With empty shelves and decrease in donors, area blood center reaches 'critical need'

Sara Karnes
Springfield News-Leader
A mostly empty blood draw area at the Community Blood Center of the Ozarks on Monday, July 27, 2020. The blood center is reaching a 'critical need' of donors due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.

The pandemic continues to affect the way of life for nearly every person, business and organization. This is the case for Community Blood Center of the Ozarks.

The blood center has been operating on a "hand-to-mouth basis" for donations since the country began taking measures to slow the spread of COVID-19 in March, said Chris Pilgrim, media representative for CBCO.

"You never want to put off something, in terms of healthcare, that needs to happen because of a lack of supplies," Pilgrim said in a phone interview Monday. "We get just enough blood to meet area needs, but we're not able to build any reserves up."

CBCO is the sole supplier of blood and plasma to patients for more than 40 area healthcare facilities. Since the COVID-19 shutdown in March, more than 280 blood drives were canceled in the region, which led to about 9,000 potential blood donations being lost. As a result, CBCO is in a critical appeal for all blood types, Pilgrim said.

Nearly empty shelves at the Community Blood Center of the Ozarks on Monday, July 27, 2020 as the blood center reaches 'critical need' due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.

When the pandemic first began, donors were able to keep up because hospital demand was reduced. 

"With hospital usage ramping back up, we're still facing the same challenges we had in terms of blood drives being canceled and not enough donors to draw enough blood for area patients," Pilgrim said. "If you are eligible to give, we need you to give and give now."

SCHOOL PLANS:SPS students in magnet programs must attend in-person or exit program

In 2019, CBCO saw about 45,000 total donations and needs an average of 200 donors a day to keep up with demand. Those numbers will be seriously down this year, Pilgrim said.

"I've been with the blood center for almost 17 years, and these are the most challenges we've ever faced," Pilgrim said.

About a dozen mobile blood drives are planned as of this week, but CBCO is still trying to navigate what this coming year will look like as school districts and colleges release back-to-school plans.

An overflow area for a blood drive at the Community Blood Center of the Ozarks on Monday, July 27, 2020. The blood center is reaching 'critical need' of donors due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.

"In fact, during the fall and the spring, they provide almost 50% of the total blood that's collected," he said. "Schools are going to look a lot different this year. They are virtual learning. They're going on a staggered school schedule. Quite frankly, some of the schools have denied outside organizations from doing anything at their schools and concentrating on keeping people safe."

Coronavirus coverage:MSU AD says MVFC won't postpone unless bigger conferences do, reports 31 COVID-19 cases

To donate blood, individuals must be feeling healthy and well, Pilgrim said. Before going under the needle, they will complete a health screening and need wear a mask. The blood center does take walk-ins; however, appointments are highly encouraged. Visit www.cbco.org/donate-blood to schedule a time.

Donors who give at a CBCO donor center or mobile blood drive will receive a $5 gift card redeemable through CBCO’s LifePoints Local online store. They will also receive a t-shirt.