COVID-19 Q&A: Can you help? Idaho’s blood shortage is critical

February 1, 2022
Elke Shaw-Tulloch, Division of Public Health administrator

Idaho is feeling the effects of a nationwide shortage of blood, driven by a variety of factors. It’s the worst shortage in more than a decade, according to the American Red Cross. The shortage is helping fuel the need for part of the state to be in crisis standards of care.

Why is there a shortage of blood?

There are several reasons, but the main ones are:

  • Blood drives have been cancelled because of weather, because of appointment cancellations, and because of staffing challenges.
  • People are not giving blood the way they did before the pandemic, presumably because they have concerns about COVID-19.
  • Significant staffing shortages are being caused by COVID-19. The volunteers and workers needed to staff a donation drive are facing the same challenges with COVID-19 illnesses themselves and with their families and friends that hospitals’ staff are facing. If someone is exposed or sick with COVID-19, they can’t work at a blood donation clinic. They also can’t work a clinic if they need to stay home with their children because they were exposed, or their schools are closed.
  • The staffing shortages affect not only blood collection, but also blood processing, transportation, and the rest of the supply chain needed to process the blood and get it to the hospitals that need it.

What are hospitals doing to conserve blood?

Hospitals are managing with a limited supply of blood and blood products and are implementing blood conservation protocols. They are reporting daily on their blood product inventory and are supporting the sharing of their limited resources as much as possible.

Who can give blood?

There are some requirements blood donors must meet to ensure the health and safety of patients and donors, including feeling well and being in good health, being at least 16 years old, and weighing at least 110 pounds. See a more detailed list of requirements at: https://www.redcrossblood.org/donate-blood/how-to-donate/eligibility-requirements.html

Where can I go to give blood?

You can:

If you schedule an appointment, be sure to keep that appointment as every opening is important.

Elke Shaw-Tulloch is the administrator of the Division of Public Health, and the state’s Public Health Officer. She has worked for the department since 1996 and was promoted to division administrator in 2012.  Since February 2020, she has focused a majority of her time on responding to the coronavirus pandemic. 

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The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare is dedicated to strengthening the health, safety, and independence of Idahoans. Learn more at healthandwelfare.idaho.gov.