The American Red Cross issued a clarion call for blood donations last month as it faced a severe blood shortage due to an unprecedented number of blood drive cancellations.

Ken Mano heard the urgent call and reached out to a local Red Cross donor representative to see about hosting a blood drive — help the organization was glad to accept.

Mano’s church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Pleasanton, already hosts an annual blood drive. This year’s event is scheduled later this summer.

“We will still hold our scheduled blood drive in July,” wrote Mano in an email to The Independent. “This is an extra one we decided to schedule to help out.”

Blood donors are needed now more than ever, according to blood centers, which have reported inventories down by an estimated 30% to 40%.

As of mid-March, nearly 2,700 Red Cross blood drives have been canceled along with the closure of workplaces, college campuses and schools in response to the coronavirus outbreak, according to the Red Cross. More than 80% of the blood Red Cross collects comes from drives held at these locations.

Calls and emails to the Bay Area Chapter of the American Red Cross seeking specific information about local blood supplies and collection efforts were not returned by press time.

In a March 12 joint press release from the American Red Cross, America’s Blood Centers, the American Association of Blood Banks and the Armed Services Blood Program, the organizations reported fear about the coronavirus was keeping people from wanting to donate blood. This was before massive shutdowns of businesses and schools were ordered by public health officials.

The coronavirus does not pose any known risk to blood donors during the donation process or from attending blood drives, according to the joint press release.

“It is safe to donate blood,” said Dr. Admiral Brett P. Giroir, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services assistant secretary for health. “Part of preparedness includes a robust blood supply. Healthy individuals should schedule an appointment to donate today to ensure that blood is available for those patients who need it.”

Blood centers are regulated by the FDA and must follow specific guidelines to ensure safe blood is available for patients at all times.

At each blood drive and donation center, Red Cross employees already follow thorough safety protocols to help prevent the spread of any type of infection, including: wearing gloves and changing gloves with each donor; routinely wiping down donor-touched areas; using sterile collection sets for every donation; and preparing the arm for donation with an aseptic scrub.

The Red Cross has implemented new measures to ensure blood drives and donation centers are even safer for donors and staff including: checking the temperature of staff and donors before entering a drive to make sure they are healthy; providing hand sanitizer for use before the drive, as well as throughout the donation process; spacing beds, where possible, to follow social-distancing practices between blood donors; and enhancing methods for disinfecting surfaces and equipment.

There is no data or evidence that the coronavirus can be transmitted by blood transfusion. There have been no reported cases of transfusion transmission for any respiratory virus including this coronavirus worldwide.

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