As the coronavirus continues its spread across the US, blood banks say that they have seen an unprecedented number of blood drive cancellations and may soon face a blood shortage if Americans do not turn “out in force to give blood.”
Nearly 2,700 Red Cross blood drives have been canceled across the country because of concerns surrounding the coronavirus, resulting in 86,000 fewer blood donations. Blood banks around the country are now asking that healthy individuals donate blood and are assuring the public that centers are taking all precautions necessary to prevent the spread of coronavirus. The World Health Organization calls blood a “gift of life” as blood transfusions are used in a number of life-saving procedures, from women suffering pregnancy complications to cancer patients and victims of a car crash. In the US alone, around 4.5 million Americans will require a blood transfusion each year, yet only 37 percent of the population is eligible to donate blood and less than 10 percent do.
A large factor in the growing number of cancellations is the closure of public congregations at places that normally administer blood drives, such as schools and workplaces where more than 80 percent of blood is collected by the Red Cross. Representatives from the organization believe that the number of cancellations will continue to increase and could impact patients who need life-saving transfusions.
“I am looking at the refrigerator that contains only one day’s supply of blood for the hospital,” said Dr Robertson Davenport, director of Transfusion Medicine at Michigan Medicine in Ann Arbor, in a statement. “The hospital is full. There are patients who need blood and cannot wait.”
Donating blood is “one of the most important things people can do right now during this public health emergency,” said Gail McGovern, president and chief executive officer at the American Red Cross.
“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 or safety of our donors and staff,” said McGovern.
The Red Cross and other blood banks have put in place protective measures for the process, including checking the temperature of staff and donors, providing hand sanitizer, spacing beds, following social distancing where possible, and increasing disinfectant protocols. Currently, there is no research to suggest that coronavirus can be transmitted by blood transfusion nor are there any reported cases of transfusion transmission for any sort of respiratory virus, according to the US Food and Drug Administration and the American Association of Blood Banks (AABB). AABB says that those in the US interested in donating blood may contact the following organizations: