Dozens of blood drives, as many as 2,700 nationally, have been canceled recently as high schools, colleges and businesses shut their doors to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus. If current trends continue, said Gail McGovern, president and chief executive of the American Red Cross, the available blood supply will reach dangerously low levels.
"We don't want to create another crisis, where doctors are rationing the blood and trying to figure out who gets the next blood transfusion," she said. "We're taking every safety precaution we can, but at the end of the day, we have to have blood drives because we have to save lives."
Donating blood is a safe process, McGovern said, and additional hygiene and sanitary precautions are in place. Blood-drive cancellations in the United States have resulted in roughly 86,000 fewer donations.
Mark Pompilio, public-relations and marketing manager for Community Blood Center in Montgomery County, said hospitals currently need blood to help those patients they see on a regular basis.
"We don't want to confuse the idea that we need blood because of patients that are sick with COVID-19," he said. "We need blood for all patients. They're very concerned about the patient that came in with a heart attack, that came in with an injury — so, they have to keep accommodating people with all sorts of health needs."
Healthy people are encouraged to donate blood, and organizations and businesses are being urged to consider hosting a blood drive. McGovern said both are ways to give back in these difficult times.
"The country needs to come together; doing something positive will actually elevate somebody's mood," she said. "Every time that there is a need, the American public steps up — and I'm confident that they'll step up this time as well."
McGovern said there have been no reported cases of transfusion transmission for any respiratory virus, including this coronavirus, worldwide.
Blood donation information is online at donortime.com and redcrossblood.org.