As the outbreak of COVID-19 continues to impact our communities, we need help ensuring we have a sufficient blood supply to support hospital patients in Indiana and across the country.
The American Red Cross is working to continue delivering our mission, including the collection of lifesaving blood, but we have had a staggering number of scheduled Red Cross blood drives canceled as more workplaces, college campuses and other venues send people home and encourage social distancing. Disruptions to blood donations can lead to shortages and cause delays in essential medical care. As of March 17, about 2,700 drives, representing about 86,000 fewer blood donations, have been canceled nationwide over COVID-19 concerns.
As concerns about the coronavirus pandemic rise, we have three vital messages for the public:
1) Donating blood is a safe process and people should not be concerned about giving or receiving blood during this challenging time.
2) More healthy donors are needed to give now to prevent a blood shortage.
3) Schedule an appointment to donate using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org, or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).
As an emergency preparedness organization, the Red Cross has taken additional steps to ensure the safety of staff and donors at each blood drive.
• The Red Cross only collects blood from individuals who are healthy and feeling well at the time of donation – and who meet other eligibility requirements, available at RedCrossBlood.org.
• We are now prescreening all individuals by checking their temperature before they enter any Red Cross blood drive or donation center, including our own staff and volunteers.
• At each blood drive and donation center, Red Cross employees follow thorough safety protocols including wearing gloves, routinely wiping down donor-touched areas, using sterile collection sets for every donation, and preparing the arm for donation with an aseptic scrub.
• Additional spacing has been implemented within each blood drive set-up to incorporate social-distancing measures between donation beds and stations within the blood drive.
• The average blood drives are only 20 to 30 people and are not large gatherings.
These mitigation measures will help to keep blood recipients, staff and donors safe.
The Red Cross is also working to ensure we can continue to carry out other aspects of our lifesaving mission, including providing critical disaster-relief services. We are working with public health officials to ensure the safety of local communities and our workforce while still providing the help and hope they need should disaster strike.
We're asking the American people to give blood during this challenging time. Those who are healthy, feeling well and eligible to give blood or platelets are urged to make an appointment to donate.
Chad Priest is chief executive officer of the American Red Cross – Indiana Region.