With blood donations dwindling, authorities call for more donors

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At Abbott Northwestern blood bank, the work never stops, especially during a public health emergency.

"Every day I come in and I inventory all of our facilities and if somebody doesn't need something at their facility or they are over their level, we move it up to hospitals that can use it," explained Alana Sutherland, a technical consultant with Allina Health's central lab.

"Next week, we will be very critically short on red cells," she added.

Red blood cells donated a couple of weeks ago are still being used. Typically, red blood cells last three to six weeks in storage. But platelets only last a few days.

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"They are necessary to sustain cancer patients who can't make their own platelets, also necessary for mothers who bleed after delivery or during, and also necessary for trauma patients," said Dr. Lauren Anthony, System Lab Medical Director for Allina Health.

In the last two weeks, Sutherland and Anthony said 4,000 blood drives have been canceled around the country, which is why there is such a critical need for donations now.

Dr. Anthony said with many companies shut down or employees working from home, blood drives aren't happening.

"Our patients are completely dependent on community donors who volunteer their time and their healthy blood cells to support these patients during this time," said Anthony.

She said precautions have been taken due to social distancing and says donating is safe.

"[Blood drives] are maintaining the distance between donors, they've reorganized the way they lay out their blood drives, they take the temperature of not only everyone who comes in wanting to donate, but also the employees before they actually walk in the donor center," she said.

Doctors said next week there will be a shortage, which is why they are pleading with healthy people to give now.

"When the blood bank community as a whole stands up and says we are now at a breaking point, we are critical, we need to start supporting people that can't live without this transfusion," added Sutherland.