The Texoma Regional Blood Center saw a marked decrease in blood donations last month through its annual Battle of the Badges contest, amid similar shortages and demand across the country.


Representatives for the blood center said this year’s event only saw a total of 345 donations despite the organization tripling the number of cities participating.


"Most of the time, our blood needs to come from our community, especially during times like now when the shortage we are experiencing are being experienced across the community," TRBC Donor Recruiter Melanie Robertson said Wednesday.


The annual event, which often helps the organization meet blood needs across the summer months, pits local fire departments against police departments to see which can raise more blood donations. Traditionally, the event is held in the cities of Sherman, Denison and Bonham.


Robertson largely attributed the slump in donations to the current health crisis and worries related to the COVID-19 pandemic.


"It is just the current climate of today with the pandemic and people being concerned with sanitary practices," she said. "Sometimes it is in general just a lack of knowledge on blood donation."


For this year’s event, organizers decided to expand this to nine communities across Texoma in an effort to increase donations a national shortage. In addition to the normal three, the cities of Whitesboro, Howe, Van Alstyne, Gunter, Muenster and Honey Grove also participated this year.


Prior to the event, Robertson said she hoped the addition of new cities would generate interest and replace workplace-focused blood drives that were canceled as many workers started working remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic.


However, despite the addition of the new cities, numbers still remained lower than usual, Robertson said.


Robertson said that demand for blood locally, as well as nationally, has remained high despite the low donations. From Friday through Tuesday, two local hospitals used a total of 100 units of blood. However, the blood center only took in 35 units during the same time frame. On Friday, the center did not see a single donor before noon.


"The blood supply now is the worst that I’ve seen it," she said. "We need all blood types and the drives we’ve had in recent weeks have not been as productive as normal."


Roberson said the center did see a surge of donations earlier in the year during a national campaign encouraging donation. However, that came right as the state put a hold on elective surgeries. As a result much of the blood went unused and was ultimately transferred to another blood center before it would go to waste.


"We did maintain a fairly good stock until a few weeks ago," she said.


The center is currently exploring ways to increase its normal day-to-day donations, which have also seen a decrease of nearly 40 percent. Robertson said she is putting together raffles and drawings as a way to entice people back into donating.


For this year’s battle of the badges, the two departments each saw four victories and and a tie in the case of Howe. The cities of Sherman, Denison, Honey Grove and Van Alstyne all saw the police departments win, while the fire departments won in Bonham, Whitesboro, Muenster and Gunter.


Michael Hutchins is the local government reporter for the Herald Democrat. He can be reached at mhutchins@heralddemocrat.com.