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Red Cross faces ‘severe blood shortage’ as coronavirus outbreak threatens supply

The American Red Cross is now reporting “a severe blood shortage” because of the unprecedented number of blood drive cancellations in response to the coronavirus outbreak. According to a press release from the Red Cross, healthy individuals are needed now to donate to help patients counting on lifesaving blood.

Individuals can schedule an appointment to give blood with the Red Cross by visiting RedCrossBlood.org, using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, calling 1-800-RED-CROSS or enabling the Blood Donor Skill on any Alexa Echo device.

As the coronavirus pandemic has grown in the U.S., blood drive cancellations have grown at what the Red Cross has termed “an alarming rate.” To date, nearly 2,700 Red Cross blood drives have been canceled across the country because of concerns about congregating at workplaces, college campuses and schools amidst the coronavirus outbreak.

These cancellations have resulted in some 86,000 fewer blood donations. More than 80 percent of the blood the Red Cross collects comes from drives held at locations of this type.

In the Alabama-Mississippi Region, 50 blood drives have been canceled, resulting in 1,800 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.

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.

According to the Red Cross, this blood shortage could impact patients who need surgery, victims of car accidents and other emergencies or patients suffering from cancer.

“In our experience, the American public comes together to support those in need during times of shortage, and that support is needed now more than ever during this unprecedented public health crisis,” said Chris Hrouda, president of Red Cross Biomedical Services. “Unfortunately, when people stop donating blood, it forces doctors to make hard choices about patient care, which is why we need those who are healthy and well to roll up a sleeve and give the gift of life.”

Hrouda said the Red Cross is committed to blood drive safety.

“We know people want to help, but they might be hesitant to visit a blood drive during this time. We want to assure the public that blood donation is a safe process, and we have put additional precautions in place at our blood drives and donation centers to protect all who come out,” said Hrouda.

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

  • Checking the temperature of staff and donors before they enter 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.
  • Increasing enhanced disinfecting of surfaces and 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 down donor-touched areas, using sterile collection sets for every donation and preparing the arm for donation with an aseptic scrub.

According to the Red Cross, there is no data or evidence the 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.

The nearest donation center to Franklin County is at 1015 Airport Road SW, Huntsville.

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