WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) – The American Red Cross and other blood donation organizations are warning the country of another potential health crisis as blood donations have virtually dried up amid the coronavirus outbreak.
“We do not want to create a different kind of health crisis because there is a blood shortage,” Red Cross President and CEO Gail McGovern said.
Schools, businesses and community centers continue to close as the coronavirus pandemic spreads throughout the country. While that helps curb the virus, McGovern says it also creates new risks.
“We’re seeing cancellation after cancellation,” she said.
The Red Cross reports communities across the country have canceled nearly 3,000 blood drives that were expected to bring in about 90,000 units of blood. As a result, the organization is starting to dip into the five days of inventory it tries to keep on hand.
“We need blood because hospitals are doing surgeries, etc. We don’t want to get to a point where doctors are making these tough choices to figure out who needs the blood the most,” McGovern said.
That’s why a doctor in Congress – Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) – is encouraging healthy Americans to take the time to give blood, providing reassurance the donation is safe.
“They screen for viruses so if you receive blood, they will screen it for coronavirus,” Sen. Cassidy said.
The Red Cross has also updated its protocols to keep blood donors at ease. The beds are further apart, staff members take their temperature every day and donors disinfect their hands multiple times throughout the process.
“We want to make sure that we can continue saving lives,” McGovern said. “It’s so important at a time like this.”
And the only way to do that, she says, is for more Americans to roll up their sleeves.
OneBlood, Florida’s not-for-profit blood center, has also stressed a need for blood donations. You can find the closest location for you to donate on the organization’s website. All donors who give blood from now until March 31 will receive a $20 e-gift card.