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Donating blood is safe, and essential, during pandemic

"Our hospitals need it. Their demand has gone up."

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — During the early days of the pandemic, people were staying home, getting into less car accidents, and there were less trauma patients. Plus, elective surgeries were put on hold. 

But now, demand for blood has returned to Michigan hospitals.

"It really is a day-by-day situation," said Dawn Kaiser, area vice president for Versiti in Grand Rapids. "So, we're kind of walking that line of, Okay, are we going to have enough today?"

Kaiser said in March, Michigan hospitals were using about 60 to 70 percent of their normal blood demand. Now, they are back up to 90 to 100 percent of their demand, creating the need for more donors.

RELATED: GVSU health care student recovers from COVID-19, donating plasma

"We have no substitute for blood," said Kaiser, "We can't manufacture it in a lab. We need human blood, and it's used every day. In Michigan, we need to collect over 500 units of blood a day just to supply our hospitals. And we supply over 50 percent of the hospitals in in the state of Michigan."

However, the experience at a donation center or blood drive will be a different than before the COVID-19 pandemic. For one, everyone must wear a mask and distance themselves from other patients. 

Other event in Grand Rapids, MI by Versiti Blood Center of Michigan and 2 others on Tuesday, July 28 2020

Every donor is given a symptom check and will have their temperature taken. When he or she is done, their station is thoroughly cleaned in between each visit. 

The common area where people typically gather after giving blood for snacks and refreshments is spaced out, and people are encouraged not to mingle. 

"We all want to do something to help during this COVID crisis," said Kaiser, "And by donating blood, you are helping you're saving lives."

Due to additional health and safety measures, patients are encouraged to make an appointment online prior to arriving to donate at a center. However, it is not required, there may be a short wait time. 

RELATED: VERIFY: You will not get tested for the coronavirus when donating blood

"You'll see all of our staff in masks, but we smile through our masks," Kaiser said.

So even in the middle of a global pandemic, hospitals need blood. Kaiser said someone needs blood every one to three seconds. 

"That could be your family member, your community member, your friend," Kaiser said. "It's very likely that you will receive blood or blood products within your lifetime."

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