By Lillian Boyd
The American Red Cross has a severe blood shortage due to an unprecedented number of blood drive cancellations during the coronavirus outbreak.
As workplaces, college campuses and schools temporarily close or urge remote work in response to the coronavirus pandemic, the impacts are being felt throughout the community and the blood supply.
“Healthy individuals are needed to donate now to help patients counting on lifesaving blood,” an American Red Cross press release states. “Volunteer donors are in a unique position to ensure essential medical care continues for those who depend on lifesaving transfusions, such as surgical patients, accident victims, new moms with complicated childbirths, patients going through cancer treatment and more.”
To date, nearly 2,700 Red Cross blood drives have been canceled across the country due to concerns about congregating at workplaces, college campuses and schools amidst the coronavirus outbreak. These cancellations have resulted in some 86,000 fewer blood donations. More than 80% of the blood the Red Cross collects comes from drives held at locations of this type.
In the Southern California region, more than 160 blood drives have been canceled, resulting in 5,500 fewer blood donations. The Red Cross is adding appointment slots at donation centers and expanding capacity at many community blood drives across the country over the next few weeks.
“In our experience, the American public comes together to support those in need during times of shortage, and that support is needed now more than ever during this unprecedented public health crisis,” said Chris Hrouda, president, Red Cross Biomedical Services. “Unfortunately, when people stop donating blood, it forces doctors to make hard choices about patient care, which is why we need those who are healthy and well to roll up a sleeve and give the gift of life.”
The Red Cross has implemented new measures to help ensure safety at blood drives and donation centers in light of the coronavirus outbreak, such as checking the temperature of staff and donors before entering a drive, spacing beds and increasing disinfecting of surfaces and equipment.
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 worldwide, including this coronavirus.
To donate blood, individuals need to bring a blood donor card or driver’s license or two other forms of identification that are required at check-in. Individuals who are 17 years of age in most states (16 with parental consent where allowed by state law), weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood. High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger also must meet certain height and weight requirements.