Facing an “unprecedented” number of canceled blood drives in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, the American Red Cross is urgently asking healthy, eligible people to give blood or platelets to prevent shortages.
“We’re very concerned as the situation evolves that it could have a material impact on blood availability,” Dr. Pampee Young, chief medical officer at the American Red Cross, told TODAY.
“As the number of individuals with COVID-19 increases, we’re concerned there will be even fewer eligible donors and it will make giving blood extremely difficult.”
Donors have been dropping out because of fears about being in close contact with other people or prevented from coming by new limitations about who can enter buildings and facilities. That has resulted in about 1,300 uncollected blood donations, the American Red Cross said.
Yet the need for blood never goes down, and cold and flu season has already impacted the number of donations.
Right now, the nation’s blood supply is stable, but there’s great concern that could change, Young said.
That means asking the American people to give blood. Donating blood is safe and doesn’t harm a person’s immune system or health, and there’s no data that COVID-19 or any respiratory viruses can be transmitted via blood transfusion, Young said.
The organization is taking additional safety measures, including checking the temperature of donors before they enter the donation center, and asking everyone to use hand sanitizer before entering a drive.
It’s also telling potential donors who may have any risk factors — like international travel and exposure to an infected person — to give blood at a later time.
People who want to donate blood can make an appointment by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767). Type O and platelet donations are especially needed right now.
“The last thing a patient should worry about is whether lifesaving blood will be on the shelf when they need it most,” said Chris Hrouda, president of Red Cross Blood Services, in a statement.