After a string of blood drive cancelations in the last few days and demand expected to surge in the coming weeks, the organization says it is in desperate need for new blood.
"The cancellations are really adding up," said Gail McGovern, president and chief executive officer, American Red Cross. "In normal times, we have 13,000 people a day donating blood and we rely on all these daily donations to keep the blood supply going. We're trying to avoid a crisis here."
Nearly 1,500 American Red Cross blood drives have been canceled across the country due to coronavirus concerns, resulting in 46,000 fewer blood donations. Officials worry the nation’s blood supply could be at risk if these cancelations continue.
"Increasingly troubling is that we expect this number to continue to grow with the number of COVID-19 cases on the rise, making it difficult to sustain the blood supply for patients in need," Jodi Sheedy, a Red Cross spokesperson, told ABC News.
The American Red Cross is implementing several safety measures as an extra precaution to protect donors from potential COVID-19 exposure, including checking temperatures of staff and donors before entering, spacing beds to follow social distancing practices, and more stringently disinfecting surfaces and equipment. This is on top of the organization's standard safety protocols of wiping down donor-touch areas and changing gloves after each donation, among other practices.
“We understand why people may be hesitant to come out for a blood drive, but want to reassure the public that we are taking additional precautions to ensure the safety of our donors and staff,” McGovern said.
The American Red Cross explained in a statement there is “no data to suggest COVID-19 can be transmitted by blood transfusion” and there “have been no reported cases of transfusion transmission for any respiratory virus including this coronavirus worldwide.”
Above all, McGovern highlights the blood supply as an essential part of the country's health care system and urges any healthy American to donate blood.
“As a nation, this is a time where we must take care of one another including those most vulnerable among us in hospitals,” McGovern said. “One of the most important things people can do right now during this public health emergency is to give blood. If you are healthy and feeling well, please make an appointment to donate as soon as possible."
If you'd like to make an appointment to donate blood, you can do so on the American Red Cross website or by calling 1-800-red-cross.