Hurricane season highlights need for blood donations amid pandemic shortfall

Donation centers working under new protocols say need is still great

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The coronavirus pandemic has caused a significant strain on blood donations, but hurricane season is increasing the need even more.

“The need for blood simply does not stop. It doesn’t stop for a hurricane. It doesn’t stop for a pandemic. It stops for nothing,” OneBlood spokeswoman Susan Forbes said. “People need blood when they need it.”

Blood centers across the country are feeling the sting of the pandemic as it gets harder to keep up with the demand for blood.

OneBlood said about 40% of the population is eligible to donate but less than 10% does.

Shortages on the local and national level have caused some donation centers to dip below a two-day supply, according to LifeSouth.

Forbes said the pandemic has changed the industry drastically.

“The blood center here at OneBlood, our way that we operate has been indefinitely disrupted with the pandemic,” Forbes said. “We are not able to go to the traditional locations anymore to have blood drives.”

Forbes said they would hold drives at popular spots like movie theaters, but most are closed or not seeing the same traffic.

High schools, colleges and universities are also typical blood drive locations, but they aren’t expected to see as many students on campuses this fall.

“So those are all in question -- yet high schools, colleges and universities account for 20% of the blood supply,” Forbes said.

With the pandemic and hurricane season overlapping, Forbes said now is the time to donate if you can. She said making a blood donation every time you are eligible helps ensure a ready blood supply is available 24/7.

In addition to general donors, there’s a new need for “convalescent plasma” donors -- those who have recovered from COVID-19 and now carry the antibodies for the virus.

“Those antibodies in their plasma are playing a key role by being transfused into patients still fighting COVID-19, and it’s helping many of them heal,” Forbes said. “Hospitals are depending on convalescent plasma more now than ever. One blood has had over a 500% increase in hosptial orders for convalescent plasma. That is an extraordinary increase, and we need more people who have recovered from the virus (to donate).”

To donate blood, you must be 17 or 16 with parental consent, weigh at least 110 pounds, be in good health, and have an ID.

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