More than 4,500 blood drives have been canceled across the country, leading to 150,000 fewer donations, the American Red Cross says. The humanitarian organization, which provides 40 percent of the nation’s supply, needs to collect 13,000 donations a day and, right now, that isn’t happening.
“We are in a severe blood shortage,” says Red Cross spokesperson Joy Squier. “This blood is vital to the health of the community.”
“We need people to start turning out in force to give blood,” Peter Marks, M.D., Ph.D. and director of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, said in a recent Red Cross video.
According to Squier, the cancellations are coming as schools and workplaces close in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic — the main places were blood drives are usually held. This blood shortage could impact patients who need surgery, victims of car accidents and other emergencies, or patients suffering from cancer.
“Volunteer donors are our only source of blood,” Squier says, adding that while 38 percent of the population can give blood, even in the best of times only about 3 percent do. “Most people don’t think about it until they need it.”
While canceled drives are part of the problem, the other issue is a concern over safety. The Red Cross is taking extra measures to make sure donation sites are safe, such as: checking the temperature of staff and donors before they enter a facility, providing hand sanitizer, spacing beds to follow social distancing practices, and increasing enhanced disinfecting of surfaces and equipment. “Our staff is very well trained on safety protocols,” Squier says.
“During a crisis, we often see the best of people in our community,” adds Celena Roldán, CEO of the Chicago and Northern Illinois Red Cross. “And I am hopeful that healthy individuals will heed the call and donate during this severe blood shortage.”
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Daniel Jewett has been a Bay Area journalist for more than two decades, getting his start as editor of his hometown newspaper, the Foster City Progress. Jewett went on to serve as Associate Editor for Oakland and Alameda magazines before crossing the bridge to serve as Marin Magazine and Spaces’ Managing Editor. Jewett still calls Oakland home, where he writes and plays music with his wife in My Little Hum and hangs out with his chickens, bees and cats, Holly and Maple.