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Health officials: South Texas blood supply at risk of collapsing due to lack of donations

‘We anticipate a major blood shortage in San Antonio in the next few weeks and for the foreseeable future.’

SAN ANTONIOUpdate:

Although many San Antonians are taking extra precautions to protect themselves against COVID-19, Mayor Ron Nirenberg and other health officials say the need for blood donations in the city is critical.

South Texas Blood & Tissue Center CEO Elizabeth Waltman addressed the public Saturday, saying the city is seeing a ‘perfect storm’ develop, with several blood drives being canceled and blood donors refraining from coming in and donating due to fears of contracting the coronavirus. She says if this continues, it could lead to a collapse in the South Texas blood supply.

Each day, the STBTC must collect over 400 units of blood to help patients, health officials say. So far, as of around 11 a.m. Saturday, officials say no donations have been received as of yet.

The blood and tissue center has seen 1,600 units drop off over the course of the last three days, according to STBTC officials. The center’s current blood inventory is a two-and-a-half-day supply, STBTC says.

Waltman said the community needs to act now and donate blood if they’re able. Donating blood in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic is safe and in doing so, health officials say it can help prevent a secondary health crisis caused by the depleted blood supply.

“We need a community engagement and we need for it to be large,” Waltman said.

All hospital partners of the blood and tissue center have been notified of the blood donation shortage and have asked that they evaluate their current blood inventory levels in wake of the blood shortage.

Health officials say they expect the lack of blood donations to continue as COVID-19 sweeps across the nation; however, the need for blood is still critical.

"We anticipate a major blood shortage in San Antonio in the next few weeks and for the foreseeable future,” Dr. Greebon said. “The entire country is in critical need of blood supply, especially in areas already hit with coronavirus.”

The STBTC is taking additional precautions for blood donors, which includes limiting the number of non-essential visitors at the blood and tissue center, asking additional questions regarding a donor’s health and their travel history, and instituting extra cleaning measures in the facility.

When donors enter the STBTC, their temperatures will be taken and they will also undergo a mini health screening as well, health officials say.

Mayor Ron Nirenberg also spoke on the blood donation shortage and reiterated that the blood donation process is safe, despite concerns surrounding COVID-19.

“The most important thing that we’re trying to do is make sure our medical system has all the resources and capacity that it needs,” Nirenberg said.

Nirenberg announced he is designating blood donations as an essential city function, in wake of the shortage.

“Today, we are also designating blood donation as an essential city function,” said Nirenberg. “That will be to ensure that blood donations can continue here in the City of San Antonio, unabated, as we work through the rest of this public health emergency. Just like you are considering your own work schedules and making sure you’re taking care of your children during the turbulence of the next few weeks, we also need you to consider your neighbors in need. Your actions now really matter and can save lives.”

The mayor donated some of his blood after Saturday’s conference. He is also asking that blood drives reconsider their cancellations and donors make their way to the STBTC if they’re able.

According to officials, STBTC is the community blood provider for 48 counties in the South Texas region.

If you want to donate blood, you are asked to schedule an appointment at one of seven STBTC donor rooms by calling 210-731-5590 or visiting SouthTexasBlood.org.

These donor rooms at the STBTC will be open Sunday, March 15:

  • Donor Pavilion 7:30 am-4:00 pm
  • 6211 IH-10 West San Antonio, TX 78201
  • SHAVANO DONOR ROOM
  • 9 a.m. – 3 p.m.
  • 4079 N. Loop 1604 West
  • Suite 102
  • San Antonio, TX 78257
  • NEW BRAUNFELS DONOR ROOM - THE MARKETPLACE
  • 9:00 am-5:00 pm
  • 651 N. Business Interstate 35
  • Suite 830
  • New Braunfels, TX 78130

Original:

Officials will be holding a news conference Saturday morning to explain how the COVID-19 pandemic is threatening the local blood supply in the Alamo City.

The news conference will be held at 10:30 a.m. on March 14 at the South Texas Blood & Tissue Center.

San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg; pathology and hematology specialist Dr. Leslie Greebon; Director of Clinical Pathology and Medical Director of the Blood Bank for Methodist Hospital Dr. Joyce G. Schwartz; South Texas Blood & Tissue Center CEO Elizabeth Waltman; and president and CEO of the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce Richard Perez are expected to be at the news conference.

KSAT will be livestreaming event in the video player in this story during the time mentioned above.

COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new virus, stands for coronavirus disease 2019. The disease first appeared in late 2019 in Wuhan, China, but spread around the world in early 2020, causing the World Health Organization to declare a pandemic in March.

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