U.S. Army Spc. Hayeon McCurley prepares U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Kimberly Gray to give blood. U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Areca T. Bell

Coronavirus has caused thousands of blood drives to be canceled to avoid spreading the disease. Now health professionals are warning that a resulting blood supply shortage could cause health complications for patients. 

The American Red Cross said blood drive cancellations have caused the organization to receive 200,000 fewer blood donations than expected, and the organization fears the number of received donations will continue to decrease as the pandemic progresses. Long Island hospitals are doing their best to make their current supplies of blood last as long as possible and have taken the precaution of postponing non-essential elective procedures. But hospitals still need a steady supply of blood to deal with medical emergencies and treatments.

“Red blood cells are crucial to helping people who are either anemic or are bleeding,” explains Dr. Alexander Indrikovs, the associate chair of laboratory medicine at Northwell Health. “Another blood component called “platelets” is mostly used to prevent or treat bleeding in patients with low platelet counts, such as cancer patients receiving chemotherapy. We don’t need 50,000 donors to go out and donate all at once because donations can only be stored for so long. Instead, a steady stream of donations to flow daily is necessary.” 

To help, the American Red Cross and other blood donation agencies like the New York Blood Center, are ramping up safety measures to make sure people are safe when they donate. Some of these protocols include; spacing donation beds to provide social distancing, having their employees and people who donate participate in a self-assessment of their health, constant sterilization of areas touched by donors, and providing hand sanitizer for people to use before and after their donation. 

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

For information about upcoming opportunities to donate blood locally visit redcrossblood.org or donate.nybc.org.

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