Blood donations needed during COVID-19 pandemic

Vacations, weather, and illness affect blood donor numbers even in normal years

The bloodmobile sits in a parking lot. Blood donations are needed during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Every week, the Community Blood Bank based in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, needs 550 units of blood to meet the demands of hospitals in parts of South Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa, including many Sanford Health hospitals.

But going into the new year, Sanford Health and the blood banks supplying the health system are critically low on blood products, and there is a shortage nationwide, said Jeremy Cauwels, M.D., Sanford Health chief physician.

Additionally, seasonal dips in donations happen for a few reasons, according to a news release from Vitalant, a blood services provider serving 30 states, including North Dakota.

“Extreme winter weather like snow, cold, high winds or heavy rain can all cause blood drive cancellations this time of year, which is why it’s important for donors in unaffected areas to give blood regularly to maintain the supply,” the blood bank statement said. “In addition, seasonal illnesses like colds and the flu can cause fewer donors to be available to give. Healthy donors are always needed to ensure blood is available for hospital patients.”

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When you donate blood, you save lives. Up to three people benefit from a single pint of blood.

A long-term shortage could eventually lead to postponed or canceled surgeries. Lack of blood donations also could make it more difficult to treat patients who have critical needs, such as cancer and trauma patients.

COVID-19 and donating blood

During the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s safe to donate blood, says Vitalant.

Community Blood Bank and Vitalant offer these tips for blood donors:

  • Vaccinated donors are welcome. The FDA allows you to donate blood right after a COVID-19 vaccination or booster – or flu vaccine, tetanus shots or allergy shots, for that matter – as long as you are feeling well and meet other eligibility guidelines for blood donation.
  • Stay home if you’re not feeling well. Community Blood Bank requires you to wait until you’re cold and flu symptom-free for at least 72 hours.
  • Wait to donate if you have had COVID-19. Vitalant requires people with a suspected or confirmed COVID-19 infection to wait at least 14 days after their last symptoms before donating blood.
  • Wear a mask. Following CDC guidance, Sanford Health and Vitalant require masks for all donors, staff and guests at all blood drives and facilities regardless of your vaccination status.

Information in this story was accurate when it was posted. As the COVID-19 pandemic changes, scientific understanding and guidelines may have changed since the original publication date.

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Posted In Aberdeen, Bemidji, Bismarck, Canton-Inwood, Chamberlain, Clear Lake, Community, Coronavirus, Emergency Medicine, Fargo, Jackson, Luverne, Rock Rapids, Sheldon, Sioux Falls, Tracy, Vermillion, Watertown, Westbrook, Windom, Worthington