FARMINGTON – As the coronavirus spreads and people follow social-distancing protocols from public health experts, an unexpected side effect is a decrease in blood donations across the country, putting a strain on an already low supply.
At least 2,700 Red Cross blood drives have been canceled across the country as a result of COVID-19 pandemic concerns as of last week, according to the Red Cross. The cancellations have resulted in an estimated 86,000 fewer blood donations. Yet, more than 80% of the blood the Red Cross collects comes from these blood drives, the agency said in a statement.
Both Mercy Regional Medical Center and San Juan Regional Medical Center in Farmington have acknowledged a critical blood shortage. In an effort to combat it, both hospitals have organized blood drives, with added coronavirus safety precautions.
San Juan Regional Medical Center’s blood drive with a Vitalant mobile unit will be held from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday in the main hospital parking lot at 801 W. Maple St. Vitalant (formerly United Blood Services) is a nonprofit organization that collects blood from volunteer donors.
“Donating blood is one of the easiest ways to give back to your community. In an emergency, it’s the blood already on hospital shelves that saves lives,” the medical center said in a news release.
To maintain social-distancing practices, people are encouraged to schedule an appointment ahead of time, although walk-ins will be accepted. To schedule a donation, visit bloodhero.com and search by ZIP code and date.
“This was not a regularly scheduled blood drive,” said Laura Werbner, spokeswoman for SJRMC. “This was specifically done because there is a critical blood shortage right now, and a lot of people in our community have been reaching out and wanting to help.”
Mercy Regional Medical Center also announced a blood drive hosted with Vitalant from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. April 1 in the hospital’s parking lot at 1010 Three Springs Blvd. People who want to donate are encouraged to make an appointment to maintain social-distancing practices by calling (970) 764-1170 or visiting bloodhero.com and entering the code: mrmc.
In a news release Tuesday, Mercy said, “Local blood supply has dropped, and Vitalant is in urgent need of donors.”
In addition to the routine recommendations of eating a good meal, drinking plenty of water and bringing an ID or donor card, both hospitals have outlined extra precautions. Donors will be screened for COVID-19 symptoms and possible exposure, including two temperature screenings before donation, San Juan Regional Medical Center’s news release said. But donors will not be tested for the coronavirus.
While most states have closed gatherings, blood drives are not included in that list, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has urged healthy Americans to consider donating.
“People who donate blood are equivalent to those people who are working in a critical infrastructure industry,” the FDA said in a news release last week. “In volunteering to do so, they are contributing immeasurably to the public health of our nation.”
According to the Red Cross, “There is no data or evidence that this coronavirus can be transmitted by blood transfusion, and there have been no reported cases of transfusion transmission for any respiratory virus, including this coronavirus, worldwide.”
As of Wednesday, Colorado had 1,430 positive cases and 24 deaths. New Mexico, which reported its first death on Wednesday, saw cases rise to 100. San Juan County reported a total of seven positive cases as of Tuesday evening.