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COVID-19 crisis causing severe blood shortage

Red blood on blood bag in laboratory.Blood donation concept.

Blood donations to U.S. blood banks are down severely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and physicians and blood donation centers are asking the public to step up. 

More than 2,700 blood drives in the U.S. have been canceled due to the COVID-19 crisis, according to the American Red Cross, and individual donations are down by 150,000. 

“America’s blood supply is dangerously low,” said Jeff Kirby, chief of UAB Hospital’s trauma service, in a video on UAB News. “The need for blood is urgent and donation is still safe.” 

Kirby said donation centers are taking safe precautions and maintaining safe distances between donors, as well as aggressively disinfecting all surfaces.

The organization has also added more safety protocols to prevent the spread of coronavirus at donation centers, including:

  • Temperature checks before presenting donors enter the blood drive or donation center
  • Enhanced disinfecting of equipment
  • Providing hand sanitizer for use before entering and throughout the donation appointment
  • Spacing beds, where possible, to follow social distancing practices between donors
  • During this time, blankets typically used by platelet, Power Red and AB Elite donors at Red Cross blood donation centers will be laundered after each use, which may limit the availability. Donors are encouraged to bring their own blankets, but electric blankets and heating pads are not permitted.

“Without a good blood supply people will die,” Kirby said. 

The East Alabama Medical Center in a recent statement said the hospital receives 100 percent of its blood supply from the LifeSouth Community Blood Centers, with the vast majority coming from the blood center on the main EAMC campus, located at 505 E. Thomason Circle in Opelika. 

“The blood supply in America is facing an unprecedented challenge due to COVID-19. Large numbers of blood drives are being cancelled daily and donors are increasingly practicing social distancing, as they should,” the hospital’s statement reads. 

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“Hospitals are likely to see critical shortages of blood products occur in the near term if the trajectory does not change. While shortages are not severe today, a critical blood shortage of all blood types will occur if donations simply stop,” the statement reads. 

Those who are healthy and able are asked to call the local LifeSouth office at 334-705-0884 to schedule an appointment to donate blood. LifeSouth is limiting the number of donors in the center at one time so as to keep donors and staff at appropriate distances. 

LifeSouth’s hours of operation are: 

  • Monday and Thursday: 9 a.m. – 7 p.m.
  • Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
  • Saturday: 9 a.m. – 3 p.m.
  • Sunday: 12 – 5 p.m.

To donate through the American Red Cross call 1-800-733-2767 to make an appointment. Blood donation appointments can also be set up in the free Red Cross Blood Donor app. 

Written By

Eddie Burkhalter is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or reach him via Twitter.

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