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As the Coronavirus Pandemic Rages On, American Red Cross Fears a Blood Supply Shortage

— March 25, 2020

As more and more businesses and schools shut down over the coronavirus, more and more blood drives are being cancelled, creating a blood shortage.

The coronavirus is continuing to wreak havoc on the country, with some areas hit harder than others. Unfortunately, the outbreak is potentially creating another urgent public health crisis: a blood shortage. As the coronavirus continues to spread throughout communities, more and more blood drives are being canceled due to social distancing mandates, leaving some doctors worried that the shortage of blood could leave their patients in dire straights.

An illustration of the novel coronavirus, named Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), responsible for COVID-19. Image by CDC, via
An illustration of the novel coronavirus, named Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), responsible for COVID-19. Image by CDC, via

An alarming report from the American Red Cross said that more than 5,000 blood drives have been canceled since March 19, “resulting in approximately 170,000 fewer donations.” Many of the locations where blood drives are typically held have shut down for social distancing, including schools, college campuses, and workplaces. The organization said:

“Right now, American Red Cross faces a severe blood shortage due to an unprecedented number of blood drive cancellations during this coronavirus outbreak. This blood shortage could impact patients who need surgery, victims of car accidents and other emergencies, or patients fighting cancer.”

The organization is urging healthy individuals to donate blood, platelets, and plasma as soon as possible. Dr. Jennifer Andrews chimed in on the matter and said, “This could lead to mortality. This could kill our patients.” Andrews is the director of the blood bank at Vanderbilt University medical center and pediatric hematologist. Like many hospitals in the U.S., Vanderbilt receives most of its blood supply from the American Red Cross. Andrews added:

“This is really serious – it’s put many large hospitals, like Vanderbilt, in a crunch, where we’re not expecting our usual deliveries from the American Red Cross…Unfortunately, with all these blood donors not coming in to donate as they usually do, it’s happening across the nation. We’re preparing for the worst. There are no blood alternatives. Patients with leukemia or other cancers, patients who are in a motor vehicle accident or bleeding after childbirth – they need blood.”

Other doctors around the country are also concerned about blood shortages. For example, Dr. Robertson Davenport, the transfusion medicine director at Michigan Medicine in Ann Arbor, said, “I am looking at the refrigerator that contains only one day’s supply of blood for the hospital. The hospital is full. There are patients who need blood and cannot wait.”

Unfortunately, this blood shortage is expected to continue as long as social distancing mandates remain I place. People are continuing to cancel their donation appointments, even though the American Red Cross and public health officials say that donating blood is totally safe. Since the coronavirus outbreak, the American Red Cross has “launched additional safety precautions for donors and staff.” Some of these precautions include “temperature checks before donors enter a blood drive or donation center. When possible, staff will also space beds to foster social distancing between donors.” America’s Blood Centers, a not-for-profit organization also stated, “There is no known risk to the safety of the nation’s blood supply due to coronavirus.”

Interested in scheduling an appointment to donate blood? Visit


 ‘This could kill our patients’: US faces blood shortage as donation sites shutter

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