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Texas needs your blood. Donation stockpiles are at record lows

Anurake Singto-On

As COVID-19 cases surge due to the omicron variant, fewer and fewer people are donating blood. That’s led to a “national blood crisis” — and Texas is no exception.

On Tuesday, The American Red Cross said up to a quarter of hospital blood needs across the country are not being met, calling it the “worst blood shortage in more than a decade.”

Dr. Merlyn Sayers, president of Carter Bloodcare in Bedford, told KUT's Texas Standard that blood supplies have reached record lows in North Texas.

“I've been involved in blood banking for something like 30 years, and I've never ever seen circumstances quite as dire as they are now,” said Sayers.

Now, hospitals across Texas are facing limited stockpiles for those in need of blood, from trauma patients to people fighting cancer, and are being forced to make tough choices about who gets blood in an effort to conserve.

Sayers said up to 800 patients are in dire need of blood each day in the Dallas-Fort Worth region. He attributed the shortage, in part, to restrictions throughout the pandemic, such as social distancing and school closures, which led to donor hesitance.

In the Gulf Coast, Houston’s Texas Medical Center is seeing a significant decrease in blood donations. Cameron Palmer, community development coordinator, told Houston Public Media the center needs at least 1,000 donations a day, but is falling short of that goal.

"Typically we like to have about a three-day supply of blood on the shelf," said Palmer. "Right now we're at about a one day supply, and this is just for any sort of emergency needs that may come up."

Donation centers have also been forced to cancel or postpone their blood drives as a result of the Omicron surge and related staffing shortages. South Texas blood banks have been forced to cancel at least eight blood drives with a potential loss of as many as 400 donations.

"COVID has disrupted donations in ways we never knew possible," said Adrienne Mendoza, vice president of operations for San Antonio’s South Texas Blood & Tissue, in an interview with Texas Public Radio.

Mendoza said South Texas Blood & Tissue currently has less than one day’s supply of Type O blood available for hospitals.

To entice donors, some donation centers are giving out incentives. Vitalant, a national blood donation provider which has locations in West Texas, recently advertised that it’s holding a $5,000 gift card giveaway for people who donate.

For more information about how you can help blood, go to giveblood.org. Anyone can donate regardless of COVID-19 vaccination status.

In a statement, the Red Cross said “Blood and platelet donations are critically needed to help prevent further delays in vital medical treatments, and donors of all blood types – especially type O − are urged to make an appointment now.”

Got a tip? Email Pablo Arauz Peña at parauzpena@kera.org

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Pablo Arauz Peña