Social distancing hits blood supply

People are buying into social distancing.

Maybe a little too much.

Social distancing has been declared one of the keys for preventing COVID-19 from becoming even more of a public health emergency, but it is contributing to another problem — a blood shortage.

Nationwide, 4,500 American Red Cross blood drives have been canceled during the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s about 150,000 fewer donations.

Community Blood Bank has had to set aside 31 drives, largely due to school, business, and organization closures. That’s 850 local donations not received.

Both entities, and the United States Surgeon General, are urging people to donate blood.

“It is imperative that healthy individuals continue to donate to minimize disruptions to the blood supply and ensure blood is available for patients,” according to CBB Community Relations Specialist Jaclyn Seymour. “If the outbreak of coronavirus expands, additional challenges may arise, which could potentially reduce the number of eligible donors and disrupt collection events. Since it is the blood already on the shelves that saves lives, maintaining a sufficient blood supply is essential to ensure patients in need receive optimal treatment.”

“Blood collection activities are not considered mass gatherings; rather they occur in a controlled environment with a healthy population,” Seymour said.

“You can still go out and give blood,” Surgeon General Jerome M. Adams said. “We’re worried about potential blood shortages in the future. Social distancing does not have to mean social disengagement.”

“One of the most important things you can do to ensure we don’t have another health care crisis on top of the coronavirus is to give blood,” according to information from the Red Cross. “We understand why people may be hesitant to come out for a blood drive, but we want to reassure the public that we are taking additional precautions to ensure the safety of our donors and staff.”

Local blood drives listed on the Red Cross website include:

Monday, April 6 – 1 to 6 p.m. First Presbyterian Church in Warren;

Thursday, April 9 – 1:30 to 6 p.m. Tidioute Fire Hall;

Thursday, April 16 – 1 to 6 p.m. Clarendon Volunteer Fire Department;

three in McKean County, one in Forest County, and several in Chautauqua County, N.Y., over the next month.

“If you are healthy, feeling well and eligible to give blood or platelets, please make an appointment to donate as soon as possible by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767),” according to the Red Cross.

Community Blood Bank will hold an emergency drive from 11 a.m. to 5p.m. Wednesday, March 25, at Warren General Hospital — Conference Room B. Donors are asked to use entrance B off of Crescent Park Road.

“Donors are strongly encouraged to schedule an appointment,” according to Seymour. “You can call 814-688-3696 to make your appointment and help save local lives.”

Both the Red Cross and Community Blood Bank are taking additional safety steps at drives.

Some of the measures in place include: taking the temperatures of staff and donors; providing hand sanitizer; frequent disinfection of surfaces and equipment; and moving beds farther apart where possible.


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