“The ‘new normal’ during the COVID-19 pandemic has been going week to week with lower margins of supply than we were accustomed to pre-pandemic,” said Mark Pompilio, public relations and marketing associate with the Community Blood Center. “This means less margin of error on calculating our needs, and much bigger impact from cancellations and disruptions.”
Community Blood Center saw 612 blood drive cancellations in 2020, which was a 266% increase in cancellations from the prior year, Pompilio said.
More than one-third of the cancellations occurred early in the pandemic, between mid-March and the end of May.
“March and April were difficult months with 80% of blood drives canceled,” Pompilio said.
Large corporate blood drives were down between 37% to 72% last year, while large high school blood drives saw similarly large reductions (between 50% to 65%).
Miami University, the blood center’s largest account, saw drives decline about 29%
Community Blood Center also saw donor registrations decline for all blood products by about 3.7% last year.
Many sponsors continued to host blood drives, but at reduced capacity, leading to smaller collections, Pompilio said.
Blood drive events had to limit donors and beds to allow for social distancing, and though new sponsors stepped up, they could only host smaller drives.
However, many community members who never donated blood before at the center decided to roll up their sleeves to help out.
Community Blood Center saw 8,050 first-time donors last year ― which was greater than 7.5 times the number of newbies in 2019.
Earlier this week, Community Blood Center said it had a three-day supply of type O blood and hospitals across the region had a six-day supply.
Three days worth of blood is a dangerously low level, Pompilio said, and a six-day supply also is risky because hospitals often have large blood needs, especially at trauma centers.
One blood donation potentially can save three lives, says the American Red Cross, and donated blood helps replace blood lost by patients who experienced trauma or who undergo surgery.
Some patients, like those with cancer or sickle cell disease, require regular blood transfusions, including during chemotherapy treatments, the Red Cross said.
But only about 3% of the age-eligible population donate blood each year, the relief organization said, and type O negative red cells can be given to patients of all blood types.
But only 7% of the population has that blood type, which means it is in high demand but, too often, in short supply.
Premier Health said it partners with Community Blood Center for all of its blood product needs, including red cells, plasma and platelets.
In January 2021, Premier Health transfused nearly 1,600 units of red cells, 460 units of plasma and 200 units of platelets, a Premier Health spokesperson said.
Miami Valley Hospital is an adult Level I trauma center that handles many “high-acuity cases,” some of which require medical interventions that depend on significant amounts of blood products, the spokesperson said.
“Blood products are vital to a broad group of patients, among them patients undergoing surgery and oncology care, as well as neonatal patients,” the spokesperson said. “For many of these patients, blood and blood products are not only an important aspect of treatment, but a vital lifeline.”
How to donate
People who wish to donate to the Community Blood Center can make an appointment at www.DonorTime.com or by calling 937-461-3220.
The center will host a “Blood Donor Year” drive from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday at its downtown headquarters, at 349 S. Main St. in Dayton.