US runs short on blood due to pandemic — Analysis
America’s blood banks are reportedly running short of supplies as the Covid-19 pandemic reduces donations and disrupts their staffing.
“This is the biggest challenge that I’ve seen in my 30 years in the business,”Chris Hrouda of the American Red Cross spoke out to The New York Times. He added that the Red Cross, which accounts for about 40% of US blood supplies, is struggling to keep even one day’s worth of demand in inventory – a far cry from the three-day cushion that’s normally maintained.
One reason is the fact that many colleges and businesses have stopped hosting blood drives because of remote working and social-distancing regulations. Red Cross has difficulty keeping adequate staffing, just like so many other employers. Additionally, the Red Cross’s already limited stock was further stretched after a tornado on December 10, which left many people in Kentucky and other parts of central America with severe injuries.
According to some reports, hospitals were forced to have blood drives and tighten their supply chains. According to Dr. Jennifer Andrews of Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, her hospital has calibrated transfusions so that there are fewer red blood cell counts in order preserve stock.
Because blood supplies are limited in shelf life, it is important to keep them fresh. Also, it takes several days for new donors to be tested and processed. If supplies fall short of demand – blood is needed for surgeries and various medical procedures, including some cancer treatments – patients must be prioritized according to the most critical needs.
Red Banner at the top of Red Cross’ website warns that it is experiencing its worst blood supply in more than 10 years. “The dangerously low blood-supply levels have forced some hospitals to defer patients from major surgery, including organ transplants,” the Red Cross said.
Surging gun violence in America’s big cities is exacerbating the blood shortage. PhillyVoice reported that shooting victims require blood to survive. In November, Philadelphia broke its all-year record for homicides. To meet local demand, a local church is holding a blood drive on January 8. However, PhillyVoice reported that only six people registered as of Friday. They needed 30 more commitments to prevent the event being cancelled.
Joelle Zarcone is a Southern California journalist who suffers from a rare blood condition that means she must receive dozens of transfusions every year. She wrote last week that it was the first time that she had to worry about whether there would be enough supplies when she next visits. “Having those units of blood waiting for me is no longer a guarantee.”