Nearly 2,700 Red Cross blood drives have been canceled across the country due to coronavirus concerns, resulting in approximately 86,000 fewer blood donations, according to the American Red Cross. This has resulted in a severe blood shortage. The Red Cross says that healthy individuals are needed now to donate to help patients counting on blood.
NPR reports that the Red Cross currently is shipping out more blood than it’s bringing in, meaning that now, they have been shipping less than the amount that hospitals order. “As of this week we’ve started shorting all our hospital customers to 75% of what they’ve requested and we’ll evaluate pretty quickly if we need to take that down to 50%,” said Chris Hrouda, president of Biomedical Services for the Red Cross. They quote Dr. Peter Marks, director of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research as saying, “Blood donation centers are a very safe place to be. People take precautions to make sure those centers are spotless clean and that people who are sick don’t enter them.” (The FDA regulates blood centers.)
Gail McGovern, the Red Cross’s president and chief executive officer says, “One of the most important things people can do right now during this public health emergency is to give blood. If you are healthy and feeling well, please make an appointment to donate as soon as possible.”
In a statement from the American Red Cross, Dr. Robertson Davenport, director of Transfusion Medicine at Michigan Medicine in Ann Arbor, said, “I am looking at the refrigerator that contains only one day’s supply of blood for the hospital. The hospital is full. There are patients who need blood and cannot wait.”
“As a nation, this is a time where we must take care of one another including those most vulnerable among us in hospitals,” said McGovern. “We understand why people may be hesitant to come out for a blood drive but want to reassure the public that blood donation is a safe process, and that we have put additional precautions in place at our blood drives to protect the health of safety of our donors and staff,” said McGovern.
Some of the measures that the Red Cross is taking to ensure the safety of donors include having their staff wear gloves and change gloves with each donor. routinely wiping down donor-touched areas, using sterile collection sets for every donation, and preparing the arm for donation with an aseptic scrub. They also note that there is no data or evidence that this coronavirus can be transmitted by blood transfusion, and there have been no reported cases of transfusion transmission for any respiratory virus including this coronavirus worldwide.
You can schedule an appointment to give blood with the American Red Cross by visiting their website and entering your zip code to find the closest donation location, or by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, calling 1-800-RED-CROSS or activating the Blood Scheduling Skill for Amazon Alexa.