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Mendoza calls for blood donors during national crisis

Dr. Michael Mendoza is the Monroe County Health Commissioner.
Max Schulte
WXXI News file photo
Dr. Michael Mendoza is the Monroe County Health Commissioner.

Fewer people have donated blood during the pandemic, leading to a national blood crisis, according to officials from the American Red Cross and various health departments and hospitals. In Monroe County, the local chapter of the Red Cross said that it's starting to see its blood supply dwindle.

Monroe County’s health commissioner, Dr. Michael Mendoza, joined other physicians at the American Red Cross in Henrietta Tuesday to make a call for more donors.

Hanna Malak who works with donor services with the American Red Cross said that rising infection rates and the omicron variant, and other factors have made it difficult to hold blood drives traditionally held at high schools and colleges. He said they are seeing about a 10% decrease in blood donors compared to previous years.

Dr. Aram Hezel, Chief of Hematology at UR Medicine, said much of the blood at the medical center is used to treat cancer patients.

"A very important treatment that we deliver to about 175 (patients) during the year is for bone marrow transplant patients. It offers adults and children to be treated and sometimes cured of cancers," said Hezel.

Before making his own blood donation, Mendoza talked about a state judge’s ruling on Monday to throw out New York state’s mask mandate. There was later a ‘stay’ of that order by an appellate court, while the appeal proceedings continue.

But in any case, Mendoza said that the court’s decision does not change his opinion about the effectiveness of masks.

“If seatbelts were no longer mandatory, would we stop wearing seatbelts? And the answer, I think in most cases is no, but we all wear seatbelts because it's the right thing to do," said Mendoza.

He encouraged the community to continue wearing masks and get vaccinated. Mendoza said his main concern is getting children ages five through 11 vaccinated.

“The vast majority of our five-to-11-year old's have not yet had their first series or even their first shot,” said Mendoza.

Mendoza said they’re waiting to see what will happen in the state courts, but until then the county’s state of emergency allows for mandatory masking in indoor spaces to remain in place.

"It's an opportunity for all of us to pause and try to remember who the real enemy here is. It's not the courts, it's not the health department. It's not your school board. It's COVID," said Mendoza.

April Franklin is an occasional local host of WXXI's Weekend Edition.