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Our View: Consider giving blood as donations dry up amid coronavirus concerns. It could save a life.

The coronavirus and the steps being taken to slow its spread present new challenges by the day, including many that may have been anticipated. One such challenge is a blood shortage that only seems as if will get worse.

The American Red Cross now faces a severe blood shortage due to an unprecedented number of blood drive cancellations in response to the coronavirus outbreak, according to a news release from the Red Cross, and healthy individuals are needed now to donate to help patients counting on lifesaving blood.

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Just as school has been postponed and restaurants have been shut down and sporting events have been canceled, the coronavirus pandemic has also resulted in widespread cancellations of blood drives. To date, around 3,000 Red Cross blood drives have been canceled across the country due to concerns about congregating at workplaces, college campuses and schools amidst the coronavirus outbreak.

Because of these cancellations, the Red Cross has received about 100,000 fewer blood donations that would’ve been expected. More than 80% of the blood the Red Cross collects comes from drives held at locations of this type. According to the news release, the Red Cross expects the number of cancellations to continue to increase, which is causing heightened concern for blood collection organizations and hospitals across the country. This blood shortage could impact patients who need surgery, victims of car accidents and other emergencies, or patients suffering from cancer.

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“In our experience, the American public comes together to support those in need during times of shortage and that support is needed now more than ever during this unprecedented public health crisis,” said Chris Hrouda, president, Red Cross Biomedical Services, via the release. “Unfortunately, when people stop donating blood, it forces doctors to make hard choices about patient care, which is why we need those who are healthy and well to roll up a sleeve and give the gift of life.”

With the understanding that people may be hesitant to visit a blood drive right now, the Red Cross release detailed new measures it has implemented to keep donors and staff safe that are in addition to standard safety protocols already in use. They include:

· Checking the temperature of staff and donors before entering a drive to make sure they are healthy.

· Providing hand sanitizer for use before the drive, as well as throughout the donation process.

· Spacing beds, where possible, to follow social distancing practices between blood donors.

· Increasing enhanced disinfecting of surfaces and equipment.

“Volunteer donors are the unsung heroes for patients in need of lifesaving blood transfusions. If you are healthy, feeling well and eligible to give, please schedule an appointment to give now,” Hrouda said.

Given that there is no way of knowing how long the coronavirus measures will be in place, and with the expectation that the need for blood will only grow, we urge anyone healthy enough to do so to give blood as soon as possible.

Individuals can schedule an appointment to give blood with the Red Cross by visiting RedCrossBlood.org, using the Red Cross Blood Donor App or calling 1-800-RED-CROSS. The Red Cross is adding appointment slots at donation centers. 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, weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health may be eligible. High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger also must meet certain height and weight requirements.

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