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OTTUMWA — Many blood drives at schools and businesses have been canceled in recent days. Schools are closed and businesses are altering their approaches to limit the number of people employees come in contact with.

While those important measures are designed to help slow the spread of the COVID-19 outbreak, they are also having a serious effect on blood donations. The Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center is asking people to help make up the difference.

Amanda Hess, the center’s director of donor and public relations, said the situation has not gotten to the point that there is an acute shortage, but centers need donors to step forward.

“Patients who require a blood transfusion cannot wait,” said Hess. “We are working to prevent a blood shortage over the course of the pandemic by asking donors to schedule now or sometime in the next eight weeks. Blood collection events should not be considered social gatherings,” added Hess. “We are providing support for acute patient care.”

Blood has a short shelf life. Red blood cells must be used within 42 days. Platelets and thawed plasma must be transfused within five days. The MVRBC has activated its disaster plan to help cope with the situation.

Hours at donor centers have expanded to make it easier for people to donate and to reduce the potential numbers at any given time. Donations need to be done by appointment. Donors are being asked to call the center at 800-747-5401 or schedule using the center’s website ( or the mobile app (

Appointments are being managed to limit the number of people at a center at any one time. Donors are also screened for symptoms of illness and the staff wipes down chairs and surfaces between donations.

Under normal circumstances, 60 percent of the blood supply comes from mobile blood drive events. With those not possible in many cases, blood centers need donors to make appointments and donate.

— Matt Milner can be reached at and followed on Twitter @mwmilner


Managing Editor

Matt Milner currently serves as the Courier's Managing Editor. Milner is a trained weather spotter and is usually outside if there are storms. He joined the Courier in 2002.

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