Critical blood shortage in Rapid City

The American Red Cross is looking for blood donations after Hurricane Dorian causes the closure...
The American Red Cross is looking for blood donations after Hurricane Dorian causes the closure of many donation sites. (Photo: MGN)(KWQC)
Published: May. 21, 2020 at 1:50 PM MDT
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Vitalant, the nation’s largest nonprofit, independent blood collector, has declared a critical shortage of blood as supplies have been significantly impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

In the Colorado, Wyoming and Rapid City region that Vitalant serves, shelter-in-place orders led to 714 blood drives canceled from early March into June, resulting in a loss of 15,714 uncollected blood donations. That, coupled with a resumption of surgeries and other medical procedures as stay-at-home restrictions were lifted, has caused a 25 percent increase in the need for blood during the past several weeks.

All blood types are critically needed right now, with an especially high need for type O, A-negative and B-negative red blood cells. In addition, platelets are always needed by patients for cancer treatments, surgeries and emergencies. Because of its short shelf life—only 5 days—the supply of platelets must be continually replenished.

Donors are strongly urged to give blood as soon as possible by calling (605) 646-2625 or visiting Vitalant has donation opportunities seven days a week. At this time, all donors and staff are required to wear a face covering. Appointments are preferred, walk-ins permitted.

The Rapid City donation center, located at 2209 W. Omaha St., will be open on Memorial Day, May 25, from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

“We strive to maintain a 4-day supply of blood just to provide what patients need, and currently we’re at less than half that for certain blood types,” said Dr. Ralph Vassallo, Chief Medical Officer at Vitalant. “It’s absolutely vital—a matter of life or death for some—to have enough blood collected and readily available on hospital shelves when patients need it.”

In the Rapid City region, Vitalant must collect 450 units of blood per day to meet patients’ transfusion needs. Every two seconds, someone in the United States needs blood. Vitalant urgently needs donors to make an appointment today to ensure a stable blood supply.

The U.S. Surgeon General and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) have designated blood donation as an essential activity, encouraging healthy and eligible donors to continue to donate even amidst COVID-19 response measures.

All Vitalant centers continue to deploy strict precautionary measures to ensure the safety of donors, patients and staff, including:

• Taking donors’ temperatures upon check-in (staff self-monitor their temperatures)

• Requiring face masks or cloth-based face coverings (donors and staff)

• Disinfecting donor-touched and other high-touch areas often and after every donation

• Ensuring social distancing to keep donors and staff safe.