The impact of coronavirus on the nation’s blood banks is large, and that’s hitting close to home in South Dakota, as well.
Last week, LifeServe, one of the major blood collection services in South Dakota, said it had lost about 500 donations in its service area of Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota. On Tuesday, that number had climbed to about 2,000 lost units of blood donations and more than 100 canceled drives around the three-state region, according to Claire DeRoin, the community relations coordinator for LifeServe.
“Unfortunately, that number has only gone up,” DeRoin said.
Overall, it’s estimated that more than 130,000 blood donations have been lost due to the pandemic, and blood providers say they have only been able to stay a few days ahead with supplies for hospitals.
“It’s going to be a months-long effort to catch up,” she said. “It’s not something that can be made up in a day.”
DeRoin said that a pandemic is a new challenge for blood donation providers.
“When you have big national events take place, where there’s a natural disaster in one part of the country and certain states have to shut down, other parts of the country can help compensate," she said. "But it’s been strange during this pandemic because everyone is in the same boat.”
For now, LifeServe and Vitalant, which also holds blood drives in the region, are asking for groups to continue holding blood drives, and for individuals to make appointments, rather than walk-ins.
“We do need donations, and it’s not just going to be this week or next week but really for the months ahead,” DeRoin said. “Regular donations are needed for making our community contributions to hospitals and really, every donation is going to help right now.”
Blood collection centers do not test for COVID-19, so donors need to be healthy and not sick in order to donate. But donating blood does not weaken a person’s immune system and a blood drive is not a mass gathering, under the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines.
“Blood drives are not mass gatherings. They are more like a health care necessity, not at all like a concert or convention,” Vitalant’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Ralph Vassallo said in a statement. “In these difficult times, giving blood is something healthy individuals can do to help the sick. The only source for blood — literally in many hospital procedures, the source of life — is another human being.”
Potential donors should call ahead to make appointments, and if events are canceled, donors will be notified, DeRoin said, who added that they’ve received overwhelming amounts of support, as well.
“We have appointments that are weeks out and we’re thankful for that,” she said.