With local leaders urging people to stay home and keep their distance from others to reduce the spread of coronavirus, hospitals in Galveston County could face challenges in supplying enough blood for normal medical operations.
Closures of typical donation sites such as schools and fears about close contact with other people are discouraging people from donating, but donation drive organizers said the need is still there.
There’s no blood shortage yet in the Houston and Galveston regions, but donations have fallen off, said Kellye Moran, media coordinator for the Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center.
The nonprofit coordinates blood drives and supplies blood to hospitals across the Gulf Coast and East Texas.
“There is a national shortage,” Moran said. “We’re trying to prevent that from happening and affecting the 170 hospitals in our 26 counties.”
The blood center also supplies blood to the University of Texas Medical Branch.
Although elective surgeries have been largely postponed, hospitals will still need blood for emergency surgeries and other necessary procedures, Moran said.
The blood center’s biggest problem is that the normal drives at high schools and businesses were canceled when schools closed and many workers moved to telecommuting, she said.
Across the 26 counties, the blood center needs 800 to 1,000 donations daily to meet demand, Moran said.
At the League City United Methodist Church, 1601 West League City Parkway, on Monday, people drove up to the mobile blood donation center to give blood by appointment, said the Rev. Joel McMahon.
The church is an emergency back-up location for the blood center and also had donation days last week, McMahon said.
The need for blood donations is nationwide.
As of Thursday, partner organizations of America’s Blood Centers had logged 12,000 blood drive cancellations from March through the end of July nationally, said Kate Fry, CEO of the centers.
The Gulf Coast blood center is a member of America’s Blood Centers.
“We’re going to be down about 355,000 blood donations from now until July,” Fry said. “We’ve really been calling on healthy individuals across the country.”
People might be nervous to give blood because of the close contact with people, but blood donation centers are extremely clean, Fry said.
“We’re doing everything we can to increase our infection control procedures,” Fry said. “Blood centers are not general public spaces. We are highly regulated environments.”
No cases of coronavirus or flu have been linked to blood exposure, according to the Gulf Coast center.
The blood center is especially in need of O Positive and O Negative blood types, Moran said.
O Positive is given to patients more than any other blood type because it’s compatible with all red blood cells that are positive, and O Negative is a universally accepted blood type, according to the American Red Cross.
The center asked people to ensure they are healthy before they donate and to make an appointment in advance to help encourage social distancing practices, Moran said.