By Kevin Edwards
BC Staff Writer
Blood donations are needed now more than ever.
The novel coronavirus crisis has caused numerous organizations around the country, state and region to cancel blood drives causing an extreme blood shortage.
According to Mississippi Blood Service, it is imperative that healthy individuals donate to minimize disruptions to the blood supply and ensure blood is available for patients.
MBS recently opened a collection site in Cleveland, at 609 N. Davis Ave., and the staff is actively seeking donors
Blood products are always needed for surgeries; traumas; and catastrophic and long-term illnesses, such as sickle cell disease and cancer.
Since it is the blood already on the shelves that saves lives, maintaining a sufficient blood supply is essential to ensure patients in need receive optimal treatment.
“The need for blood donors is always critical. It is in times of disaster or public health crises that we truly need people to understand the importance and safety in donating blood to keep the blood supply at safe levels. Blood has a short shelf life and must be continually replenished,” said David Allen, president and CEO of Mississippi Blood Services.
“Less than 4 percent of Mississippians donate blood on a regular basis,” Allen added. “But Mississippi Blood Services must send out 230 units, or more, of blood products a day to hospitals across the state to meet the needs of patients. This is a daunting task, and we cannot do it without the generosity of our blood donors.”
In a joint letter to the Food and Drug Administration, representatives from the Red Cross, AABB, and America’s Blood Centers wrote, “As of March 16, the blood industry has seen more than 4,000 blood drives cancelled, resulting in some 130,000 fewer blood donations due to coronavirus concerns.
“Blood has a short shelf life, up to 42 days for red blood cells but only five days for platelets. Thus, blood must be constantly and regularly collected from healthy individuals to sustain the nation’s blood supply, a critical public health resource.”
A blood shortage presents a risk of putting another health crisis on top of the one we are already experiencing.
With the coronavirus at the forefront of our attention, it is possible to forget that there are thousands of patients who are dealing with other medical needs.
These include cancer patients, trauma patients, patients with chronic diseases and patients with blood disorders such as sickle cell anemia, all of whom may require blood donations to survive.
Tamica Smith Jewitt, director of communications for the American Red Cross Mississippi Region, said the process is “very safe” and donations are needed now more than ever.
Jewitt cited the comments of the U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams who said, “Social distancing does not have to mean social disengagement,” when referring to the need for blood donations.
The coronavirus is a respiratory infection and there is no evidence showing that it can be transferred via blood.
Blood donation staff has taken precautions to ensure a clean and sterile donation environment.
Gloves are worn and changed with each donor.
Areas that the donor uses are routinely wiped down and sanitized.
Sterile collection sets are used for each donation.
To adjust to concerns about the coronavirus, more steps have been taken.
Staff and donors are tested for their temperature before donations begin.
Hand sanitizer is available for all who need it and beds at donation sites have been spaced further out for social distancing purposes.
Disinfecting surfaces and equipment has increased.
Potential donors who have traveled out of country or who have encountered someone who has contracted the coronavirus are asked to postpone their donations for one month.
The entire process takes 30-45 minutes.