With many normal blood drive spots temporarily shuttered by the coronavirus – schools, churches, businesses now asking employees to work from home – blood supplies are severely low across the nation.
Still, even with "stay at home" restrictions, healthy individuals still have opportunities to donate blood and can go out to do so, as it’s deemed an essential function.
The Community Blood Center, which estimates it needs more than 500 donations per day around the Kansas City area to meet area hospital needs, says about 75 percent of its blood supply has been interrupted due to closures. The American Red Cross says it’s had 9,000 blood drives around the nation canceled recently, putting it about 275,000 donations below normal.
At 13,000 a day, Red Cross regional spokesperson Joe Zydlo said, "It’s like we haven’t collected in a month."
The Community Blood Center has stopped doing mobile blood drives for the time being and switched Monday to appointment-only donations at its blood centers to maintain appropriate social distancing and allow for proper health safety precautions.
"Our blood supply is not where we want to be," said Ben McFerron, who manages the CBC donor center at 1124 S.W. U.S. 40 in Blue Springs. "The problem that we’re running into is most of our whole blood and red blood cells, we collect on our mobiles, and almost all of them into the next month have been canceled."
"We’ve had a few people just try to walk in, and if we have an opening we can get them in, but we ask people to make appointments."
Officials say their needs don’t vary by blood type.
"It’s everything," McFerron said. "O-negative is always our go-to and what we crave the most because it’s most versatile, but we need everything right now."
One bright spot McFerron has seen is an uptick on brand-new donors not in the CBC records.
"Talking with some of them, I think it’s a way for them to feel like they can contribute to what’s going on in the world," he said. "Hopefully we can keep some of these people in the system and donating regularly to avoid future shortages."
All CBC donor centers are now open 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday-Thursday and 7 a.m.-4 p.m. Friday-Sunday. The Kansas City donor center is at 4040 Main St. To schedule a donation appointment, call 1-877-468-6844 or visit savealifenow.org/coronavirus.
Some upcoming Red Cross blood drives are full of appointments, like Monday at Bass Pro Shops in Independence, but openings remain for Tuesday’s drive from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. at EPIC Sports Lodge, 19310 E. 50th Terrace, Independence. The Red Cross also has drives 11 a.m.-3 p.m. April 3 and 7-9 at its location at 6601 Winchester Ave., Kansas City and has set up a temporary fixed location at d.41 Event Space, 8135 Santa Fe Drive., Overland Park, Kansas. Upcoming drives there are 12-6 p.m. Monday-Thursday and April 6-7.
In general, blood centers have increased sanitary measures and ask people with possible COVID-19 symptoms – fever, cough, shortness of breath – not to donate, and that people who have recovered from COVID-19, been in close contact with somebody diagnosed or suspected with COVID-19 or traveled to another hotspot country wait four weeks to donate.
The Red Cross says there’s no evidence the coronavirus can be transmitted by blood transfusion, and there have been no reported cases of transfusion-transmission for any respiratory virus.
Like CBC, Red Cross drives are appointment only, to keep beds and staff spaced out. Staff and donors all receive temperature checks when they enter.
If a drive is fully booked, Zydlo said, check redcrossblood.org for drives a few weeks out.
"We will need the blood then just as much as we do now," he said.