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RI Blood Center in need of donors as coronavirus fears continue to heighten

The Rhode Island Blood Center. (WJAR){ }
The Rhode Island Blood Center. (WJAR)
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Local leaders are making decisions to call off events to avoid crowds coming together as the threat of coronavirus lingers.

In addition to that, one of the local universities is preparing for dozens of students returning to the state from a semester in Italy cut short.

The university said 49students are heading home this week as their semester in Italy comes to a halt. But school officials say they won't be returning to campus.

"They are going home; those students are self isolating at their permanent residence for 14 days," said Assistant Director of Communications Dave Lavallee.

He said it's protocol as the school continues to remind everyone on campus of the basic necessities.

"Cover coughs and sneezes, wash hands, it's still not too late to get your flu shot," URI medical director Dr. Chris Nasin said.

As more COVID-19 cases develop across the country, the impacts continue to pop up locally.

"We need the most donors possible to sure up that blood supply," said Kara LeBlanc with the Rhode Island Blood Center told NBC 10.

Empty chairs show the challenge the blood center is facing right now on top of a season that already sees major shortages.

"We already have cold and flu season impacting the number of donations and on top of that you have basic fears of coronavirus and potential exposure," LeBlanc said.

LeBlanc said the blood donation center is safe and clean, wiped down constantly and only allowing healthy people to give blood.

But the looming virus is closing down schools and places that host their mobile blood drives, while also canceling events across the state.

"That decision to postpone was one we support," Gov. Gina Raimondo said Thursday morning as she spoke about the annual Hasbro Children's Hospital Heroes Ball. It was slated for Saturday night but canceled until further notice after consulting the health department.

"I offer that as a guide for others out there who are considering should we cancel or shouldn't we cancel," Raimondo said.

A weekly networking event at Venture Cafe PVD was also called off for Thursday night.

"Usually upwards of 125 up to over 300 [people]," Executive Director Tuni Schartner said, explaining how many people they typically see.

Schartner said the decision was made as a global team, keeping everyone's well being in mind.

"We thought we’d do our part and because we are a gathering space, we have added responsibility," she said.

Schartner said they’ll be going digital with virtual meeting until further notice.

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