Pandemic canceling many blood drives, lowering supply to desperate levels

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February 07 2021 05:30 pm

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It’s another holiday tradition slowing down because of the pandemic.

Like other blood drives, the annual Black Friday blood drive hosted at the National WWI Museum and Memorial isn’t matching donation numbers from years past.

Blood drives are considered essential services under Kansas City’s latest public health order, so they can have a gathering larger than 10 people.

But staff with the Community Blood Center said it’s often hard to attract mobile gatherings with those numbers.

Helping donors with both the softness and authority of a former teacher, Marcelle King said people often focus that she’s from Guyana over any fears they might have associated with drawing blood.

“They love my accent, and I would say I love the American accent, too. And that starts the conversation. ‘Where are you from? I detect an accent.’ And then I would say, ‘Oh I’m from Kansas City.’ And then they say, ‘We don’t say Kansas City like that,'” King said with a laugh Friday.

But those interactions have thinned out since March. Community Blood Center reports about 70% of blood comes from mobile blood drives. However, a lot of those events have been canceled during the pandemic.

“The pandemic does not necessarily lead to a greater need of blood. We are in a desperate need of blood because people are not donating right now,” said Cierra Pritchett, staff member at Community Blood Center.

“Community Blood Center needs a seven-day supply of blood. Since the onset of the pandemic, we have not reached over a four-day supply,” Pritchett said.

“And it has dropped as low as a two-day supply on many days,” Pritchett added.

King, a senior donor care technician, said that they have reassessed all of their sanitizing and social distancing during blood drive evvents. Workers now wipe down and sanitize equipment like the seats used during blood draws between every patient.

“Everything that we use and share, we make sure that we sanitize them. We want to make sure it’s a safe environment for our donors,” King said.

King also said they need to push forward because what’s her other option?

“And that has been — since I was in college, that is my philosophy: ‘Never late. Never absent,'” King said.

Organizers at the Community Blood Center said they are also drawing convalescent plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients, which, in turn, can be used as a therapy for people currently suffering from the virus.

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