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Red Cross is facing ‘severe’ blood shortages and is asking the public to donate

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Lester Crim completes the self-screening questionnaire before volunteering for the ALYX donation at the Red Cross mobile blood drive at the Sports and Fitness Center June 23, 2010, at Joint Base Charleston, S.C. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Timothy Taylor)
March 27, 2020

The Red Cross is facing a huge blood shortage amid the coronavirus pandemic and is asking healthy Americans to donate.

Thousands of blood drives have been canceled as the over the last couple weeks as the public has been warned against gathering with a large number of people. Red Cross spokesman Anthony Tornetta said Friday on “Fox & Friends” that there is still a critical need for blood.

“Roughly about 250,000 blood donations were not made because of those cancellations,” he explained. “And so, we’re asking the American public to schedule donations and help us move forward in the weeks and months ahead.”

The blood drives have been canceled over the fear of spreading the virus to the people there, but Tornetta explained that the Red Cross has implemented a few extra cautionary steps since the outbreak. He added that the safety of the Red Cross’s donors and staff has “always been [their] top priority.”

“We’ve always encouraged scheduling appointments and we’re going to continue to do that especially with the social distancing practice that we’ve implemented,” he said. “So, we want to make sure that you can schedule a donation and we can schedule you in a way that keeps everybody as safe as possible.”

“We are checking temperatures of our donors and our staff and volunteers that arrive at blood drives before they arrive and after they leave. We’re also hand sanitizing everybody before, during, and after. We’re making sure they have plenty of hand sanitizer. We’re wiping down hard surfaces where anyone may have touched as they come in,” Tornetta added. “And, really just focusing on making sure that everybody feels comfortable.”

The Red Cross has urged the healthy public in several announcements to donate blood to help combat the coronavirus. On March 10, Chris Hrouda, the president of Red Cross Blood Services, said that as fear of the virus rises, fewer people donate, which in turn affects blood availability at hospitals.

“The last thing a patient should worry about is whether lifesaving blood will be on the shelf when they need it most,” he said. “We’re asking the American people to help keep the blood supply stable during this challenging time. 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.”

A week later, the Red Cross announced a blood shortage, saying that it “faces a severe blood shortage due to an unprecedented number of blood drive cancellations in response to the coronavirus outbreak.”

At the time, the blood drive cancellations at workplaces, college campuses, and schools resulted in about 86,000 fewer blood donations. According to the Red Cross, more than 80 percent of the blood it collects comes from drives held at locations of this type.

According to Johns Hopkins’ latest tracking data on Friday afternoon, there are more than 590,000 cases of coronavirus and more than 26,000 deaths across the globe, while more than 130,000 people have recovered from the virus. In the United States, there are more than 100,000 confirmed cases, 1,500 deaths, and 862 recoveries from the coronavirus. Those figures are suspected to be much greater due to the lack of available test kits, and delays in state reporting.