COVID-19 information for employees and volunteers

What employees need to know: Your Digest

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Your digest archives

May 20, 2022

Here are the latest updates from Canadian Blood Services. Every Tuesday and Friday, we invite you to read important updates, valuable information, and inspiring stories from across our organization. Please reach out to communications@blood.ca with your questions and suggestions on how we can better inform and support you.

Here are the latest updates

Resumption of snacks and hydration for our valued donors

Doing what we can to support donor wellness during and after donation is vital to our relationship with donors. To support donor wellness, in 2019, we began offering a salty snack and water to donors upon arrival. When the pandemic hit, we had to suspend on-site pre-donation snacks and hydration, and shifted to asking donors to have a salty snack and water before arriving. Following their donation, donors were asked to wait in our rest area, and then take their refreshments to consume after leaving. Over the past two years, medical surveillance has measured a notable increase in severe negative donor reactions, including an increase in faints and other related injuries. Through feedback, we have learned that donors who have a negative donation experience indicate that they may not return. In our commitment to support a positive donor experience and reduce donor reactions, we are re-introducing hydration and snacks. Pre-donation snacks and drinks will be reintroduced during the month of May, and we will resume allowing donors to consume post-donation refreshments on-site starting June 1. We recognize it is important that we balance donor wellness, while continuing to adhere to our COVID-19 safety measures. We understand making changes like these during the ongoing pandemic can be confusing and generate questions. Read about the plans in place in a recent story on Connect, and new FAQs on the employee portal under “Q&A: Donor Snacks and Hydration”.

Panellists announced for next week’s live town hall

Our next live town hall event is coming up on Wednesday, May 25 (1–2 p.m. ET). Join CEO, Dr. Graham Sher and panellists Yasmin Razack, chief diversity officer and Jean-Paul Bédard, vice president of plasma operations, who will address pre-submitted and live questions during the town hall. You can submit questions live during the town hall; however, we encourage you to submit your questions in advance to communications@blood.ca with the subject line “TOWNHALL” or anonymously using this form. On May 25, click the meeting link in your Outlook invitation to join live.

First-time plasma donor pays it forward in honour of his late wife

After plasma donors helped his wife survive 12 years with a chronic blood cancer, Jim Taylor became a donor himself at the first opportunity. “For more than a decade, I watched with gratitude as my wife received immunoglobulin each month to help her survive,” says Jim, who lives in Kelowna, B.C. “It was the generosity of plasma donors that made my wife’s treatment possible. It kept her alive for longer than we ever anticipated and for that I am forever grateful.” Jim was thrilled to be able to donate in spite of the fact he’d had malaria as a child. For donors at our dedicated plasma centres, malaria infection and travel to a malaria risk area don’t affect eligibility. Read more at blood.ca.

Leadership Summit soundbites: Giving employees a glimpse into leadership conversations

At the annual Leadership Summit (April 25–27 this year) our CEO, Dr. Graham Sher, was interviewed by vice president of public affairs, Ron Vezina, about the past year, the challenges we have all faced and where he hopes to see our organization heading in the coming months and years. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be sharing audio snippets from this conversation so that employees get a sense of the conversations that take place during this annual event. In this week’s Leadership Summit Soundbite, you’ll hear Graham’s thoughts on the evolution of leadership capabilities through and beyond the pandemic, as well as the importance of empathy.

Employee panel: Advancing Asian excellence and addressing anti-Asian racism in the workplace

In recognition and celebration of Asian Heritage Month, employees are invited to participate in a special panel discussion on May 31 (1–2:30 p.m. ET), presented in partnership with the Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC) employee resource group. Inspired by the theme of Continuing the Legacy of Greatness, this insightful and reflective panel will feature employees from across the country, who will share their lived experiences in relation to topics such as anti-Asian racism, unconscious bias and stereotypes, and equity and advancement in the workplace and communities. Register here and visit Connect to get to know one of our employee panelists, Mattea Duprey, a community development manager from Toronto.

