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Coronavirus jeopardizes blood supply, banks call for donations

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

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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.”

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