Surgeon General Addresses Crisis Shortage of Donated Blood : 'Give Blood. Today.'

Posted: Mar 19, 2020 2:45 PM
Surgeon General Addresses Crisis Shortage of Donated Blood : 'Give Blood. Today.'

Source: AP Photo/Alex Brandon

As the country practices safe "social distancing" and self-isolation amid the Wuhan virus pandemic, blood donations have slowed to the point that the people in need are at great risk. 

The American Red Cross issued a statement on Tuesday outlining the impact that fear over the Wuhan virus has had on their normally anticipated donations. "We now face a severe blood shortage due to an unprecedented number of blood drive cancellations during this #coronavirus outbreak. Make an appointment to help patients counting on lifesaving blood," a tweet from the nonprofit organization said.

The request for urgent help was seconded by U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams during the Thursday Coronavirus Task Force update from the White House. 

"Donated blood is an essential part of caring for patients and one donation can save up to three lives," Adams said, with a special request to millennials and the younger 'Generation Z' to take part in making much needed donations. "Social distancing doesn't have to mean social disengagement," he said. Donated blood is used for a variety of medical procedures including cancer treatment, trauma response, childbirth, anemia, and many other medical reasons.

Red Cross president of Biomedical Services Chris Hrouda said on Tuesday that the crisis of blood shortage happened swiftly and caused immediate depletion of resources. 

"In really good times we may have five days of inventory available for our hospital clients and now we're running at a day or day-and-a-half in some cases," he said. 

The current stock of blood for life-saving procedures represented a "severe shortage," according to the organization. The Red Cross is responsible for approximately 40 percent of all blood donations in the United States. 

Adams also addressed concerns over the safety of donating blood during the pandemic, attempting to alleviate concerns with information about the safe practices being used to collect blood from healthy donors. 

"Blood centers are open now and in need of your donation," Adams said. "I want America to know that blood donation is safe and blood centers are taking extra precautions at this time based on new CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] recommendations, including spacing beds six feet apart, disinfecting surfaces between patients, temperature checking staff, and encouraging donors to make appointments ahead of time so we can space them out."

The surgeon general concluded his remarks with a direct appeal to healthy Americans to consider an urgent donation. 

"So, give blood. Today. You'll feel good about it and you'll be helping your country and your community during this crisis. And you might even save a life."