The American Red Cross now faces a severe blood shortage due to an unprecedented number of blood drive cancellations during this coronavirus outbreak. Healthy individuals are needed to schedule an appointment now to give in the days ahead to help patients counting on lifesaving blood throughout this pandemic.

As the coronavirus pandemic has grown here in the United States, we have seen blood drive cancellations grow at an alarming rate. Through March 21, more than 6,000 Red Cross blood drives have been canceled across the country due to coronavirus concerns, resulting in some 200,000 fewer blood donations.

Workplaces, college campuses and schools are canceling their blood drives as these locations temporarily close and more people are being told to work remotely and practice social distancing. We are expecting cancellations to continue to increase, which is causing heightened concern for blood collection organizations and hospitals across the country.

We understand why people may be hesitant to come out for a blood drive, but want to reassure the public we have implemented additional precautions to ensure the safety of our donors and staff in response to concerns, including:

• Checking the temperature of staff and donors before entering a drive to make sure they are healthy

• Providing hand sanitizer for use before the drive, as well as throughout the donation process

• Spacing beds, where possible, to follow social distancing practices between blood donors

• Increasing enhanced disinfecting of surfaces and equipment.

We also want to emphasize that at each blood drive and donation center, Red Cross employees already follow thorough safety protocols to help prevent the spread of any type of infection. These strict safety protocols include:

• Wearing gloves and changing gloves often

• Routinely wiping down donor-touched areas

• Using sterile collection sets for every donation, and

• Preparing the arm for donation with an aseptic scrub

All of these mitigation measures will help ensure the safety of all those at a blood drive or center. There is no evidence and there are no reported cases of the coronavirus – or any respiratory virus – being transmitted by a blood transfusion.

This blood shortage could impact patients who need surgery, victims of car accidents and other emergencies, or patients suffering from cancer. One of the most important things you can do to ensure we don’t have another health care crisis on top of the coronavirus is to give blood. Each donation can help up to three people.

The need for blood is constant and will continue even as the outbreak grows. Volunteer donors are the only source of blood for those in need. Blood cannot be manufactured. Blood donors and blood drive hosts play a critical role in maintaining a sufficient blood supply. They are asked to keep hosting blood drives for patients who rely on lifesaving blood.

The Red Cross only collects blood from individuals who are healthy and feeling well at the time of donation. Donating blood does not impact or weaken the immune system.

As a nation, this is a time where we must take care of one another, including those most vulnerable among us.

If you are healthy and feeling well, please make an appointment to donate as soon as possible by using the Red Cross blood donor app, visiting RedCrossBlood.org or calling 800-733-2767.


Michael N. Parks is regional executive of the American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio in Cleveland.

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