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ATLANTA – Every two seconds, a patient in the United States needs a blood transfusion, according to the American Red Cross.
The coronavirus pandemic is threatening the nation’s supply of blood. Social distancing is forcing the cancellation of thousands of blood drives across the country.
While the coronavirus forces people to stay inside, there is a critical blood shortage as the demand continues.
Paul Sullivan, the senior vice president of donor services for the American Red Cross, said the coronavirus has presented the Red Cross with several challenges.
Donor gives blood at blood drive
“What coronavirus has brought on is unprecedented [in terms of] the number of blood drives we have had to move, the number of donors we have had to come to new locations or find us in different places is unprecedented,” Sullivan said.
The American Red Cross provides more than 40 percent of the nation’s blood supply. However, nearly 80 percent of blood that the Red Cross collects comes from blood drives that may have been canceled.
“We measure our blood inventory in days of supply and we normally like to have a five day plus worth of inventory and right now we measure that in just a couple of days,” Sullivan said.
Inside the blood drive, blood is measured after donations are recieved.
Since there is a decrease in the amount of blood drives, there are approximately 325,000 fewer blood donations. In order to close the gap, the Red Cross is working to schedule additional blood drives and encourage donors to give.
Yet, hospitals across the country are feeling the impact of the blood shortage. The director of Atlanta’s Piedmont hospital, Mark Arneson, said their hospital has roughly 40 percent less blood on hand.
“We’ve had to really monitor it really well and we have had to cut back some surgeries that might use some units of blood. So far, we have been okay, but the problem is we don’t have enough on the shelves just in case,” Arneson said.
According to America’s blood centers seven percent of the nation has just a one- to two-day supply, two percent have zero to one-day blood supply, and only 46 percent had three or more days of blood.
Nurse prepares donor to give blood at blood drive.
“If certain parts of the country are not able to support us, if there is a greater need for blood due to something not related to COVID-19, but some sort of disaster – we want to be ready and right now the inventory is tight,” Sullivan said.
The American Red Cross is encouraging donors to continue to give blood if they are well.
“It is important to us because we have to make sure we continue to have blood available to patients throughout this challenging set of time,” Sullivan said.
The Red Cross is taking precautions with enhanced cleaning, temperature checks, and social distancing.
“We have to be there tomorrow, we have to be there next week, next month and that means we need people to call us to make appointments so we can maintain that steady supply,” Sullivan said.
If you are interested in giving blood, visit redcrossblood.org to find blood drives near you.
“We still obviously need blood and there’s always going to be a call for it, so if they’re able to donate I would be really appreciative, and our community would be as well,” Arneson said.
According to the Red Cross, the outpouring of support during this time has been equally unprecedented.