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Latest COVID-19 surge leads to multiple blood drive cancellations, potential loss of donations

South Texas Blood & Tissue working with medical community to manage critically low supply

The current surge in COVID-19 cases because of the Omicron variant in South Texas has led to the cancellation of at least eight blood drives with South Texas Blood & Tissue, with the potential loss of more than 400 donations.

Blood supplies already were tight coming out of the holiday season, and the cancellations have led South Texas Blood & Tissue to contact local medical leadership about conserving the available blood supply. South Texas Blood & Tissue, a subsidiary of San Antonio nonprofit BioBridge Global, currently has less than one day’s supply of type O blood.

“COVID has disrupted donations in ways we never knew possible,” said Adrienne Mendoza, Vice President of Operations, South Texas Blood & Tissue.

Unlike some previous shortages, there is nowhere to turn for additional blood as the entire nation is experiencing a shortage.

One of the biggest emergency needs is for hospital patients with advanced cases of COVID-19. A device called ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) is used to remove carbon dioxide from the blood and add oxygen when the patient’s lungs are unable to do so. Patients connected to the ECMO machine often experience blood volume loss and need transfusions.

Accident and burn victims, heart surgery and organ transplant patients, and those undergoing treatment for leukemia, cancer or sickle cell disease need transfusions on a regular basis as well.

In addition, some blood centers in Texas have had to postpone blood drives because of staffing shortages. At this time, cancellations in our area are mostly attributed to host groups concerns over the high incidence of Omicron COVID-19 cases in their group/organization.

South Texas Blood & Tissue is able to accommodate the blood drives already scheduled but needs the community’s help to fill available vacancies for donor appointments and to host blood drives to meet the local needs.

Blood donations at South Texas Blood & Tissue’s seven donor rooms and mobile drives need to reach 600 a day to meet patient needs and rebuild the depleted supply.

Those who have received a flu or COVID-19 vaccine or booster are eligible to donate immediately, and those who have recovered are eligible to give as well, as long as they are feeling well and not displaying any symptoms. South Texas Blood & Tissue is also taking precautions with masks for employees, sanitation and social distancing.

“For people looking for a way to give back and start the new year off on the right foot, come out and donate,” Mendoza said. “Donating blood is an easy way to give back in a really meaningful way.”

Donors can make an appointment with South Texas Blood & Tissue by calling 210-731-5590 or visiting SouthTexasBlood.org. Same-day appointments and walk-ins are available at the center’s seven donor rooms, as well as at community blood drives. Donors at least 17 years old (16 with parental consent) and in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood.