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Blood Shortage Amid Holidays And The Pandemic

The Red Cross tests every blood donation for a variety of infections. All blood, platelet and plasma donations are also tested for COVID-19 antibodies.
American Red Cross
The Red Cross tests every blood donation for a variety of infections. All blood, platelet and plasma donations are also tested for COVID-19 antibodies.

The need for donated blood doesn’t pause for holidays, game days or a pandemic. <--break->

Bloomington-Normal and Peoria, like the rest of the nation, are experiencing a blood shortage.

“There is a national convalescent plasma shortage, and health emergencies, they don't stop there during the holidays, the game days, or even the pandemic, and blood product is needed every two seconds for someone in the U.S. battling injury and illness,” said Red Cross Regional Communications Manager Drew Brown.

To help address the shortage of convalescent plasma, the American Red Cross is teaming up with the NFL to urge people to give blood. Especially those who have recovered from COVID-19. 

“We are urging people recovered from COVID-19 to give blood and to help people who could be battling COVID-19. Individuals who have recovered from COVID-19, they may have those antibodies in their plasma, and that could provide a patient's immune system a boost,” said Brown. 

To incentivize donors, the Red Cross will be entering those who donate in a contest to win a getaway to next year’s Super Bowl in Los Angeles.

“The NFL has always been a fantastic partner, and this month is National Blood Donation Month,” said Brown. “We do appreciate them teaming up with us for the effort.”

Those who donate by Jan. 20 also will be entered to win a 65-inch TV and a $500 gift card.

The Red Cross has to collect more than 13,000 units of blood each day for its hospital partners across the country. 

Nearly 1,300 blood drives scheduled for December and January had to be canceled because of the pandemic. That has meant a loss of 33,000 blood components needed by patients during a time of year where blood donations already lag when compared to other times of the year, according to Vitalant.

Vitalant is a nonprofit organization that collects blood from volunteer donors and provides blood, blood products and services across the United States.

“We stress safety, that's what’s most important for the Red Cross, for donors and our staff,” said Brown. “So when you see Red Cross blood drives, we'll see people getting (their) temperatures checked, hand sanitizer, masks. And it's been happening for quite some time. We're always updating procedures just to make sure it's a safe environment for both staff and donors.”

Brown recently attended a blood drive in Peoria.

“People see when they come in, that visual of social distancing and they say that made them feel comfortable coming,” said Brown. “A lot of our donors, they've been donating for years. So, they want to feel comfortable to come back even during this environment.” 

Brown said a lot of people don’t know blood is a perishable product. A typical unit of blood can be refrigerated for 42 days.

“It cannot just sit on a shelf for a long period of time,” said Brown. “The need for blood is constant.”

One the Red Cross website, donors can make appointments and find nearby blood drives.

Copyright 2021 WCBU. To see more, visit WCBU.