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Red Cross pleads for blood donations amid severe shortage due to COVID-19 cancellations

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Posted at 12:25 PM, Mar 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-17 12:28:24-04

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The American Red Cross says it’s facing a severe blood shortage due to an unprecedented number of blood drive cancellations in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The organization says nearly 2,700 of its blood drives have been canceled across the country because of virus concerns, resulting in about 86,000 fewer donations

The Red Cross is now pleading for healthy individuals to donate to patients counting on lifesaving blood.

The Red Cross expects the number of cancellations to continue to increase, which is causing heightened concern for blood collection organizations and hospitals across the country. This blood shortage could impact patients who need surgery, victims of car accidents and other emergencies, or patients suffering from cancer.

Individuals can schedule an appointment to give blood with the American Red Cross by visiting RedCrossBlood.org, using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, calling 1-800-RED-CROSS or activating the Blood Scheduling Skill for Amazon Alexa.

“As a nation, this is a time where we must take care of one another including those most vulnerable among us in hospitals,” said Gail McGovern, president and chief executive officer, American Red Cross. “One of the most important things people can do right now during this public health emergency is to give blood. If you are healthy and feeling well, please make an appointment to donate as soon as possible.”

New measures implemented to keep donors safe amid outbreak

McGovern says she understands people may be hesitant to come out for a blood drive during the outbreak, but she wants to reassure the public that blood donation is a safe process and that additional precautions have been put in place to protect the safety of donors and staff.

The Red Cross has implemented these new measures:

· Checking the temperature of staff and donors before entering a drive to make sure they are healthy
· Providing hand sanitizer for use before the drive, as well as throughout the donation process
· Spacing beds, where possible, to follow social distancing practices between blood donors, and
· Increasing enhanced disinfecting of surfaces and equipment.

The Red Cross says 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 including this coronavirus worldwide.

Blood donation requirements

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.