America’s blood supply, already limited, has been dramatically affected by the novel coronavirus epidemic. As part of recommended social distancing, many frequent or casual blood donors have curtailed their normal activities, including blood donation. Yet the need for blood products remains constant. As a result, blood supplies are rapidly running out.
“The American Red Cross is urging hospitals to reduce blood use in an effort to maintain suitable reserves for those patients who could need a blood transfusion, such as those with cancer, sickle cell disease, undergoing emergent surgery, trauma victims or post-partum women,” said Marisa Marques, M.D., director of Transfusion Services at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. “We are urging citizens to donate at this time of tremendous need.”
In the wake of COVID-19 responses, Vitalant is urging groups to continue organizing blood drives and individuals to continue donating blood, unless local public health officials specifically direct otherwise. Blood drives at schools, churches, community groups and religious institutions—which represent more than 60% of the nation’s blood supply—are events critical to health care in our country, and if canceled, could jeopardize patient care.
Vitalant—the second largest blood provider in the country—is working with other blood banks to avoid a critical failure of the blood supply. In parts of China and in the United States, the blood supply is at the “lowest levels” and is in “danger of collapse” as groups have canceled blood drives and individuals have stopped donating blood.
Organizations—schools, businesses, religious institutions—should follow the guidance of public health officials, rather than determining policies on their own. And if they are open (if classes are in session, if employees are working on site, if religious services are being conducted), they should continue to host blood drives. As part of the COVID-19 response, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has developed guidance for “mass gatherings”—but those “mass gatherings” do not include blood drives.
If you are in the Albuquerque or Rio Rancho area and you do not have any symptoms of COVID-19 please consider donating blood at the following locations: