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Pandemic-delayed surgeries share blame for blood shortage

June 20, 2021 GMT

BOSTON (AP) — Some New England hospitals are delaying or rescheduling surgeries because of a shortage of blood donations during the pandemic.

“We haven’t seen anything like this in about 30 or 40 years at least,” Dr. Vishesh Chhibber, director of transfusion medicine at UMass Memorial Health, told the Boston Globe.

Periodic, localized blood shortages are not uncommon, but this shortage is “unprecedented in its scope,” said Dr. Claudia Cohn, chief medical officer for the American Association of Blood Banks.

Officials point toward a number of factors including the typical summer drop in blood donations at a time when surgeries are increasing because of procedures that were postponed during the pandemic.

Nationwide, the Red Cross normally has a five-day supply of all types of blood, said Kelly Isenor, spokesperson for the Red Cross of Massachusetts,

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Right now, the supply of the sorely needed type O blood would last only a half-day. “It’s going out faster than it’s coming in,” Isenor said.

In other pandemic-related news:

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MAINE

Inspired by critical shortages during the pandemic, University of Maine chemical engineers are working to make sure people never run out of sanitizer again.

William DeSisto, a professor of chemical and biomedical engineering, worked with distillers around the state to get ethanol to make the sanitizer early in the pandemic when store shelves were bare.

His work is now focusing on a different kind of disinfectant, hypochlorous acid, the Bangor Daily news reported.

Hypochlorous acid is 70 to 80 times more effective than bleach and less toxic for people, but it needs to be produced locally because it has a shorter shelf life, DeSisto said. Since it’s made with salt water and electricity, it’s possible to find a way for people to produce it at home, he said.

DeSisto, who was awarded a federal grant for about $374,750, said the goal is to avoid future breakdowns in the supply chain. “We don’t want what happened last year to happen again,” DeSisto said of sanitizer shortages.

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NEW HAMPSHIRE

New Hampshire’s four community development financial institutions will receive more than $7.3 million in federal grants from the coronavirus relief package approved in December to help small businesses and entrepreneurs.

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Each organization will receive more than $1.8 million from the funds, the state’s congressional delegation said in a statement last week. The institutions are the Rockingham Economic Development Corporation, Strafford Economic Development Corporation, the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund and Resident Ownership Capitol USA, LLC.

The institutions said the money will help them to support more growing and challenged businesses, and homeowners.

“We have been working with a large array of businesses during the pandemic and seen first-hand how not everyone fits in the perfect box for need, and there is still a lot of small business owners who are struggling,” said Laurel Adams, Rockingham Economic Development Corporation president.

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VERMONT

The Vermont National Guard will be taking down a pandemic-related surge hospital at the Champlain Valley Exposition in Essex starting on Monday.

The Guard will store the modular components at Camp Johnson, Colchester, officials said.

The state initially set up the Essex Junction field hospital and several others in March of 2020 during the first wave of COVID-19. The Essex Junction site was the only one to house patients.

The field hospitals were mostly dismantled that spring but some were reassembled during the second wave of the virus.

“Since the start of the pandemic, the Vermont National Guard has also been there for us -- for vaccinations, food distribution, building and maintaining medical surge sites or anything we have asked of them -- they have been there ready willing and able,” Vermont Gov. Phil Scott said in a statement on Friday. “On behalf of all Vermonters, I want to thank the Guard for their continued dedication to our state and communities.”