1. News
  2. /
  3. Health

Coronavirus jeopardizes blood supply, banks call for donations

Blood banks across the nation are asking people to donate as blood drives are canceled

Stories about the coronavirus pandemic are free to read as a public service at Sign up for our DayStarter newsletter to receive updates weekday mornings. If this coverage is important to you, consider supporting local journalism by subscribing to the Tampa Bay Times at

• • •

Although having students and employees stay home has been recommended to stop the spread of coronavirus, it’s having an adverse effect on another part of the health industry -- blood banks.

OneBlood, a donation center across Florida, has already canceled 2,300 blood drives they had planned, said Susan Forbes, the senior vice president of corporate communications and public relations. Many blood drives are held at schools or businesses, which have shuttered.

That would have led to 37,000 blood donations. OneBlood has put out an urgent call for donations to make sure the blood supply doesn’t dip, especially as the number of patients in hospitals heightens the need for blood.

“This will be impacting our operations for months to come,” Forbes said. “This is an unprecedented situation that's happening to the blood supply.”

She said since putting out the call to help, they’ve seen good response from donors coming in to OneBlood centers or going to Big Red Bus locations, but they need sustained donations for the coming months.

Phlebotomists who collect blood are already under strict guidance from the FDA, but Forbes said donors can be reassured to know everything a donor touches, from tablets to the blood pressure cup, is disinfected after each use. OneBlood will also adhere to social distancing practices and make sure there aren’t too many people in donation centers or on the buses, she said.

“This whole thing is showing you an inside look at the massive effort that it takes to ensure a ready blood supply,” Forbes said.

According to the FDA, every two seconds a patient needs a blood transfusion. AABB, an international nonprofit that represents those involved with transfusions, said people are not at risk of getting coronavirus from the blood supply because it’s a respiratory illness.

And Forbes said only healthy people can donate, so routine screening would remove anyone who is sick.

“We’re open,” she said. “We’ll never close.”

• • •

Tampa Bay Times coronavirus coverage

EVENT CANCELLATIONS: Get the latest updates on events planned in the Tampa Bay area in the coming weeks.

STORES REACT TO VIRUS: Some businesses adjust hours or announce temporary closings.

BE PREPARED: Guidelines for essentials to keep in your home should you have to stay inside.

STOCK UP YOUR PANTRY: Foods that should always be in your kitchen, for emergencies and everyday life.

JOIN THE FACEBOOK GROUP: See updates and tips posts, and ask questions of our journalists.

FOLLOW OUR COVERAGE ON SOCIAL MEDIA: Facebook. Instagram. Twitter. Reddit.

LISTEN TO THE CORONAVIRUS PODCAST: New episodes every week, including interviews with experts and reporters

HAVE A TIP?: Send us confidential news tips.

We’re working hard to bring you the latest news on the coronavirus in Florida. This effort takes a lot of resources to gather and update. If you haven’t already subscribed, please consider buying a print or digital subscription.