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Red Cross asking for more blood donations due to severe blood shortages in wake of coronavirus threat

Empty blood donation seats are seen at The American Red Cross donation center in Scranton, Pa., on Monday, March 9, 2020. Due to the flu season and coronavirus, donations to The American Red Cross are down across the country.Jake Danna Stevens/Associated Press

The American Red Cross is facing “severe” blood shortages as blood drives continue to be canceled across Massachusetts over concerns of the coronavirus pandemic.

As of Monday afternoon, 115 blood drives in Massachusetts — which would have collected 3,130 units of blood altogether — had been canceled, said Kelly Isenor, a Red Cross spokeswoman.

“Nationally, it is a similar story – nearly 2,700 blood drives were cancelled as of [Monday] afternoon, resulting in 86,000 fewer donations than expected,” Isenor said.

The canceled drives were mostly scheduled to be held in workplaces, college campuses, and schools, which make up 80 percent of sources for blood donations to the Red Cross, Isenor said.


The organization is asking that scheduled blood drives go on as planned to make sure cancer patients, victims of car accidents and other emergencies, and those needing surgery receive transfusions of blood, platelets, or plasma. Healthy people who already meet the donor requirements can also give blood at local donation centers, which are listed on the Red Cross’s website.

If enough donations are not received, the Red Cross said the country could have another health crisis on its hands.

“During a crisis, we see the best of humanity when Americans step up and help their neighbors," Isenor said. "In the midst of this coronavirus emergency, we are asking people to take this responsibility seriously by practicing social distancing and donating blood.”

There is currently no evidence that the coronavirus or other respiratory viruses can be transmitted through blood transfusions, the Red Cross said.

However, the Red Cross said potential donors should wait 28 days to give blood after returning from China, Iran, Italy, and South Korea. Those who have been diagnosed with the coronavirus or have had close contact with someone who has a confirmed or presumptive case of the virus will not be allowed to donate.


The Red Cross has ramped up safety protocols to protect donors and members of the organization from the spread of the coronavirus.

Those seeking to donate blood will be given small physicals and have their temperature taken when they arrive at blood drives or donation centers to make sure they are healthy. Beds for donors will be spaced according to social distancing guidelines as much as possible, the Red Cross said, and hand sanitizer will be available at each center or drive.

Red Cross employees will continue to follow the organization’s standard infection prevention protocols, like changing their gloves often, using sterile needles for each donation, wiping down areas a donor touches after each donation, and dabbing the donor’s arm with aseptic scrub.

“The top priority of the Red Cross is the safety of our donors, volunteers, employees and blood recipients, and we are committed to transparency with the American public during this evolving public health emergency," the organization said.

Visit the Red Cross’s website for more information about donating blood.

Caroline Enos can be reached at caroline.enos@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @CarolineEnos.