ST. PAUL — Blood donation leaders and health experts from around the state on Monday, Jan. 3, urged Minnesotans to consider donating to help alleviate a COVID-19 pandemic-driven blood supply shortage.
Donation levels typically allow blood banks to get supplies to hospitals that can then supply about three to five days' worth of blood on hand, the officials said, but lower-than-normal contributions forced those levels to about one day's worth of supplies. And that represented a roughly 10-year low for the state's blood supply levels.
“I’ve been here for 24 years and this is like the longest most heartwrenching difficulty we’ve ever faced as far as a blood shortage,” Angela Engblom, Northland component services manager for Memorial Blood Centers in Duluth, said during a virtual roundtable discussion. “It just keeps going on and on and on to the point that I don’t know if it’s actually ever going to end.”
With fewer congregate settings like schools, churches or businesses to draw from for blood drives, leaders from the American Red Cross of Minnesota and the Dakotas Region and Memorial Blood Center said they'd had to try and raise awareness elsewhere to get donors into their facilities or regional blood drives during the pandemic.
And they said repeat donors continued to come through their doors, but they hoped to generate awareness about the shortage to convince new and more diverse groups to help.
"We've been highly dependent, whether it's the Red Cross or us, on fixed-site donors, and we're starting to burn them out, frankly," said Dr. Jed Gorlin, Memorial Blood Centers' medical director and vice president of medical and quality affairs.
The officials said they'd also ramped up already tight health and safety protocols to ensure donors could feel safe. They said employees obtaining donations were required to be vaccinated against COVID-19, masks and distancing were required at donation sites and facilities were frequently cleaned.
The leaders also encouraged employers to grant their workers time to donate blood and said the country should work to more strongly encourage donation across backgrounds and do better at tracking supplies available.
“The thing about this shortage is that every two seconds someone in the U.S. is in need of blood or platelets," U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar said. “The good news is that we can all help solve this problem by donating blood, one donation can save up to three lives no matter what your blood type."