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Closings, Cancellations and Delays


Shortage of blood donors is endangering supplies for patients, care staff


F.Ganje - May 1, 2020

RAPID CITY, SD – One of the most important needs during the COVID-19 pandemic are blood donations. Centers across the country are experiencing severe shortages, including Vitalant of Rapid City (formerly United Blood Services).  Brooke Way is the marketing and communication specialist at Vitalant.

“We are seeing shortages due to the coronavirus across the United States,” says Way. “At Vitalant, 25 percent of donations that were anticipated have completed disappeared. We are trying to make up that shortage and are encouraging everyone who is healthy and able to donate.”

Among concerns among potential donors is contracting or spreading the virus and a misconception over how the virus can be transmitted.  Vitalant and other centers have modified their collection facilities and are practicing CDC guidelines to protect the health of donors.

And while there's no evidence that the virus is passed through a blood transfusion, the American Red Cross and others have announced donation restrictions for people who have traveled to certain countries or have had the virus or those who have been in contact with someone who's been infected.

Sue Thesenga, communications manager for the Red Cross in Minnesota, stressed that these measures are precautions, and said it's still safe for healthy individuals to donate blood.

"As concerns rise, there may be fewer people eligible to give blood, so we're encouraging people who are healthy and eligible to give blood now," she said. "We want to make sure that we maintain a sufficient blood supply and help prevent a shortage."

The restrictions include postponing donations for 28 days from people who have traveled to China, including the Hong Kong and Macau regions, as well as Iran, Italy and South Korea. Anyone who has had contact with an infected person, or is suspected of having the virus themselves, is asked to postpone donating blood, as they would with any other illness.

At Vitalant in Rapid City, Way says that all safety measures are in place for people to feel confident about donating blood.

“It is safe to donate blood,” says Way. “We’re taking every precaution we can to make sure donors and patients feel safe Our donor care staff follow rigorous safety and disinfectant protocol. Vitalant follows these steps on a regular basis and we are being extra vigilant right now.”

Presently, there are specific shortages at the Vitalant center.

“While all blood types are needed, we are asking for type O negative. That’s definitely needed right now.  It’s the universal blood type and what doctors are going to reach for first to help save a life,” explains Way. “We also are asking for platelet donations

Blood drives continue to be held in the Black Hills and surrounding regions.  Way encourages people to donate for needs now and into the future.

“In some places, blood drives have been canceled because of schools and businesses being closed,” she notes.  “However, we have seen new blood drives scheduled by those who really want to support communities.”

People can visit www.bloodhero.com to find the nearest blood drive to them. Call  605-646-2625 or learn more about Vitalant’s COVID-19 response at www.vitalant.org/coronavirus



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