Question of the day:

Are we concerned about inventory levels given the continued dips in donor attendance?

On May 17, we issued a national news release citing an immediate need for new and returning donors to replenish the national blood inventory. This has been supported with marketing across social media and paid channels. This call to action strongly urges donors to show up for patients and to book and keep their donation appointments. There is currently a significant strain on the blood inventory following an increase in appointment cancellations and low attendance at donor centres. We are reminding potential donors that donating during the pandemic is both safe and welcoming. Infection-control measures are in place to protect donors, staff, and volunteers. This includes measures such as a wellness screening, mandatory masks and physical distancing measures, and a fully vaccinated workplace. The low reserve of blood can be replenished before patients are affected, but only if people across Canada of all blood types donate over the coming weeks. With this strong message and building on the success of the Show Up campaign, we hope to increase collections, acquire new donors, and be well- positioned to welcome National Blood Donor Week (June 12-18).

Email communications for a direct response to your question

 

Q&A: Stay informed

Wherever you go, friends, family, colleagues and the media are talking about COVID-19. As the situation evolves, so does our response. Please continue to check your COVID-19 employee portal as policies and procedures develop. 

Your feedback is incredibly valuable as it helps us better understand what matters to you. If your question is not answered on this page, please contact communications so we can find an answer for you.

Contact us

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When can we resume normal activities, like recruitment events, special events in donor centres, etc.?

The organization continues to navigate the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic landscape, and as always, we constantly review and revise as necessary our COVID-19 protocols and safety measures.

As of April 25, we are moving on to Phase 2 of in-person donor recruitment, which expands recruitment opportunities and events inside donor centres to support blood, plasma and stem cell recruitment. The Phase 2 Recruitment Guidance and revised Visitor Guidelines are available for review on the employee portal. Local donor relations, plasma and stem cell teams should continue working with their regional communications specialist to ensure all COVID-19 measures are being followed. If COVID-19 measures cannot be met, then recruitment and media events must remain virtual.

How do I access credible information on COVID-19?

With so much misinformation out there, it is important that you have access to trusted and credible sources of information. We recommend the following sources:  

If you have a question on COVID-19 that we have not answered, please contact us at communications@blood.ca.  

What is the process of returning to work after I have been ill?

Return to work after a COVID-19+ diagnosis

Any employee who has tested positive for COVID-19 will fall under the care and direction of local public health authorities, who will advise when the employee is safe to return to work. Please advise Employee Health Services, who will confirm the information with public health. Recovering employees may have COVID-like symptoms, such as a residual cough, which would normally restrict them from passing through the wellness checkpoint. Therefore, Employee Health Services will issue the employee a letter advising that they are safe to report to work and can pass through the wellness checkpoint. Employees should bring the EHS letter with them each time they report to work.

Return to work after COVID-like symptoms

Employees who have had COVID-like symptoms should only return to work following the applicable regional public health authority guidance. If the employee has residual symptoms that would normally restrict them from passing through the wellness checkpoint, a written declaration from their physician will need to be provided to Employee Health Services in order for a letter to be issued advising that they are safe to report to work and can pass through the wellness checkpoint. Employees should bring the EHS letter with them each time they report to work.

Employees with COVID-like symptoms due to another medical issue

Some employees may have COVID-like symptoms that are caused by another medical issue such as allergies or asthma. A declaration from their physician will need to be provided to Employee Health Services in order for a letter to be issued advising that they are safe to report to work and can pass through the wellness checkpoint. Employees should bring the letter with them each time they report to work.

If you have questions, please contact your Employee Health Services representative.

How will employees be informed if a colleague has tested positive for COVID-19?

Please visit the case management page on your COVID-19 employee portal for more information. 

What PPE and other safety measures are in place at Canadian Blood Services?

Please visit our wellness page on blood.ca and our PPE page on your COVID-19 employee portal for more information.

Is Canadian Blood Services authorizing employees to conduct personal or business travel?

