Metro Red Cross still needs blood after 18,000 drives canceled nationwide

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BELTON, Mo. — Because of ‘stay-at-home’ orders and social distancing, blood donations have dropped tremendously. The Red Cross estimates it will lose half a million donated pints of blood in the next few weeks.

The organization has cancelled 18,000 blood drives nationwide since mid-March to maintain social distancing practices. That means half a million units of blood won’t be collected or go to patients. 

There are still a few blood drives. However, they come with some changes.

“We are starting, right when you walk through the door, to check your temperature,” Jane Schumacher said as she stood outside the door to Saturday’s blood drive at Gail’s Harley Davidson.

She then squeezed hand sanitizer onto the donor’s hand and asked the donor to pull up her face mask. As soon as masks arrive to Red Cross centers, everyone at the donation site will have to wear one. At Saturday’s drive, it was a mixed bag – some had them, some did not.  

It’s just the way things will have to be done in these COVID-19 times.  

“The coronavirus has certainly made this a new time for everybody,” Schumacher said.

That also means social distancing- meaning more space between donors and fewer people who can be at blood drives. This means less blood collected.

“We need blood. The hospitals need blood. The cancer patients need blood right now,” Schumacher said.  

But there’s also less need for blood right now.

“People aren’t traveling as much,” Scott Riggs, Red Cross Communication volunteer for the Kansas City area, said. ”We have less car accidents, and we also have less elective surgeries, and again, that’s a big need for blood.”

That doesn’t mean don’t donate.  

“I think the Surgeon General had a really good phrase,” Riggs said. “He said we want to practice social distancing but not social disengagement. We want people to stay involved and to contribute and not to totally shut down. But, be smart about it.”

Many major companies that used to host drives have asked all their employees to stay home, if not furloughed them. The fewer blood drives mean fewer appointments, and those appointments fill up quickly. When that happens, it can be weeks before another appointment opens up.  

That’s why any drive is important; Saturday’s at Gail’s Harley Davidson was expected to draw 35 units.

Blood has a shelf life of 42 days. The blood collected at the Belton drive will need to be replaced in early June. The Red Cross said summer is its slowest season.

You can make an appointment online by going here: https://www.redcross.org/

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