By Shianna Gibbons
COVID-19 has created the worst national blood shortage the American Red Cross has seen in over a decade. According to the American Red Cross website, there’s been a 10% decline in donations since March 2020.
Youngstown State University and the American Red Cross have partnered to host blood drives on campus every few weeks, but COVID-19 has created unique challenges for the American Red Cross.
Christinia Gargas, account manager for the American Red Cross northern Ohio biomedical region, said the pandemic caused multiple problems for blood drives.
“The pandemic has posed a lot of challenges to our blood supply,” Gargas said. “There has been a lot of cancellations with businesses and schools due to the pandemic, which we have relied on to help collect blood for local hospitals.”
The American Red Cross website reports a 62% drop in blood drives at schools due to the pandemic. In 2019, 25% of donations were from student donors but that number dropped to 10% in 2020.
“Unfortunately, doctors have been forced to make those difficult decisions on who receives blood transfusions and who will need to wait for more products to be available,” Gargas said.
While the rest of the world was isolated during the pandemic, the need for blood never stopped.
“Blood is something that is not manufactured, and it is not stockpiled,” Gargas said. “It is only possible through the kindness and generosity of the donors.”
However, the pandemic inspired some people, like junior nursing major Nathaniel Hunter, to donate more.
“[The pandemic] made me donate more because the Red Cross started offering COVID tests or testing your blood for antibodies,” Hunter said. “[The donation process] was pretty much the same, just with a mask.”
Gargas said safety is a top priority for the American Red Cross, but the organization made additional changes to accommodate the pandemic.
“The mask mandates, the social distancing, the additional sanitization and thermometers — we take safety very important,” Gargas said. “And we wanted to make sure everyone feels comfortable donating blood during the pandemic.”
Alisha Whelan, a junior medical laboratory science major, regularly donates blood through YSU and said she’s had good experiences donating.
“They are all very happy, calm and proficient. I have never had a painful experience,” Whelan said. “They are all very nice, and if something does happen, then they are right there to help you.”
Gargas said donating blood is vital to community health and directly helps people in need.
“We always tell everyone every two seconds, blood is a constant need,” Gargas said. “Someone in the United States needs blood products.”
March is American Red Cross Month, and the organization celebrates by rewarding its donors with small incentives such as drinks, snacks and gift cards.
Gargas said the organization is excited to celebrate this month with YSU.
“We are so excited to be partnering with YSU because it gives a convenience factor to students and faculty to come over and donate blood,” Gargas said.
There are three more blood drives scheduled on campus for this spring from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on March 22 and 23 as well as April 19 in Kilcawley Center.