The Public Health Agency of Canada’s (PHAC) travel health notices outline potential health risks to Canadian travellers and recommend ways to help reduce them. No matter where you plan to travel, make sure you check the Travel Advice and Advisories (TAA) page for your destination.  

We are asking employees to do their part to keep our teams, donors and operations safe. Please follow all federal and local public health guidance related to travel. Below is an overview of how Canadian Blood Services is handling business travel requests:   

Business travel   

Business travel remains an important part of our work at Canadian Blood Services. It enables relationship building, understanding of our operations on a deeper level, strengthens connections with co-workers and stakeholders and allows us to deliver on projects nationwide.  

The organization has now entered a pandemic transition phase and as we move into the weeks and months ahead and continue to see government restrictions lifted, we recognize that there is work that is important to our operations that may require travel.   

COVID-19 continues to circulate, and risks will vary by the variant in circulation, from one destination to another, and for one individual over another. Therefore, every effort should be made to conduct business virtually, however, when travel is considered the best option, please follow the guidelines below.  

SPECIAL COVID-19 PANDEMIC AUTHORIZATION IS NO LONGER REQUIRED 

  • Necessary, important and essential travel is allowed.  
  • Rather than travel, consider alternate methods to achieve your business objectives.  
  • If travel is required, approval will be obtained through a standard Concur Request, additional authorization is no longer required.   
  • Before travelling consider the following:  

TRAVELLERS: 

  • Consider your own health risk profile for serious outcomes due to COVID-19. Monitor yourself for symptoms before you travel. If uncertain, consult your doctor or other medical advisor. Do not travel if you feel it is unsafe to do so.  
  • Near the travel date, review COVID-19 measures at all points of your travel.  
  • Determine whether there are entry and exit requirements or restrictions at your departure and destination. Is testing required? Is there a form that needs to be submitted to a governing body before you travel? Are vaccinations and/or boosters required?  

APPROVERS: 

  • COVID-19 is still circulating and presents a risk to our travelers. Is this travel necessary, important or essential or could the work be completed remotely instead of traveling?  
  • Consider the state of the pandemic epidemiology in the locations of travel and any restrictions that may affect the traveler.  
  • Some employees are hesitant or nervous about traveling. Please ensure that the employees are comfortable with traveling for business currently.  

Is Canadian Blood Services providing COVID-related financial leave support to employees?

Yes.

When the pandemic hit, we had to come together to determine how we as an organization could continue to support our teams as we adapted to meet the challenges associated with COVID-19.

An overview of our COVID-19 related leave supports and eligibility criteria can be found on Connect. If you think you may need to utilize any of the leave options, we encourage you to speak with your manager to learn more.

We will review the COVID-related leaves and will provide six weeks’ notice prior to any modification of the leaves.

If you are a manager and you have questions, please reach out to your PCP business partner.

Are gym spaces within CBS facilities re-opening?

Fitness rooms will remain closed at this time, as we assess air quality standards for compliance and build an integrated plan for the safe use of these spaces within our sites.  

We are undertaking a detailed review of fitness rooms and gyms spaces. This will involve the following steps: 

  • Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) requirements are being assessed for Fitness areas. There are two types of ventilation standards – one for high level activities (aerobics for example) and another or lower level activities (such as weights). These standards set levels of ventilation, filtration (or outdoor/ fresh air) and humidification levels to align with the size of space and number of occupants. Achieving compliance provides the base recommended level of air quality for a healthy environment. This will be in addition to the compliance to IAQ standards of our office spaces being put into place for RTO. 
  • The sites are being assessed for cross contamination to adjacent areas 
  • The occupancy and use of the space will be assessed for upgraded or controls needed to safely occupy the spaces including number of occupants and turn over procedures  
  • Protocols will be developed for users of these spaces. This will involve engagement with the staff on risks, roles and responsibilities 
  • We are also looking at developing a booking system that will consider and address the size of each gym and capacity limits.  

