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BLOOD SHORTAGE: Life-saving mission continues amid COVID-19 precautions

Blood drive in Owatonna

OWATONNA, Minn. (KTTC) - With a stay at home order now extended and gatherings of more than 10 people prohibited, it is making it hard to really do anything, including blood drives.

However, there is still a need for blood donations. Hospital patients continue to require blood transfusions for a variety of treatments.

"Right now, here in Rochester at least, our blood inventory is looking fantastic," said Dr. Justin Kreuter, Mayo Clinic transfusion medicine specialist.

Blood cannot stay on the shelf forever, meaning donors are going to be needed now and during the worst of the virus' spread.

"Each component of the blood only lasts so long," said Laura Radloff, American Red Cross blood drive team lead.

Radloff and staff held a blood drive Wednesday at Owatonna's Trinity Lutheran Chruch to replenish supply. However, some components of blood have very short shelf lives.

"Platelet donors our there or people who might be donating platelets. That product has a five-day shelf life," said Kreuter. "That's the one that's the most sensitive to when our donors won't be able to come in."

While coronavirus cannot be passed on via blood transfusion, precautions are still being taken at blood drives. Before a person goes in, they have their temperature taken and must put on hand sanitzer. Many are wearing personal protective masks, including all of the blood drive staff.

"Gloves at all times. We're constantly sanitizing everything," Radloff said. "If they have been exposed to anybody in the last 28 days, they're not eligible."

Blood could be at the center of coronavirus treatment as we wait on a vaccine.

"Short term, we're trying to harness Mother Nature," said Kreuter.

It involves using the antibodies in blood from patients that have recovered from COVID-19.

"It [involves] bringing them in as donors so that we can collect these antibodies and be the first actually targeted therapeutic for these patients," said Kreuter.

So who can donate?

"Anybody who's healthy," said phlebotomist Ashley Page. "If you're 16, you need parent permission. If you're 17 and above, you're able to donate."

As for what type of blood and amount needed?

"Everything right now," said Radloff.

Dr. Kreuter recommends that donors keep up on social media with their local blood centers to see when they get low. For more information about donating blood and upcoming drives, find out more here.

Alex Tejada

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