Coronavirus ‘public health emergency’ prompts appeals for blood donations

The novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is impacting blood donations that already are in a seasonal slump because of the cold and flu. As a result, appeals are going out for donors to help.

“We are, right now, in a public health emergency, and it’s critical that we have a stable, readily available blood supply for our hospital patients,” said Regina E. Boothe Bratton of the American Red Cross.

Compared to previous years, donations nationwide are down by 8,000 units over three days this week at American Red Cross donation centers, Bratton said. Donations are needed everywhere, because blood banks share resources.

“Speaking universally, we are working in tandem,” Bratton said. “This is not a competition thing, this is a health issue.”

D.C.-area hospitals are served by both the American Red Cross and Inova Blood Donor Services, which also is experiencing shortages.

The blood donation process is regulated by rigorous safety protocols that are being complemented with additional measures to address coronavirus concerns. However, officials say it’s still safe to donate blood.

Before potential donors enter donation centers, their temperatures are checked and they’re given personal hygiene advice, such as a reminder to cover their mouth before coughing.

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Staff regularly wash and/or sanitize their hands and wear protective gloves.

Donations have decreased because people are choosing not to go out and risk exposure to ailments, Bratton said. However, if you feel OK and can donate, she said you should feel comfortable doing so.

“We need your help. We need you to partner with us. Roll up your sleeve and donate,” Bratton said.

Inova has $10 gas cards while supplies last for people who complete the screening process at its donation centers in Dulles, Woodburn and Centreville on Thursday, March 19.

Locations for Inova Blood Donor Services can be found online or by calling 1-866-BLOODSAVES (1-866-256-6372).

You can find American Red Cross donation locations online or by calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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