Once the impact and feasibility of opening has been assessed we will be able to share further information on openings. We expect to share an update next month. 

We recognize and appreciate that the availability of fitness space is important for employees’ physical and mental health, so it is understandable that this may be a source of frustration for some. We are disappointed that we are still not able to open these spaces sooner. 

In the meantime, if you are feeling overwhelmed and need a break for physical exercise, we encourage you to speak with your leader to build physical activity, such as a break for a walk outside, into your workday.

Are you worried about COVID-19 spreading through the use of fans or portable air conditioners? 

The use of portable fans and portable/directional air conditioner units at fixed donor centres and mobile events should be avoided as they may spread droplets further than 2 meters. 

If temperature concerns arise at our owned/leased sites, please contact Facilities Management to respond. 

If fans are determined to be absolutely required to maintain operations, please review the Guidelines on Use of Portable Fans and Air Conditioner Units

COVID-19 restrictions are being lifted or reduced in my region. Do I still need to follow COVID-19 guidance and policies in Canadian Blood Services sites? 

Yes, until further notice, anyone who enters a Canadian Blood Services site will have to continue adhering to established COVID-19 measures and policies. There is still significant uncertainty as to the course of the pandemic. Given this uncertainty, the organization is taking a cautious approach especially when it comes to lifting safety measures such as mandatory masks and physical distancing. Please check with your manager/supervisor if you have questions about specific changes/restrictions, or email communications@blood.ca.  

What if I’ve received both of my vaccinations? 

Vaccination is so important as all COVID-19 vaccines are effective in preventing serious disease and hospitalizations. However, no vaccine is 100% effective and the efficacy of vaccines against emerging variants is uncertain. At this time, evidence is emerging that even fully vaccinated individuals may still be able to be infected and transmit COVID-19. This, along with positive case count and emerging variants, will inform our own policies and guidance going forward. We will continue to evaluate practices, such as mask wearing, as the pandemic evolves.

Q&A: Collections events

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What enhanced measures are in place in our donor centres to protect against the spread of COVID-19?

When a donor, employee or volunteer walks through our doors they can take comfort in knowing that we are taking proactive steps to limit the risk of infection.

Mandatory masks, enhanced cleaning and physical distancing measures and wellness screening checkpoints for all individuals are in place to make sure individuals entering are healthy.

Our team is consistently monitoring and assessing whether additional measures are necessary to protect the health and safety of donors, employees and volunteers. Click here for an overview of the measures we have put in place. If you are working onsite, more detailed information, is available through the COVID-19 Practices & Processes at Donor Events document and the PPE page on your COVID-19 portal.

Are there guidelines available for visitors (ex: media; donor relations events) entering our collections environments?

Although casual tours or friends/family of donors are not allowed in our collections environments at this time, we recognize that some in-person publicity and recruitment events may need to proceed to help safeguard the blood supply. Please review our  Visitor Vaccination Policy and Guidelines for Visitors to Donor Centres when considering publicity or recruitment events at your location.   

Are there guidelines for running a mobile clinic near the vicinity of a COVID-19 testing centre?

Yes. Please visit our guidelines for mobile clinics and COVID-19 testing sites for more information on COVID-19 testing in an adjacent site (e.g.-in a parking lot); and COVID-19 testing in the same building.

Can I reintroduce promotional items for donors in our collection events?

Yes. Promotional items can now be reintroduced in our donor environments.

I don’t feel comfortable taking public transit. Am I allowed to carpool into work?

We understand that some employees may feel safer carpooling to work with others than taking public transit. While we know that carpooling is necessary for some, we ask you to please recognize that there is a risk of having close contact with others outside of your own home per public health guidance.

If you need to carpool to get to work, or if your supervisor/manager asks you to carpool or use a taxi/rideshare while at work, we recommend the following for all people in the car:
Drivers and passengers should ensure that at least two-metre distancing is maintained whenever possible. In most cases, this will mean that a maximum of one passenger should ride with one driver.

