Blood drives around the country have been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which the American Red Cross said will cause a severe blood shortage.

The independently-ran Baptist Health Blood bank sees the effects coming too, though they are not pleading for donors, yet. Blood donor recruiter Karen Beadnell said the growing shutdowns are affecting everyone.

“Because the sites are closed and a lot of people are out of work, you know, but people still use blood,” she said. “As far as it being major, it’s not there yet.”

Both the American Red Cross and Baptist Health have moved their donations to appointments only. Beadnell said because of social distancing guidelines, they are limited to the number of donors they can have at one time.

“One, we don’t want people coming in all at once, because of the crowds. And two, we don’t have the manpower because we’re not having our usual full staff,” she said.

The blood bank has been temporarily relocated to the Lions Club in Madisonville. This move is to accommodate the hospital’s updated visitation guidelines during the COVID-19 period. At the Lions Club, they have between two to three phlebotomists along with four stations for donors.

“We’re going to stagger appointments,” said Beadnell. “This keeps people from having to go all the way through the hospital; that way, we know what’s going on.”

Donor recruiter Cheryl Orten said though they know people like to walk-in and donate, right now is not that time.

“We really can’t handle walk-ins,” she said. “I reckon we’re going to try to schedule appointments in 30-minute increments.”

During this time of uncertainty, donors need to call to make their appointments. Thursday, James Powell, who works at the Mine Safety and Health Administration, donated during his appointment. He said it was important for him to give blood now because of closures.

“I know there’s kind of a shortage with everything being closed,” he said. “I have a lot of family that have had cancer and different surgeries. I do this to help with those ailments, and everyone needs blood.”

U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams said on the American Red Cross’ website, “You can still go out and give blood. We’re worried about potential blood shortages in the future. Social distancing does not have to mean social disengagement.”

To schedule an appointment to donate with Baptist Health, call the blood bank at 270-285-5150.

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