Weston said. “If we test 100,000, we can make school the safest place these kids can go.” 

He noted that there have been four positive tests so far out of 1,786, four cases that could have spread quickly if those with it displayed no symptoms. 

Dr. Beddard said she greeted the idea of BBG becoming a partner in Community Labs with great enthusiasm, calling it “one of those aha moments, where you definitely realize you want to be part of something.” 

“We do a lot of testing here already – this year, we will do 60 million high-throughput, fast turnaround tests,” she said. “We also have a lot of experience with PCR testing, which means we can do it quickly to meet the need for the 24-hor turnaround time.” 

Community Labs is just the second lab in the country to receive the go-ahead from the Food and Drug Administration to conduct the highly accurate PCR tests at a sensitivity level high enough to identify a large percentage of positive tests, Weston said. 

The nonprofit lab’s long-term goal is to scale up to high levels of testing at an affordable cost — $35 per test at the moment, compared to $150 for comparable PCR tests – and then share what it learns about the process so labs can be established across the state and nation. 

“Were turning every bit of information we learn to anyone who asks about it,” said Tullos Wells, Managing Director of the Kronkosky Charitable Foundation and one of the co-founders of Community Labs, along with Weston and Bruce Bugg, Chairman of the Tobin Foundation. “We want everyone to do this assurance testing so kids will be safe to go back to school and their parents can go back to work.” 

Wells called the effort “the most consequential thing the Kronkosky Foundation has done in the last 25 years.” 

Weston said the collaboration to get Community Labs up and running was a testament to the collaborative spirit in the local medical community. 

“It’s a great San Antonio story,” he said. 

City of San Antonio expands COVID-19 testing to asymptomatic individuals at City’s no cost test sites

Beginning Monday, October 5, the City of San Antonio’s no cost testing sites will have a soft launch to expand testing to asymptomatic individuals.  The test sites are located at Freeman Coliseum, Cuellar Community Center and Ramirez Community Center. All locations will be able to provide testing daily starting October 12.

Monday October 5th from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m.

Cuellar Community Center
5626 San Fernando St.

San Antonio, TX 78237

Tuesday, October 6th from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m.

Ramirez Community Center

1011 Gillette Blvd.
San Antonio, TX 78219

Wednesday, October 7th from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m.
Must schedule an appointment at 830-391-8559

Freeman Coliseum

3201 E. Houston St.
San Antonio, TX 78219

The testing expansion is a partnership between Metro Health, Community Labs and BioBridge Global.

“Throughout this response, our goal has been to make testing more accessible by leveraging partnerships with our community and relying on CDC guidance for testing. Over the past few weeks, we’ve been looking at ways to bring FDA-approved, asymptomatic testing to our City’s test sites and I’m so pleased to partner with Community Labs to make this a reality,” said Assistant City Manager and Interim Metro Health Director Dr. Colleen Bridger.
Previously residents were required to show symptoms of the disease, which included a fever, dry cough, chills, amongst other symptoms of COVID-19. Starting Monday, individuals with or without symptoms will be able to use the City’s no cost test sites to access nasal PCR tests at no cost to determine if they have contracted COVID-19. Nasal PCR tests have been approved by the FDA for testing of asymptomatic individuals.

“Community Labs was created to make sure every San Antonio resident has access to COVID-19 testing weather they are asymptomatic or not. We are pleased with this new partnership with the City of San Antonio and look forwarded to supporting them in this mission with us.” said Graham Weston, Chairman of the Board of Community Labs.

As a reminder to the public, after being tested for COVID-19, it is important to:

  1. Assume you are positive until you get your test results back.
  2. Stay at home in a room away from other people and use a separate bathroom if you can. Isolate yourself from others, including not going to work until results are received. If you are facing hardships to finding a safe place to isolate from vulnerable people in your household, contact 311.  
  3. Identify close contacts. A close contact is anyone you spent 15 minutes or more with and were within six-feet distance. If you test positive, call people or places that you had close contact with. Let them know that they were exposed and that they should quarantine for 10 days. To identify a close contact, work backwards until two days before you showed symptoms.
  4. Monitor symptoms at least twice a day. If you have a prolonged fever, difficulty breathing or chest pains, call your medical provider or 911 if there is an emergency.
  5. Wash your mask daily and be sure to only touch the ties/ear loops as the inside and outside may be contaminated.

In addition, the City of San Antonio has an online self-screening tool that can be found at www.sanantonio.gov/covid19. This tool does not replace medical care if a person is feeling ill. A healthcare provider should be visited if symptoms worsen or if underlying medical conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, lung disease, or heart disease is a factor in the person’s medical history.

For more information please visit the COVID-19 portal or https://www.communitylabs.org/ 

FOUR WAYS TO SIGN UP FOR COVID-19 ALERTS

  1. Download the Ready South Texas app, available in the iTunes and Google Play stores
  2. Text COSAGOV to 55000 to receive SMS text message updates
  3. Follow @COSAGOV on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram
  4. Bookmark covid19.sanantonio.gov

Public service announcements on physical distancing, prevention and testing are available here.

Pioneering San Antonio COVID-19 Lab to Test Thousands of People Per Day to Create COVID-19 Safety Zones

Unprecedented lab capacity allows for rapid testing of asymptomatic “silent spreaders,” the key to re-opening schools and the economy.

