The plea to give blood from clinics in the U.S. is falling on increasingly quarantined ears.
The mass closures of schools and workplaces across the country are being blamed for a dangerous shortfall in available blood across the country.
Georgia, in particular, is facing a chronic blood supply shortage, as more than 200 blood drives were recently canceled, according to the Georgia Recorder. As a result, the newspaper adds, clinics have lost out on at least 7,000 units of much-needed blood.
"We are in an urgent need," Ronnika McFall, a spokeswoman with the Georgia chapter of the American Red Cross, tells the Recorder. "We're in desperate need for blood and the situation is very serious so we want to encourage healthy donors, if you're feeling well and if you're able to come out and donate blood, please do so."
But the shadow cast by COVID-19 is falling on much of America as people wait out the pandemic at home. Across the country, nearly 4,000 blood drives have been canceled so far, resulting in a staggering drop of more than 100,000 donations.
"Right now, American Red Cross faces a severe blood shortage due to an unprecedented number of blood drive cancellations during this coronavirus outbreak," the organization notes on its website. "Healthy individuals are needed to donate now to help patients counting on lifesaving blood, platelets or AB Elite plasma."
While public health officials work to limit the spread of the new #coronavirus, @AABB Disaster Task Force & the #RedCross are calling for healthy individuals to make & keep #blood donation appointments to avoid disruptions to the #blood supply. Learn more: https://t.co/7HwygsxVpp pic.twitter.com/y7MAa9Tlhx— American Red Cross (Indiana) #COVID19 (@INRedCross) March 16, 2020
It doesn't help that the vast majority of blood drives are organized through schools and workplaces — among the first casualties of social distancing.
And despite the acute need for healthy blood, it's hard to blame Americans for being a wary of venturing outside..
How do you give blood in a time of coronavirus?
"We've really implemented a lot of things that will help mitigate anything from happening," American Red Cross spokeswoman Sue Thesenga explains.
Most importantly, every potential donor is screened for health issues, including known symptoms of COVID-19. Even spaces between beds have been widened. As well, appointments for donations have been scattered across a longer timeframe, reducing the number of people who show up at the clinic all at once.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is clear on the matter: It's OK to give blood if you are healthy.
CDC encourages people who are well to continue to donate blood if they are able, even if they are practicing social distancing because of COVID-19. CDC is supporting blood centers by providing recommendations that will keep donors and staff safe. Examples of these recommendations include spacing donor chairs 6 feet apart, thoroughly adhering to environmental cleaning practices, and encouraging donors to make donation appointments ahead of time.
And make no mistake, while pandemics come and go, the need for blood is a constant. A dearth of healthy blood could have disastrous consequences for mothers delivering babies, patients fighting cancer, car accident victims and those in need of surgery.
"That is what we are fearful of," Thesenga tells the Pioneer Press. "We can see this happening. … We have seen a ton of blood drive cancelations. That is what is so concerning. Now we are facing a severe blood shortage, so we need healthy individuals that want to donate."