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Donors needed: Erie County facing blood shortage

Erie County official: "We're currently at less than a 5-day supply of blood."
First responders compete to recruit blood donors
Posted at 11:57 PM, Mar 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-17 23:57:51-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Across the nation, including right here in Western New York, shelves of blood are starting to empty. On Monday, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said the county is "currently at less than a five day supply of blood."

"With a lot of these blood types, there's very, very little on the shelves," Noel Dill, a WNY blood drive sponsor, said. If you take a current look at the ConnectLife headquarters in Williamsville, you would see empty rows in the storage freezer. Blood only has a shelf life of 42 days, so continual need for donation is imperative. But coronavirus concerns are driving increased cancellations of donation drives.

"We need folks to know it is safe to donate blood. We need healthy people to donate blood and having a stable blood supply is essential to any disaster preparedness," Amanda Farrell, Director of Donor Recruitment for ConnectLife, said. Between this week and next, Farrell said more than 30 drives are canceled meaning there's a potential loss of 600 plus units of blood.

"We don't want to have healthy people who otherwise would have been saved with a transfusion because that blood product simply wasn't on the shelf when they needed it," Dill said. But this weekend, the annual "Rock Oak Blood Drive" is going on as planned. It has moved to the community blood bank's headquarters where it has assured cleaning and sterilization is ongoing. Anyone healthy is asked to make an appointment and come donate to save lives.

"When it comes to a time like this. This is what we have. We have each other's backs," Farrell said.

"There's no evidence of really coronavirus or any virus being spread through a blood transfusion," Jay Bonafede, the Regional Communications Officer with the Western and Central New York Red Cross, said. The Red Cross is feeling the severe shortage. Across the country, donations are down by 86,000 after some 2,700 drives across the U.S. were canceled as of Monday.

"We're encouraging anyone who is healthy and eligible to come and donate. I just did mine," Bonafede said. Before heading into a Red Cross donation center, both donor and employee temperatures are taken. Once inside, beds are at least six feet apart and deep cleaning is regularly done on top of normal precautions.

"Every two seconds, someone in the country needs blood and it works out for us as the Red Cross needing about 13,000 blood donations a day," Bonafede said.
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The donation drive sponsored by Rock Oak alongside ConnectLife takes place on March 21st from 7a.m. to 2p.m. at ConnectLife headquarters at 4444 Bryant and Stratton Way, Williamsville, NY 14221.

To make an appointment to donate blood through ConnectLife, click here. If you'd like to donate through Western and Central Red Cross, click here.