Coronavirus impacting blood donations, could cause shortage, agencies warn

Healthy Americans are being urged to donate blood and platelets as officials warn what a potential shortage could mean for hospitals and patients as the number of novel coronavirus cases ticks past 1,000.

“Hospitals will be extremely challenged if COVID-19 infections increase,” Dr. Ralph Vassallo, Vitalant’s chief medical and scientific officer, said in a press release. “The last thing we want them worrying about is having enough blood for trauma victims and cancer patients. That’s why it’s imperative that healthy individuals donate blood at drives and blood donation sites now.”

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According to the Red Cross, an estimated 125 blood drives have been canceled so far, resulting in the loss of about 3,500 donations. The organization said that at this time, they are only collecting blood from healthy donors who are eligible and that employees are continuing to follow safety protocols, including routinely wiping down donor-touched areas, using sterile collection kits, and reducing contact with anyone who may have COVID-19.

Donors who have traveled to China, Hong Kong, Macau, Iran, Italy and South Korea recently are being asked to postpone their donation for 28 days, as are those who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or who have had contact with a coronavirus patient.

Anyone else who has signed up to donate blood is being urged to keep their existing appointment.

“We’re asking the American people to keep the blood supply stable during this challenging time,” Chris Hrouda, president of Red Cross Blood Services, said in a press release. “As communities across the country prepare for this public health emergency, it’s critical that plans include a readily available blood supply for hospital patients.”

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Once donated blood has been thoroughly screened and processed, it becomes available for patients in need of a blood transfusion. These patients may include those with serious injuries, surgeries, childbirth, anemia, blood disorders or cancer treatments, as well as many others.

“As fears of the coronavirus rise, low donor participation could harm blood availability at hospitals, and the last thing a patient should worry about is whether lifesaving blood will be on the shelf when they need it most.”