Community Labs, a new nonprofit organization, has launched an innovative laboratory in San Antonio, changing how traditional COVID-19 testing is currently conducted by advances in speed, capacity, accuracy and price, along with a less invasive testing process. Inspired by the work of Scientists to Stop COVID-19 and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Community Labs will start with a capacity of 600 tests a day, scale to 12,000 tests a day, and have the potential to scale significantly in the near future. 

Community Labs is a collaborative effort co-founded by Graham Weston, former CEO and Chairman of Rackspace Technology (NASDAQ: RXT) and Founder of the 80|20 Foundation; J. Bruce Bugg Jr., Chairman and Trustee of The Tobin Endowment; and J. Tullos Wells, Managing Director of The Kronkosky Charitable Foundation. Weston is Chairman of Community Labs, with Bugg and Wells serving as Vice Chairmen. 

Through its improved testing program, the new organization will help identify asymptomatic, COVID-19 individuals in a defined “micro-population,” such as schools or the workplace.  That will allow non-symptomatic members to safely quarantine, thereby stopping the virus from spreading and allowing for the rest of the population to remain safe. Community Labs will serve the greater San Antonio metro area. 

The initial lab is housed and operated by San Antonio nonprofit, BioBridge Global, with critical collaboration from UT Health San Antonio. The Community Labs testing process uses a PCR test, considered the gold standard for detection of COVID-19 virus. The test has been validated and shown to attain the required FDA level for sensitivity and accuracy. It employs a swab in the front of the nostril. Utilizing innovative supply chain solutions, the price of each test will be materially lower than current market prices, with a goal of scaling the price to less than $35 per test. 

“Until now, testing for asymptomatic carriers was not available, as testing facilities across the country have focused on symptomatic carriers of COVID-19,” Weston said. “Utilizing the Community Labs testing innovation, businesses and schools can quickly create their own COVID-19 Safety Zones by providing frequent, lower-cost assurance testing of every person in their defined micro-population, with test samples collected on-site and results available within 24 hours. This level of testing allows the detection of asymptomatic, silent spreaders currently responsible for infecting up to 50% of new COVID-19 cases.” 

The 80|20 Foundation, Kronkosky Charitable Foundation and The Tobin Endowment have contributed a combined $2.5 million to kick off the effort. 

“We have the opportunity to prove what is possible for a community, a city and eventually the state of Texas and even the nation,” Bugg said. “I am excited to partner with Community Labs and this team so we can get children back in school, people back to work and lead our state in recovering from this pandemic.” 

Wells said, “We agreed immediately at the request of Graham Weston to join the 80|20 Foundation and The Tobin Endowment to support this effort, believing it to be one of the most consequential community efforts the Kronkosky Charitable Foundation has ever undertaken.  This will have the most immediate impact to gets kids back to school, parents back to work and our community safely back to normal.”

BioBridge Global has provided critical insight, know-how, infrastructure, and teams with deep experience in high-volume testing as well as experience working with the FDA. BioBridge is the parent entity of the South Texas Blood & Tissue Center and related nonprofit subsidiaries.  

“The ability to find asymptomatic carriers in a presumed healthy population is a critical element in the multi-faceted solution that is needed to address this pandemic,” said Dr. Rachel Beddard, Chief Medical Officer of BioBridge Global. “I am pleased that our team was able to develop this level of quality in a test as well as the ability to provide results in 24 hours. This will help identify asymptomatic individuals and move them into quarantine so they can avoid spreading the disease.”

Weston said, “We want to help make San Antonio the safest city in America through our assurance testing strategy. We also hope to inspire other cities to set up their own labs and will freely share our process and lessons learned with those who ask.” 

Schools, businesses, and organizations who partner with Community Labs to test their asymptomatic populations should continue to comply with all required safety measures in their buildings and workspaces – wearing masks, sanitizing hands and surfaces, and social distancing.

Those interested in learning more about Community Labs and how they might implement this strategy in their school or workplace may visit Community-Labs.org or contact info@community-labs.org or 210-866-6935.

About the artist: Jesse Amado

Jesse Amado is the artist behind “Untitled MCMXCV” that is part of the BioBridge Global art collection. He is known for art that is conceptually based and highly formal at the same time.

Amado’s works feature text-based concept art and found materials to represent human experiences. His art traces his investigation of text, repetition and communication.

Amado was born in San Antonio in 1951 and he graduated from the University of Texas at Austin. He later earned an MFA from the University of Texas at San Antonio in 1990.

Since then, Amado has earned many awards, including a visual arts fellowship grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as artist-in-residence grants from the Fabric Workshop in Philadelphia and the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts in Nebraska. His works can be found in San Antonio and the United States.

In an interview with Frances Colpit in 1994, Amado talked about his inspirations, including points in his life in San Antonio.

“I am essentially tethered to this area for many reasons: because of my family, and because of my job most of all,” he said.

Amado explained that he takes life experiences and meaningful people in his life and puts them into the pieces he’s created – or is soon to create.>

“The formal part of the work is important,” he said. “So I do not forget about that, but I also want to stress the metaphorical aspect of it. I think of my work in very poetic terms. Poetry is very important to me.”>

Note: “Untitled MCMXCV” is in the executive suite, on the second floor of the in the Headquarters Building.

By Alaysia Bush, summer intern, Randolph High School