The head of the organization that is the sole supplier of blood products to more than 120 hospitals in Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota says she’s “very concerned” about the status of the region’s blood supply.
Christine Hayes, Chief Operating Officer of the Des Moines-based LifeServe Blood Center, says due to coronavirus, many people are working from home or they’re practicing social distancing and avoiding crowds. “Unfortunately, the majority of the blood that is collected comes from mobile blood drives,” Hayes says. “All of these scenarios that are occurring right now are drastically reducing mobile collections as we’re seeing cancellations and unfortunately, lack of donor turnout.”
During a typical week, 2,500 to 3,000 units of blood will be collected and more than 70-percent comes from mobile blood drive events, but Hayes says COVID-19 is having a critical impact on donations. “We have seen a reduction of 30 to 40% of our planned collections drop just within the last few days,” Hayes says. “As we forecast that out moving forward, it becomes an even more dire situation.”
As a precaution against the pandemic, many private and public schools and universities in Iowa are extending Spring Breaks or they’re switching to online classes — which Hayes says spells trouble for the blood supply. “Thirty-percent of our collections in the coming weeks are coming from our high school and college-university blood drives,” Hayes says. “As we look at universities closing and high schools closing, that makes us significantly worried about those units.”
In addition to mobile blood drives, LifeServe has seven offices in Iowa for blood donations. Those who want to donate will be asked screening questions about their health and about countries where they have traveled recently which are deemed risk areas.
“We rely on healthy individuals to be blood donors anyway, so our message about who can be a blood donor really hasn’t changed,” Hayes says. “We’re encouraging anyone who is healthy and feeling well to please consider being a blood donor right now.”
The safety and quality of the blood supply is not impacted by coronavirus, Hayes says, as there have been no transmissions of the virus through blood transfusion. LifeServe has offices in: Ames, Des Moines, Fort Dodge, Mason City, Marshalltown, Sioux City, and Urbandale. Learn more by calling 800-287-4903 or visit www.lifeservebloodcenter.org.