The U.S. surgeon general is urging healthy Americans to give blood as agencies warn of a possible shortage due to canceled blood drives and collections as the novel coronavirus continues to spread throughout the U.S.
The Red Cross has estimated that thousands of blood drive cancellations have resulted in more than 150,000 fewer donations.
“Blood centers are open now and in need of your donation,” Surgeon General Jerome Adams said in a press conference at the White House on Thursday.
Adams said that blood donations are “safe,” and that collection centers are taking extra precautions based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), including placing donation beds 6 feet apart, and encouraging donors to schedule their appointments ahead of time.
“Social distancing doesn’t mean social disengagement,” Adams said. “So give blood today, you’ll feel good about it.”
Last week, officials warned about what a potential shortage of blood and platelets could mean for hospitals and patients as the number of Americans infected by COVID-19 ticks toward 10,000.
“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 last week. “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.”
Donors who have traveled to China, Hong Kong, Macau, Iran, Italy and South Korea 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. All donated blood is thoroughly screened and processed before it is made available for patients in need of a blood transfusion.
“We’re asking the American people to keep the blood supply stable during this challenging time,” Chris Jrouda, president of Red Cross Blood Services, said in a press release last week. “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.”