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Our View: With donations still down, 'blood emergency' declared

From the editorial: "During COVID-19’s 21-months-and-counting grip on the Northland, on our nation, and on the world, maintaining blood supplies has been even more challenging than normal."

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The deeply concerning, pandemic-long shortage of life-saving blood donations hasn’t let up — and won’t until more of us step up and roll up our sleeves.

Slim one-day and two-day supplies of most blood types — when five-day to seven-day supplies are considered ideal — prompted the Memorial Blood Centers in St. Paul last week to declare a “blood emergency.” Perhaps most alarming right now, the universal donor type O-negative is at a less-than-one-day supply, the nonprofit reported.

“In a normal year, winter (is already) a difficult time to maintain a stable blood supply,” Kathy Geist, the blood centers’ senior executive director, said in a statement. “Unpredictable weather, cold and flu season, school breaks, family and holiday travel all contribute to making blood donations less of a priority.”

During COVID-19’s 21-months-and-counting grip on the Northland, on our nation, and on the world, maintaining blood supplies has been even more challenging than normal. Early on, when everything shut down, countless blood drives were canceled and then weren’t rescheduled. Countless more held annually with the cooperation of businesses, schools, churches, and others aren’t being planned at all anymore with so many employees working from home and so many others not gathering socially.

In addition, an uptick in elective surgeries and other medical procedures, put off during lockdowns, are quickly now draining bags of donated blood.

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And many regular blood donors remain understandably leery of donation centers and the potential spread of the coronavirus and its delta and omicron variants. That’s despite assurance from Memorial Blood Centers that, “There is no evidence that COVID-19 can be spread or contracted through blood donation or transfusion. … Staff at (donation centers) continue to take extra precautions to help prevent person-to-person spread of COVID-19, including continuing to wear face masks.”

And now it’s Christmastime — a time of giving that, this “blood emergency” year especially, needs to also include more of us giving blood.

“Donating blood is the best gift you can give this holiday season,” Geist said. “It takes one hour and doesn’t cost you a dime. Plus, we’ve taken extra precautions throughout the pandemic.”

To help ensure social distancing and minimize wait times, appointments to make donations must be scheduled, and they can be at mbc.org/donate or by calling 888-448-3253.

Precautions to protect our health and to avoid getting sick make perfect sense, particularly in a pandemic. Unfortunately, like COVID-19 itself, the critical need for life-saving blood just won’t let up. Not until we step up.

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Related Topics: OUR VIEWCORONAVIRUS
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