What the national blood shortage means for Minnesota

A man offers a thumbs up after giving blood.
Times have changed and so have the FDA guidelines for blood donation. Take the example of the new regional CEO, Brice Johnson, who was deferred because of an extended period living in Europe. FDA guidelines meant he couldn't donate due to the risk posed by vCJD, the virus associated with “mad cow” disease. Monday, Brice celebrated being able to donate with help from phlebotomist Sam Burckhard.
Courtesy of American Red Cross

The American Red Cross declared a national blood shortage this week.

The summer saw low donor turnout and natural disasters like Hurricane Idalia are leading to canceled blood drives, making the situation more dire.

The Minnesota and Dakotas Region is “particularly generous” and contributes 40 percent of the nation’s blood supply, according to Carrie Carlson-Guest, a spokesperson from the Red Cross Twin Cities.

“Because we don't face as many disasters and factors that would cancel blood drives as many other places, we really have the opportunity to help provide a good portion of the nation's blood supply,” Brice Johnson, new regional chief executive officer, said on Morning Edition with Cathy Wurzer.

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While not happening right now, a decrease in supply means Minneapolis hospitals may delay elective surgeries, Johnson said.

While supply is low, the pool of people who can donate has grown due to recent changes in FDA guidelines which the Red Cross helped shape. Instead of relying on an almost complete ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood, screening has shifted to an individual donor assessment.

“We see a lot of folks in the [gay and bisexual] community now able to donate,” Johnson said. “I was able to donate just on Monday, after decades of not being able to do so because I had lived and spent some time in Europe during the Mad Cow Disease period… When those regulations changed, it allowed me to donate and that was a big joy for me.”

To find a donation center or blood drive near you, visit redcrossblood.org.

The Red Cross is offering a free t-shirt as an incentive to donate this September. Donors may also get a free SportClips haircut and all will be entered for a chance to win a VIP NASCAR racing experience.