‘Critical need right now’: Blood Bank of Alaska expects demand to rise over holiday

Donated blood at the Blood Bank of Alaska waiting to be distributed.

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - With a global pandemic, the opening of elective surgeries and a holiday weekend coming up, the Blood Bank of Alaska says it’s in a perfect storm for needing new blood donations.

CEO of the Blood Bank of Alaska, Robert Scanlon, said they are in a critical spot right now as they expect the need for blood to rise even as donations have not increased to meet expected demand. While the summer is usually a difficult time to maintain blood donations, Scanlon said the pandemic is further complicating the process.

“Now that we have the pandemic, that is adding to the difficulties and the logistics we have to go through to bring in enough blood and enough donors to donate that blood,” Scanlon said.

While there was a surge in blood donations several months ago after Anchorage Police put out an advisory Nixle message saying the Blood Bank was low on donations in March, Scanlon said all those donations have been used.

Since the state has reopened, elective medical procedures have resumed, meaning there is a need for blood in those procedures.

“The elective surgeries were recently opened up, and so the hospitals are trying to catch up on those surgeries so folks can be comfortable and have their health care needs met, which means there is a lot of blood being used and right now we’re in a pretty rough spot,” Scanlon said.

The state reopening has also come with an uptick in COVID-19 cases, and the Blood Bank is asking people who have recovered from the virus to donate convalescent plasma to help other patients with severe cases.

“That plasma is recovered from those patients and it contains antibodies to the COVID-19 that may be used to treat critically ill patients currently infected with the same disease,” Scanlon said.

Donating blood during a pandemic looks a little different with increased sanitization and social distancing measures. The Blood Bank can provide masks to donors but also now requires donors to set up an appointment in advance to reduce the number of people in the facilities at any given time.

Donors, especially those who have O Negative blood, are being asked to call (907) 222-5630 to set up an appointment to donate. People who have recovered from COVID-19 can also donate convalescent plasma but they must have documentation of a laboratory test showing they had the virus and have been recovered for at least 28 days.

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