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Kokua Line: Blood Bank of Hawaii would welcome donated face masks

                                This file photo shows the interior of the Blood Bank of Hawaii’s donation facility at 1907 Young St.


    This file photo shows the interior of the Blood Bank of Hawaii’s donation facility at 1907 Young St.

Question: Regarding the need for blood donations (, do the technicians drawing your blood wear masks? What about the other donors?

Answer: Blood Bank of Hawaii staff and blood donors were not required to wear masks as of Tuesday; they may wear their own if they choose. Like any essential operation in the COVID-19 era, the nonprofit organization responsible for maintaining Hawaii’s blood supply is continuously adapting to the latest health recommendations, so this policy could change.

Your questions, and similar ones from other readers, came as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed its advice regarding the use of face masks to thwart the spread of COVID-19. For months the CDC had insisted that only visibly ill people and their caregivers should wear face masks to deter the spread of respiratory diseases, including COVID-19. However, it switched gears Friday, saying everyone should wear a cloth mask covering their nose and mouth when they are in the community (people should be out only for essential activities). The CDC said it changed its recommendation based on evidence that infected people with no symptoms can spread the disease.

To be clear, by cloth mask the CDC means a simple facial covering, which can be homemade, not medical-grade personal protective equipment. “Surgical masks and N95 respirators are in short supply and should be reserved for health-care workers or other medical first-responders, as recommended by CDC guidance,” the agency says on its website.

The advice to wear a cloth face covering “is an additional public health measure people should take to reduce the spread of COVID-19. CDC still recommends you stay at least 6 feet away from other people (social distancing), clean your hands frequently and take other everyday preventive actions. A cloth face covering is not intended to protect the wearer, but it may prevent the spread of virus from the wearer to others.”

Several readers asked how this update might further affect the blood bank, which put out an urgent call for blood donations recently after it canceled blood drives, switched to an appointment-only system and reconfigured donor centers to serve fewer people at a time with more distance between them. On Tuesday, Todd Lewis, BBH’s chief operating officer, answered recent queries:

“Oahu donors have responded in an amazing way and we are very gratified for the donors who continue to call and make appointments every day in order to make sure we have enough blood for our patients. The momentum has been steady for the last two weeks, and we are really hoping that it will continue in a sustained way,” he said.

Q: Do the blood bank staff wear face masks as they assist donors through each stage of the blood donation process?

A: “BBH has been complying with recommendations to save PPE for those on the front lines treating COVID-19 patients. As CDC guidance changes about masks, we are looking into protective wear for our staff. BBH currently does not require employees to wear masks, however, they are welcome to do so.”

Q: Does the blood bank provide face masks for donors to wear?

A: “We currently do not provide masks for donors, who are welcome to wear their own as an additional layer of protection.”

Q: Does the blood bank accept donations of homemade masks for staff to wear? Potential donors might be more comfortable if staff were wearing face masks and not just gloves.

A: “Yes. We greatly appreciate the community’s support. Anyone who may be interested in donating masks to BBH can contact our office at (808) 845-9966 during business hours.”

Write to Kokua Line at Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu 96813; call 529-4773; fax 529-4750; or email

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