Coronavirus (COVID-19) patients don’t need blood transfusions, but the pandemic’s spread and related concerns about gathering in groups has triggered a severe shortage of blood supplies for those in emergency situations who do.
Social-distancing directives have caused the cancellation of nearly 6,000 American Red Cross blood drives nationwide and more than 126 in Connecticut alone. This leaves American hospitals with almost 200,000 fewer donations, or 3,700 fewer here. Blood has a shelf life of just 42 days, so supplies must be replenished regularly.
“Unfortunately, when people stop donating blood, it forces doctors to make hard choices about patient care,” said Chris Hrouda, president of Red Cross Biomedical Services. “We need those who are healthy and well to roll up a sleeve and give the gift of life.”
The organization, he explained, has put more stringent precautions in place to protect volunteer donors at blood drives and donation centers. These include:
- Checking the temperature of staff and donors before they enter to make sure they are healthy.
- Providing hand sanitizer for use before the drive and throughout the donation process.
- Spacing beds, when possible, to follow social distancing practices.
- Increasing the disinfecting of surfaces and equipment.
This, he added, is in addition to the steps Red Cross staff already follow to prevent the spread of any infection, such as:
- Wearing gloves that are changed with each donor.
- Routinely wiping down areas donors touch.
- Using sterile collection sets for every donation.
- Preparing the donor’s arm with an aseptic scrub.
“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,” Hrouda said.
Eligible donors must be 17 years of age or older, show a driver’s license or two other forms of identification, weigh at least 110 pounds and be in generally good health.
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