Just going to the doctor's office during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic can be nerve-wracking, even with safety precautions put in place. The same fears and nerves have many people hesitating to donate blood, which, along with blood drive shutdowns due to social distancing, led to a shortage of blood in March.
"Maintaining adequate levels of our nation's blood supply is critical," the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said at the time. "People who donate blood are equivalent to those people who are working in a critical infrastructure industry. In volunteering to do so, they are contributing immeasurably to the public health of our nation."
It's not exactly feasible to social distance from a healthcare provider who's drawing your blood, so it might feel risky to donate right now. But, in fact, given the extra precautions put in place, "it should be quite safe," said Stanford infectious disease doctor Anne Liu, MD. "People who take blood for donation, people who are in a healthcare setting, are accustomed to using sterile techniques."
The Red Cross says that at each blood drive or donation center, employees follow typical safety measures like wearing gloves and changing them often, wiping down areas after use, and using sterile collection sets for every donation. In addition, the organization says it has "increased our vigilance concerning some of these safety protocols," including "enhanced disinfecting," providing hand sanitizer, conducting temperature checks, allowing for social distancing between donor beds, and using face masks. As a donor, remember to wear a face mask (here's a selection you can buy online), wash your hands frequently and for at least 20 seconds, and follow any other guidelines from your donation center.
When employees and donors follow these precautionary guidelines, donating is safe, Dr. Liu said, and it's especially important to do so now as the blood supply continues to recover from the shortage. If you've been fully recovered from COVID-19 for two weeks, you may also be eligible to donate your plasma, which may help others currently fighting the disease. (Visit the FDA website for more information and ways to donate plasma.)
POPSUGAR aims to give you the most accurate and up-to-date information about the coronavirus, but details and recommendations about this pandemic may have changed since publication. For the latest information on COVID-19, please check out resources from the WHO, CDC, and local public health departments.