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Blood donations needed as threat of coronavirus looms

As concerns about the outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019, or COVID-19, rise in the U.S., the American Red Cross is urging healthy, eligible individuals to give blood or platelets to help prevent blood shortages, that could result from lower donor participation.

Cold and flu season has already impacted the nation’s ability to maintain its blood supply. As the number of coronavirus cases grows in the U.S., the number of people eligible to give blood for patients in need, could decrease further.

“We’re asking the American people to help keep the blood supply stable during this challenging time,” said Chris Hrouda, president of Red Cross Blood Services. “As communities across the country prepare for this public health emergency, it’s critical that plans include a readily available blood supply for hospital patients.

“As fears of coronavirus rise, low donor participation could harm blood availability at hospitals and the last thing a patient should worry about, is whether lifesaving blood will be on the shelf when they need it most.”

Donating blood is a safe process, and people should not hesitate to give or receive blood. There are no data or evidence that the coronavirus can be transmissible by blood transfusion and there have been no reported cases world- wide of transmissions for any respiratory virus, including this coronavirus, from a transfusion.

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. 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.

These mitigation measures will help ensure blood recipient safety, as well as staff and donor safety in reducing contact with those who may potentially have this respiratory infection.

Blood drive hosts also play a critical role in maintaining a sufficient blood supply and are asked to keep hosting blood drives for patients who rely on lifesaving blood. The need for blood is constant and volunteer donors are the only source of blood for those in need of transfusions.

To donate blood, individuals need to bring a blood donor card or driver’s license, or two other forms of identification that are required at check-in. Individuals who are 17 years of age in most states (16 with parental consent where allowed by state law), weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health, may be eligible to donate blood.

High school students, and other donors 18 years of age and younger, also must meet certain height and weight requirements.

A blood donation takes about an hour from start to finish, but the actual donation itself only takes about eight to 10 minutes. Donors can also save up to 15 minutes at the blood drive, by completing a RapidPass®.

With RapidPass®, donors complete the pre-donation reading and health history questionnaire online, on the day of donation, from a mobile device or computer.

For a list of donation sites in the area, visit redcrossblood. org.