The American Red Cross is facing a severe blood shortage due to an unprecedented number of blood drive cancellations in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Red Cross officials are encouraging healthy individuals to donate immediately to help patients counting on lifesaving blood. Individuals can schedule an appointment to give blood 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 cornoavirus pandemic has grown in the United States, blood drive cancellations have grown at an alarming rate. More than 80% of the blood collected by the Red Cross comes from drives held at various locations.

In the Wisconsin/Iowa Region, 67 blood drives have been canceled, resulting in 2,596 fewer blood donations. To date, nearly 2,700 Red Cross blood drives have been canceled across the country due to concerns about congregating at workplaces, college campuses and schools amidst the coronavirus outbreak. Nationwide, the cancellations have resulted in some 86,000 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.

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

The Red Cross has implemented new measures to ensure blood drives and donation centers are even safer for our 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 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.
  • Preparing the arm for donation with an aseptic scrub.

There is no data or evidence that COVID-19 can be transmitted by blood transfusion, and there have been no reported cases of transfusion transmission for any respiratory virus including the coronavirus worldwide.

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.

Donors can also save up to 15 minutes at the blood drive by completing a RapidPass®. With RapidPass®, donors complete the pre-donation reading and health history questionnaire online, on the day of donation, from a mobile device or computer. To complete a RapidPass®, follow the instructions at RedCrossBlood.org/RapidPass or use the Red Cross Blood Donor App.

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