According to a press release from Essentia Health, the shortage has forced some hospitals across the country to delay elective surgeries. The situation is mainly fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic. Fewer people donated blood during the pandemic. There are also a backlog of surgical procedures that were postponed last year that are now being scheduled.

“More than half of our region’s blood donations continue to be interrupted by cancellations of community and business blood drives due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Jennifer Bredahl, regional director with Vitalant Blood Centers. “Blood is an essential component of emergency preparedness because it’s perishable and the supply must be constantly replaced.”

“With the summertime we always have a high need for donations,” Whitney McCollum, a donor outreach service representative for Vitalant in Fargo, said.

“ COVID had a big impact because a lot of blood drives were cancelled. Now that we can have blood drives again, we follow social distancing and all the protocols. But some people are still hesitant to be out in public.”

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McCollum said people who have had COVID may donate as long as they have been symptom-free for at least 28 days.

Local impact

Sonja Day, the Communication/Marketing Foundation Director at CHI St. Joseph’s Health in Park Rapids said that while they are aware of the nationwide blood shortage nationally, it has not impacted services at CHI St. Joseph's Health.

A representative for Sanford said at the present time they are not seeing a significant impact, due in part to a blood drive hosted by Memorial Blood Center in Bemidji that resulted in a record setting event with 117 units collected.

Need for donations

Supply is low for all blood types, even Type O-negative, which is especially concerning because of its universal acceptance; anyone can receive O-negative blood despite their blood type.

“O- negative and O-positive are the blood types that we always have an urgent need for,” McCollum said.

While Essentia Health has largely been able to navigate the shortage thus far without significant interruptions, they stated the risk is pronounced.

“Severe shortages of blood components pose significant risk to normal hospital operations and could result in the delay of elective surgeries, thus disrupting crucial patient care,” said Dr. Maria Beaver, a pathologist and transfusion services medical director at Essentia Health. “In our experience, summer blood supply tends to be lower on average, and this is further heightened by the COVID pandemic. At the same time, summer months tend to bring a larger number of trauma cases, thus the need for blood increases. A healthy and continuous blood supply is crucial for normal operations and excellent patient care.

“We strongly encourage healthy people to consider the gift of donation to replenish the blood supply both within and outside our region.”

It’s said that every two seconds in the U.S. someone will need blood. And blood from one donation can save up to three lives.

In order to be eligible to donate blood, a person must be 17 years old (16 with parental consent), weigh at least 110 pounds and are in good health.

McCollum said sometimes people express frustration because they are being told there is an urgent need for blood but donation appointments are already filled.

“Blood is perishable, so there is always a constant need for it,” she said. Blood is only good for 32 days. So if you can’t make an appointment try again next time a drive is in your area.”

How to help

Several blood donation events with Vitalant are scheduled this summer. They include a drive at the Osage Community Center on Cty. Hwy. 48 July 15, a Walker location July 28, Bethany Lutheran Church in Nevis July 30, a Park Rapids Location August 2-4, a Menahga location Aug. 21, Lakeport Township Hall in Laporte Aug. 30.

Call the Vitalant office in Fargo at 877-258-4825 to sign up to donate at any of those locations.

For more information on donating blood or scheduling a blood drive visit www.vitalant.org.

Anyone who is able to donate blood platelets used for leukemia patients and newborn babies can do so at the Fargo donor center. The procedure takes two to three hours.