Drivers and passengers should follow public health guidance and safety measures, including wearing a mask while inside the vehicle and practicing proper hand hygiene when entering and leaving the vehicle.

Employees are asked not to drive or ride to work if they are sick. Employees should continue to follow local public health guidance (including provincial/municipal restrictions on carpooling) to ensure your safety and limit the spread of COVID-19.

If you have further questions about safety and carpooling, please contact OHS or your local public health authority.

Are you worried about COVID-19 spreading through the use of fans or portable air conditioners? 

The use of portable fans and portable/directional air conditioner units at fixed donor centres and mobile events should be avoided as they may spread droplets further than 2 meters. 

If temperature concerns arise at our owned/leased sites, please contact Facilities Management to respond. 

If fans are determined to be absolutely required to maintain operations, please review the Guidelines on Use of Portable Fans and Air Conditioner Units

Are there travel deferrals related to COVID-19?

At the start of the pandemic, people who have returned from travel outside Canada within the previous 14 days have been ineligible to donate blood or plasma. This was put in place to align with requirements or recommendations to self-isolate after travel. With public health restrictions changing when it comes to travel, we made a submission to remove this 14-day temporary donor deferral from the Donor Selection Criteria Manual (DSCM) for travel outside of Canada as it relates to COVID-19. A request was submitted to Health Canada for an expedited review, and we have received approval The deferral is removed from the Donor Selection Criteria Manual (DSCM) along with references on our website, posters at our donor events, and all donor communication.

Q&A: Donor snacks and hydration

Why are we bringing back snacks and hydration? Why now?

To help limit the spread of COVID-19, pre-donation snacks and hydration offered on-site were suspended and have been since the beginning of the pandemic. Following their donation, donors were asked to wait in our rest area, and then take their refreshments and consume them after leaving. 

Over the past two years, medical surveillance has measured a notable increase in severe negative donor reactions. This includes an increase in faints and other related injuries. We are committed to creating a positive donor experience and taking steps to reduce donor reactions. By re-introducing hydration and snacks, we can help improve donor wellness.  

Through feedback we have learned that donors who have a negative donation experience express that they may not return.  

It is important that we balance donor wellness, while continuing to adhere to our COVID-19 safety measures. We can safely resume providing snacks and hydration for our donors on site. Pre-donation snacks and drinks will be available at all sites during the month of May, and we will resume allowing donors to consume post-donation refreshments on-site starting June 1. 

How will we resume offering snacks and hydration when a donor arrives? 

Sites can set up tables and signs at the entrance area. When a donor arrives, the employee can ask if they have already had a snack and drink before they came in. If not, the employee may offer them a snack and drink and explain the benefits. If the donor chooses to take a snack and drink, the employee will ask the donor to sanitize their hands, serve themselves and instruct the donor to consume them outside of the site, then return for their appointment when they are done.  

Won’t this interrupt the flow of the process, and cause hold ups and late appointments? 

We recognize that asking donors to take their snacks and drink outside to consume may add time to their check-in process. We will strengthen our messaging to donors through our various communications and marketing channels to encourage them to plan ahead and either have their snack and drink before they arrive, or build in extra time if they take it when they arrive. We are confident donors will act accordingly and responsibly to ensure they are on time. We will also rely on our donor centre supervisors to monitor and report back if there is a pattern in disruptions due to this implementation and will adjust as necessary. The wellness of our donors is important, and we are hopeful we can resume this step with minimal impact to established process flow. 

When they return, will they have to go through wellness again? 

When the donor returns after finishing their snack and drink, they will be asked to clean their hands again and put on a new mask, then continue on with the donation process. 

What if a donor doesn’t want to leave the site to consume their snacks and drink when they arrive? 

