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Versiti Blood Center of Michigan 'open for business' amid outbreak, seeking donors

Posted at 10:29 PM, Mar 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-17 06:33:15-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — At a time when schools, restaurants and businesses are shuttering to stop the spread of coronavirus, local blood centers are doing the opposite.

The slowdown in life has created a shortage in supply that Versiti Blood Center of Michigan is desperately worried about. As the outbreak has grown, they've had 88 blood drives cancel on them in the last few weeks.

This, even as blood drives remain exempt from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's ban on events of 50 or more people.

“Blood is a valuable resource which there is no substitute for ... hospitals need blood daily,” said Dawn Kaiser with Versiti. “Blood drives are being canceled because school's closed -- high schools, colleges, elementary schools, businesses, corporations.”

The cancellations in the last few weeks alone has set Versiti back an estimated 2,500 units -- a massive loss during a time when supplies were already running short. They need to collect about 560 units daily to meet the needs of their hospital partners.

“We are not shutting down; we are open for business,” Kaiser said. “We have to be open because it is a ... need. This is a community resource that we cannot live without.”

And for patients in need, the shortage reaches far beyond coronavirus.

“The need for blood is there, and we need to make sure that our hospitals, our patients, our cancer patients, hemophilia, sickle cell -- anybody in crisis and accident -- has the blood that they need.”

In the midst of concern over the virus, Versiti is taking extreme precautions to protect their donors.

“We're taking even extra steps with changing gloves, and also sanitizing our equipment after every single use," Kaiser said. "We even have an area where if a donor touches a pen, we put it in a used bin, and then we'll clean that. So we're cleaning all surfaces, we're ensuring the social distancing.”

Versiti is considering expanding their hours. To find their donation centers and set up a time to donate, click here.