Blood donation agencies asking donors to fill the gap left by canceled blood drives during pandemic

Posted at 4:27 PM, Mar 25, 2020

Since the spread of COVID-19 came to the United States, the Red Cross has seen over 6,000 canceled blood drives -- amounting to around 200,000 fewer blood donations from schools, offices, churches, and other establishments.

Those cancellations could cause a blood shortage at hospitals nationwide.

“It helps everybody in the population. I’ve personally had people that needed a blood transfusion,” Amanda Smith said, sitting outside her local blood donation center in the waiting room.

Smith heeded the call to donate blood, despite the COVID-19 pandemic affecting countries across the world.

“It’s incumbent on us to ensure that we can supply hospitals before that individual patient need come up,” Liz Lambert with Vitalant, a blood donation collection nonprofit, said. Vitalant supplies hospitals across the U.S., and because of the virus, they’ve seen a drop in donors.

“We’ve seen a lot of schools and businesses that are starting to work remotely or cancel classes, therefore we’ve had a lot of blood drives that have canceled in the coming days and weeks as well,” she added.

The need for blood donations continue amid the spread of COVID-19.

“Even in a time of crisis, someone will still need a blood transfusion whether it’s somebody who’s been in a car accident, an accidental injury, a broken bone, anything,” Smith said.

To ease fears among donors about contracting the coronavirus, blood donation agencies are using social distancing practices at their sites.

“Social distancing is happening here at blood drives in what we call time and space. We are asking that people who are coming out to our blood drives to schedule an appointment. This helps us break up the timing of our donors,” Jessica Merrill, the Director for Biomed Communications with American Red Cross, said.

“That represents about 80 percent of our blood donations,” Merrill said. “So that has a severe impact on our ability to collect blood and make it available for patients in need.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced on March 19 that the organization still encourages donating blood -- with recommendations that donor chairs be placed six feet apart and cleaned often, and appointments be made to manage flow.

“Blood donation facilities are staying open similar to your grocery store and your pharmacy and other places that we are depending on to keep life going right now,” Merrill said.

“We are encouraging people to come and donate if they are healthy and if they meet all the eligibility requirements,” Lambert said.

As people hunker down to prevent the spread of COVID-19, donation centers are looking to keep the donations coming in, to properly supply hospitals to meet their needs.

“Normally we encourage walk-ins but in this situation we’re really stressing appointments to make sure that we can make sure there’s a spot for someone and they’re not having to wait,” Lambert said.

“We need them to keep that urgency for weeks to come and continue to come out throughout this pandemic,” Merrill said.

According to the Red Cross, to give blood, donors must be in good health and feeling well, be at least age 16, and weigh at least 110 pounds, depending on height. Those who donate will be asked to produce an ID, and be asked several medical questions.

The whole process takes 10-15 minutes, the Red Cross said.

“It doesn’t really hurt at all and it doesn’t take that much time,” Pam Lacey said as she made her way out after donating.

Vitalant donation locations/schedule an appointment:

American Red Cross donation locations/schedule an appointment: