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Red Cross: COVID-19 concerns causing canceled blood drives, severe blood shortage

Red blood on blood bag in laboratory.Blood donation concept.

The American Red Cross issued a statement calling for healthy individuals to donate blood due to an unprecedented number of blood drive cancellations during this coronavirus outbreak. 

Peter Marks, director of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, said that people need to start turning out “in force” to give blood.

“We need people to prevent the blood supply from getting depleted,” Marks said in the statement. “We need it not to get to the point that surgeries are having to get canceled. That’s something we absolutely do not want to have happen. To ensure an adequate blood supply we need people to come out and donate blood.”

Blood centers across the country have experienced a significant drop in donations, according to a statement from the Red Cross.

Over the past week, blood centers throughout the country are experiencing a significant drop in donations which is limiting the ability for the nation’s blood supply to be adequately replenished.

The organization said they are facing a “severe blood shortage” due to the number of blood drives being canceled because of the disease and that healthy individuals are needed now to help patients who count on lifesaving blood, platelets or AB Elite plasma.

Kate Fry, chief executive officer of America’s Blood Centers, said blood donors are needed “now more than ever.”

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“We cannot wait for the situation to intensify further before taking action,” Fry said in the statement. “The blood supply cannot be taken for granted and the coronavirus only heightens the need for a ready blood supply.”

According to the organization, around 1,500 of their blood drives across the country have been canceled because of concerns about the coronavirus. Due to the cancellations, the Red Cross estimates that they’ve lost roughly 46,000 donations as a result.

Chris Hrouda, president of Biomedical Services for the American Red Cross, warned that a lack of donors could lead to an “unprecedented situation if we’re not careful.”

“We are doing everything in our power to ensure that we don’t get to a critical level of the blood supply,” Hrouda said in the statement. “If we continue to see blood drives cancel, we are going to reach a level of inventory of which we haven’t seen in the past.”

The Red Cross emphasized that donating blood is a safe process and that people should not hesitate to give or receive blood. 

The organization also encouraged people to postpone donation for 28 days following travel to China and its special administrative regions, Hong Kong and Macau, as well as Iran, Italy and South Korea, or if they have been diagnosed with or have had contact with anyone with a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19. 

Red Cross donation sites already follow safety guidelines such as wearing gloves and changing them often, wiping down donor-touched areas after every collection and using sterile collection sets for every donation.

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The organization has also added more safety protocols to prevent the spread of coronavirus at donation centers, including:

  • Temperature checks before presenting donors enter the blood drive or donation center 
  • Enhanced disinfecting of equipment  
  • Providing hand sanitizer for use before entering and throughout the donation appointment 
  • Spacing beds, where possible, to follow social distancing practices between donors
  • During this time, blankets typically used by platelet, Power Red and AB Elite donors at Red Cross blood donation centers will be laundered after each use, which may limit the availability. Donors are encouraged to bring their own blankets, but electric blankets and heating pads are not permitted.

Blood donation appointments can be set up in the free Red Cross Blood Donor app or call 1-888-795-2707 to find a local blood drive. 


Written By

Jessa Reid Bolling is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter and graduate of The University of Alabama with a B.A. in journalism and political science.



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