Cancelled blood drives causing a supply crisis for Red Cross

Photo courtesy of the American Red Cross
American Red Cross adds appointment slots at donation centers and expands capacity at many community blood drives in hopes to have more donors amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

The American Red Cross is facing a blood shortage due to blood drives being canceled over fears of COVID-19.

As workplaces, colleges, universities, and schools are temporarily closing or urging employees to work from home, the Red Cross is feeling the impact of those closings. The American Red Cross has the problem of a severe blood shortage due to an unprecedented number of blood drive cancellations at these locations during the coronavirus outbreak.

Nearly 2,700 blood drives have been canceled in recent days due to concern of the coronavirus, causing a loss of 86,000 possible blood donations.

“I am looking at the refrigerator that contains only one day’s supply of blood for the hospital,” said Dr. Robertson Davenport, director of transfusion medicine at Michigan Medicine in Ann Arbor. “The hospital is full. There are patients who need blood and cannot wait.”

In the Red Cross’s eastern New York region, which serves 2.5 million people in 24 counties from the Candian border to the Mid-Hudson Region, more than 20 blood drives have been canceled recently, resulting in 674 fewer blood donations.

Those most impacted by a blood supply shortage include patients who need surgery; victims of car accidents and other emergencies; and cancer patients.

To compensate for the cancelled blood drives, the Red Cross is adding appointment slots at donation centers and expanding capacity at many community blood drives over the next few weeks to make it easier on potential donors.

“We know that people want to help, but they may be hesitant to visit a blood drive during this time,” said Chris Hrouda, president of Red Cross Biomedical Services. “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.”

In addition to the standard procedures of wearing gloves, wiping down surfaces, and sing new collection equipment for each donor, the Red Cross will be adding extra precautionary steps to protect donors during the coronavirus outbreak.

Donor center staff will be checking the temperature of both workers and donors before entering a drive to make sure they are healthy, providing hand sanitizer, spacing beds where possible to follow social distancing practices and “enhanced” disinfecting of surfaces and equipment.

“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 Hrouda. “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.”