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American Red Cross urges people to donate blood amid shortage fears this summer

blood donations
blood donations(UW Health)
Updated: May. 10, 2021 at 5:16 PM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - There is always a need for blood donations, but the American Red Cross hopes the pandemic helps people realize just how life-saving this simple act can be, especially for those fighting COVID-19.

Over the past several months, state health officials have repeatedly said getting the COVID-19 vaccine saves lives.

“We just need people to keep saying yes,” said Julie Willems Van Dijk, deputy secretary with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

‘Yes’ is also the answer the American Red Cross would like to get when it comes to people donating blood. The organization supplies 40 percent of the nation’s blood.

“Obviously, we have a need for blood every single day and the coronavirus did not stop us. We needed to fulfill requests for hospital patients and that need will go on into the future,” said Laura McGuire, the regional communications manager for American Red Cross, Wisconsin region.

McGuire says they are worried about a summer slump as donations usually slow down during the warmer months. Plus, as more people get outdoors, more accidents are likely to happen as well.

“May is also trauma awareness month and we’re really getting the message out there that it’s the blood on the shelves that helps save lives during emergencies and we never know when and where someone is going to need blood,” said McGuire. “People get busy and they’re on vacations or they’re visiting family. There’s a lot of things that, you know, it’s not top of the mind, where I should go in and give blood.”

What continues to remain top of mind is the pandemic and McGuire is hoping people remember the role the Red Cross donors played in helping COVID-19 patients fight the virus with donated convalescent plasma.

“We as the Red Cross have excellent staff volunteers that really put that process into place in making that happen for the local hospitals. So yes, I think it really did raise the awareness, not only for blood but for convalescent plasma as well,” said McGuire.

Although the need for convalescent plasma has decreased a bit, McGuire said the need for blood is constant and they are still checking it for antibodies.

“Keep in mind that the coronavirus is not transmitted via blood transfusions, so there is no concern about getting infected with blood, that is not the case,” said McGuire. “We still test the blood so what we do is test them, if your levels are high enough, we do kind of separate that and that blood product can be used for patients in the hospital with COVID-19.”

McGuire said anyone who meets all the donor requirements, including those who have been vaccinated with any of the vaccines available in the U.S., is welcome to donate.

“We do encourage people to come in as long as you are feeling well and you know the manufacturer of your vaccine, you are able to donate.”

COVID-19 safety protocols are still in place and you are encouraged to set up an appointment to donate blood. You can do that by visiting redcrossblood.org or calling 1-800-733-2767.

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