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COVID-19 Puts Even Greater Strain On San Antonio-Area Blood Supply

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Blood donation centers around the country are experiencing critical shortages in inventory earlier than expected as drives and donations have decreased dramatically due to COVID-19 concerns.

Shortages are nothing new for blood banks, but this is different. The center that supplies blood to San Antonio-area hospitals usually has a two weeks worth of supply, but last week there was enough for just two days on hand.

The need for blood didn't diminish when the pandemic began. Emergency operations and procedures still required available products and they weren't replinished. Accidents still happened. Cars still crashed.

The South Texas Blood and Tissue Center cancelled 120 drivesthat were scheduled to take place over the summer, which amounts to a loss of about 4,000 donations. Elective surgeries and procedures have also now resumed following the relaxation of certain protective measures, further increasing the need.

Facilities are now having to incorporate social distancing measures, which also presents challenges for donation volume. Appointments are now required and there must be ample space between donors, which means less can be accommodated at any given time.

How have blood drives changed in response to COVID-19 concerns? What's being done to keep donors and staff members safe? What are the biggest challenges? 

How many donors are needed to replenish a 2-week supply? Are certain types of blood needed more than others? What happens if demand outpaces donations?

How could plasma donations from people who have recovered from COVID-19 potentially be used to help others with the virus? 

How can members of the military community donate bloodto be used at the Brook Army Medical Center and other San Antonio-area military medical facilities?


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*This interview was recorded on Thursday, May 28.

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Kim Johnson is the producer for Texas Public Radio’s live, call-in show The Source. She is a Trinity University alum with bachelor’s degrees in Communication and Spanish, and a Master of Arts Degree from the School of Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin.
Dallas Williams is a Producer for The Source at Texas Public Radio. With a degree in Mass Communication — Broadcast Media, Dallas brings a unique perspective and a passion to producing a live, call-talk show.