We understand this extra step may be inconvenient or perhaps there is bad weather outside, or they are running late. Please explain to them the benefit of having a salty snack and drink before they donate and let them know that they won’t miss their appointment. Explain that in our entrance areas, it is very difficult for donors and employees to remain physically distanced if they were to remove their masks to consume their snack and drink. Suggest they find a sheltered spot, such as their vehicle or other available shelter. If they are still unsatisfied, give them the option to continue without their snack and drink. It is not mandatory, but recommended.  

Will we increase staffing levels at the front to support this change? 

No, snacks and drinks will be available at the front for donors to self-serve. The employee will already be there for the wellness check and registration. 

When can a donor remove their mask to consume a snack and drink? 

Although mask mandates have been lifted in most areas, we have decided for the time being that masks will remain mandatory in our environments, except for a limited number of exceptions. It is not always possible to maintain the required two-meter physical distancing in our sites. At this time, if a donor chooses to consume a snack and drink before they donate, we ask they do so outside, then come back in. When consuming post-donation refreshments, donors will be permitted to temporarily remove their masks to consume their refreshments while they rest. Donors are required to sit in our refreshment area, where the chairs are 6 feet apart, and put their mask back on when they are done.

How will donors consume their snack and drink while resting in the refreshment area? 

Post-donation refreshment will look the same as it is now, but rather than asking donors to consume their refreshments after they leave, we will allow them to temporarily remove their masks while seated in the donor refreshment area to consume their snacks and beverage. They are still required to sit 6 feet apart and put their mask back on when they are done. Volunteers or employees overseeing the refreshment area will communicate these guidelines to donors.

I am worried about having donors remove their masks while in the refreshment area. 

We understand that changes to our routines, especially after the last two years of stringent COVID-19 measures, can feel uncomfortable. It is important that the guidelines for safely consuming refreshments after donation, while adhering to our COVID-19 measures, is communicated clearly to donors. Re-introducing refreshments to donors within these parameters is a safe solution that should help reduce donor reactions, while still addressing the risk of transmission of COVID-19. 

We welcome your feedback and encourage all employees to share any questions or concerns they have while at work. Please speak with your supervisor or manager about your concerns, who will bring them to OHS & EHS, OHS and/or PCP.  You may also reach out to OHS & EHS directly by emailing Ask.OHS@blood.ca. 

What if a donor decides they do not want to consume their post-donation snack and drink inside? 

If a donor does not want to consume their snack and drink inside, they are welcome to stay and rest and will be encouraged to eat and drink when they leave the site. 

What do snacks and water do for a donor?  

We encourage donors to eat something prior to their appointment and drink 500 mL of water. This will prepare donors’ bodies to replace the blood they’re about to donate and improves the donation experience. Resting, eating and drinking after donation also helps with recovery. These measures reduce the likelihood that donors will feel faint or have what’s known as a vasovagal reaction (i.e., actually fainting). 

If a donor leaves to consume their snack and drink and they are removed from the concierge, what do I do? 

Concierge has a 20-minute grace period from the donor’s appointment time. If the system removes the donor from the queue, please add the donor back in so they can continue with the process. 

What kind of environmental impact will this have and how are we addressing it? 

Due to health and safety concerns related to COVID-19, we have had to close on-site water fountains and return to a single-use water bottle model for our refreshment stations. At this time, we will not be opening up on-site water fountains to donors who bring refillable water bottles. We will offer bottles of water at the front of the donor centre. 

To balance safety measures with our environmental sustainability strategic plan, we have sourced a “green” vendor for our single-use water bottles, Ice River Green Bottle Co. This Canadian company sources its own water and offers a bottle that is 100% recyclable, making it the greenest choice for a single-use bottle. It is the first beverage company in North America to operate in a closed loop: it buys plastic from municipal recycling programs across the country and uses it to manufacture bottles. Additionally, the company’s bottling facilities send no waste to landfills. 

Which donors does this apply to? 

Snacks and water will be made available in all collection sites -fixed, mobile, apheresis and plasma. We recognize that in some programs like apheresis, it is important that donors are not delayed. Please have a discussion with those donors about the importance of pre-hydration and salty snacks so they can allow enough time.