Coronavirus not driving demand, but Charleston blood centers say they still need public's help for donations

Surgeon general urges donations to continue

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THE DIGITEL
  • The Digitel
Blood centers nationwide are seeing fewer donors and climbing numbers of blood drive cancellations due to the global coronavirus outbreak. Some local blood centers like are concerned that this could lead to blood shortages, which could impact local hospitals.

In order to encourage donors to continue giving, the U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams released a statement March 19, admitting his concern of the potential blood shortage. “Social distancing does not have to mean social disengagement,” Adams said.

“Since the statement last week from the U.S. Surgeon General about blood donation, people have been responding to the need for blood donations,” says Allie Van Dyke, media coordinator for The Blood Connection, a nonprofit with 10 donation centers across the Carolinas.



“The Blood Connection is thankful to those donors who made the decision to give back in such an uncertain time.”

As a community blood center, she says, TBC is responsible for maintaining a steady blood supply to the Lowcountry. With some uncertainty in how long the pandemic will last, people will need to continue to donate in the weeks and months ahead.
There isn’t necessarily a higher demand for blood than normal, but blood centers are struggling because people are not donating amid the coronavirus fears.

“The FDA has stated that blood drives should not be considered ‘social events or mass gatherings,’” says Van Dyke. “Blood drives are essential to this community. TBC is strongly encouraging all donors to make an appointment before their donations to better control social distancing.”

Larger centers, like the Red Cross, are already experiencing shortages due to the number of blood drive cancellations, which they say could impact patients who need surgery, victims of car accidents, and patients fighting cancer.

As of March 22, more than 6,000 Red Cross blood drives have been canceled across the country due to concerns about congregating at workplaces, college campuses, and schools amidst the coronavirus outbreak, according to Red Cross External Communications Manager Maya Franklin. These cancellations have resulted 200,000 fewer donations.

“In our experience, the American public comes together to support those in need during times of shortage and that support is needed now more than ever during this unprecedented public health crisis,” says Chris Hrouda, Red Cross' president of biomedical services. “Unfortunately, when people stop donating blood, it forces doctors to make hard choices about patient care, which is why we need those who are healthy and well to roll up a sleeve and give the gift of life.”

In light of this, the Red Cross urges organizations to maintain scheduled blood drives, and has taken precautions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Staff and donors have their temperature checked before entering a drive, hand sanitizer is available before and during the donation process, and beds are well-spaced when possible.

To donate blood through the Red Cross, individuals need to bring a blood donor card, driver’s license, or two other forms of identification that are required at check-in. High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger also must meet certain height and weight requirements. 

To donate through TBC, donors must be in good health, at least 17 years old (16 with written parental consent), and weigh at least 110 pounds. To determine eligibility to donate, TBC will ask questions about health, travel, and medicines, as well as questions to determine if you may be at risk for transfusion-transmissible diseases.

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