The American Red Cross now faces a major blood shortage due to an unprecedented number of blood drive cancellations in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Healthy individuals are needed now to donate to help patients counting on life-saving blood. Individuals can schedule an appointment to give blood by visiting the its Web site at RedCrossBlood.org or calling 1-800-RED-CROSS. As the coronavirus pandemic has grown here in the U.S., blood drive cancellations have grown at an alarming rate.

To date, more than 6,000 Red Cross blood drives have been canceled across the country due to concerns about congregating at work places, college campuses and schools amidst the coronavirus outbreak. These cancellations have resulted in more than 200,000 fewer blood donations.

More than 80 percent of the blood the Red Cross collects comes from drives held at locations of this type. Here in the Minnesota-Dakotas region, more than 80 blood drives have been canceled, resulting in 2,500 fewer blood donations.

The Red Cross is adding appointment slots at donation centers and expanding capacity at many community blood drives across the country over the next few weeks to ensure ample opportunities for donors to give. Volunteer donors are the only source of blood for those in need. The Red Cross expects the number of cancellations to continue to increase. 

That reality 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 cancer patients. The Red Cross is committed to safety.

The Red Cross has implemented new measures to ensure blood drives and donation centers are even safer for its donors and staff, including:

• Checking the temperature of staff and donors before entering a drive to make sure they are healthy.

• Providing hand sanitizer for use throughout the donation process.

• Spacing beds, where possible, to follow social distancing practices between blood donors.

• Increasing disinfecting of equipment.

At each blood drive and donation center, Red Cross employees already follow thorough safety protocols to help prevent the spread of any type of infection, including:

• Wearing gloves and changing gloves with each donor.

• Routinely wiping donor-touched areas.

• Using sterile collection sets for every donation.

• Preparing the arm with an aseptic scrub.

There is no data or evidence that this coronavirus can be transmitted by blood transfusion.

– Photo courtesy of the American Red Cross