As the coronavirus pandemic has grown in the U.S., blood drive cancellations have also grown at an alarming rate. As of March 18, nearly 4,500 Red Cross blood drives have been cancelled across the country due to concerns about congregating at workplaces, college campuses, and schools during the coronavirus outbreak. These cancellations have resulted in some 150,000 fewer blood donations. More than 80 percent of the blood the Red Cross collects comes from drives held at locations of this type.
Just in Northern California alone, more than 100 blood drives have been cancelled in recent weeks, resulting in the loss of more than 3,300 units of blood.
“When you consider that each unit can save up to three lives when it is separated into the different life-saving blood components, this shortfall could potentially impact close to 10,000 people,” says Justin Mueller, Donor Services Executive for the Northern California Blood Services Region.
Mueller says the Northern California Coastal Region’s four chapters are each making a special effort to reschedule blood drives. “The overwhelming support and collaboration of people across this region’s counties to help identify and gain commitments from groups to host blood drives has helped tremendously,” he says. “Just in the last 24 hours, we have had 10 locations commit to helping us fill at least 15 of the days we lost blood drives.”
Mueller says Red Cross teams are also making extra efforts to safeguard the donors, volunteers, and staff at these drives — and the blood that is collected. “This can be seen firsthand by observing the additional safety measures we have put in place, including checking donor temperatures before entering the blood drive, swapping out gloves more frequently, and increasing enhanced disinfecting of surfaces and equipment. While we have spaced chairs and beds further apart to ensure better social distancing practices, I’d also encourage folks to make an appointment to help us avoid donors that would otherwise drop in at the same time causing crowds and even small groups to form.”
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 them 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 this 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.
Mueller is thankful for the extra effort blood-services volunteers are making during this difficult time. “We would not be able to carry out our mission without the support of our amazing volunteers,” he says. “And because of the extra safety measures that have been put in place, volunteers are needed more than ever to support this emergency effort.”
He is equally appreciative of the people who have shown up to give blood during this challenging time. “Because of the coronavirus crisis, donors are really needed right now,” Mueller says. “If you are healthy, feeling well, and eligible to give, please schedule an appointment to give now.”
Blood donation process:
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.
Christine Welch (909-859-7570, @RedCrossBloodCA, and RedCrossBlood.org) provided key editorial support for this blog post.