ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WDVM) — When the country dealt with the most recent wave of COVID-19 cases, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan declared a 30-day state of emergency. That order comes to an end on Wednesday. And while there are half as many COVID patients being treated as there were a few weeks ago (with the number dropping from nearly 3,500 to about 1,500), hospitals are still feeling the pressure.
In the weeks since the American Red Cross declared a national blood crisis, hospitals still don’t have enough blood to operate correctly.
During the recent Omicron surge, “non-urgent” medical procedures — especially those that would require an overnight stay in the hospital — were put on the back burner. But despite the increase in available bed space, health care workers don’t have the resources to utilize it.
“I’ve heard from a number of hospitals that they’ve had to delay surgeries because they didn’t have enough blood on hand to make sure that they had enough for any of those incoming emergencies and to do all of the surgeries they had scheduled for that day,” said Nancy Foster, vice president of American Hospital Association.
This is partially due to the lack of blood drives conducted throughout the pandemic. In addition, traditional facilities that hosted the events — such as schools and community centers — were closed to the public up until recently. But even as the opportunities to give blood start to return, many people have just fallen out of the habit.
“I haven’t really donated blood since the pandemic started,” said Dan Ngo, a blood and platelet donor. “I used to be on a schedule where I would donate every eight to six weeks. But ever since the pandemic happened, that just didn’t happen.”
So even as the Omicron surge winds down, hospitals will continue to be stretched thin as they try to play catch-up and replenish their blood supplies.
“This is a long-term problem that we will need help with over many, many months, in part because the demand for surgery continues to be high right now,” said Foster.
According to the American Red Cross, which typically provides around 40% of the nation’s blood supply, they often work with less than a day’s supply of blood during the current crisis.