Over the course of just a few short weeks, the coronavirus has twisted its tendrils into the fabric of our daily lives. Due to the threat of the pandemic in Maryland — and now, with its aggressive arrival — it controls commerce, social interaction and most everything else.
One need that has been somewhat lost in this time of new and constant needs is the desperate desire for blood from healthy donors. As of this week, more than 4,500 scheduled blood drives have been canceled in the United States this month because of the coronavirus. That has resulted in a loss of more than 150,000 donations, according to the American Association of Blood Banks.
Because of the shortage of blood, hospitals in our area and across the country are canceling elective surgeries, as well as reducing the amount of blood they give patients to conserve their blood supply. This could put lives in jeopardy.
The American Red Cross is closely monitoring the outbreak of COVID-19, and concurs with the AABB that the current severe blood shortfall is due to an unprecedented number of blood drive cancellations.
The Red Cross stresses that donating blood is an essential part of ensuring community health. In addition to blood of all types, what’s especially needed are platelets and plasma.
Basically, if it’s red, they can use it.
Since the Red Cross is considered part of our nation’s critical infrastructure, healthy people could still donate in Maryland, even if Gov. Larry Hogan (R) should order a shelter-in-place declaration to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. As part of his latest statement to the citizens of Maryland, the governor said Wednesday morning that he is planning blood drives to take up the slack. He directed potential donors to www.redcross.org for more information.
This blood shortage could impact patients who need surgery, victims of car accidents and other emergencies, or patients fighting cancer. One of the most important things you can do to ensure we don’t have another health care crisis on top of coronavirus is to give now.
Earlier this week on the “Today” show on NBC, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams — who grew up in Mechanicsville and graduated from Chopticon High School — likewise encouraged people to give blood in this critical time of need.
“Social distancing does not have to mean social disengagement,” Adams said. “You can still go out and give blood. We’re worried about potential blood shortages in the future.”
Both Adams and the Red Cross insist that the coronavirus is not transmissible by blood donations or transfusions. Giving blood is a safe process. Red Cross employees have already long followed thorough safety protocols, including wearing gloves and changing them often; wiping down donor-touched areas after every collection; using sterile collection sets for every donation; preparing the arm for donation with aseptic scrub; and conducting donor mini-physicals to ensure donors are healthy and well on day of donation.
And they have even stepped up their vigilance with enhanced disinfecting of equipment; providing hand sanitizer for use before entering and throughout the donation appointment; performing temperature checks of potential donors before they enter the blood drive or donation center; and spacing beds to follow appropriate social distancing between donors.
These mitigation measures will help ensure blood recipient safety, as well as staff and donor safety in reducing contact with those who may potentially have this respiratory infection, the Red Cross says.
Of course, folks may not donate blood if they have in the past 28 days traveled to China, Iran, Italy and South Korea (Spain may be added to that list shortly), or have been in contact with a person infected with the coronavirus.
So if you can, answer the plea of the governor, the surgeon general and the Red Cross and donate blood. Even if we can’t gather in groups of 10 or more these days, that healthy pint coming from you can connect you in a life-giving way with another person.