Blood donation in Utah falls precipitously over coronavirus worry

Mar 17, 2020, 5:44 PM
sickle cell...
Concern over the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus have seen blood donation and drives fall far below what hospitals need. (Screen grab from American Red Cross video.)
(Screen grab from American Red Cross video.)

SALT LAKE CITY – Blood donation centers in Utah and across the country are seeing a massive drop in donors since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak.  Some program managers are calling it a “crisis within a crisis.”

Blood drives at schools, offices and churches account for roughly 80 percent of the blood collected by The Red Cross.  However, since the outbreak began, there have been about 2,700 drive cancellations across the country, likely due to fear of the virus spreading.  Officials in Utah say it’s hard to pinpoint exactly how many cancellations have happened in this state because the number changes on a daily basis.

Utah Red Cross Communications Director Rich Woodruff says, “I do know, from talking to our folks in blood services, that these cancellations continue to roll in on a daily basis.  It’s almost like a domino effect.”

Overall, the organization has received nearly 86 thousand fewer donations, nationwide.

“The donors just aren’t showing up,” Woodruff said.

Demand remains, so blood drives continue

However, Woodruff says the demand for blood is still high, so, they’re still taking donations through remote drives.  He says if anyone still wants to donate, they can log on to The Red Cross’ website and find a convenient drive-by location by typing in their zip code.

“If one is no longer available,” Woodruff said, “what we try to do is redirect the donor to another one that’s convenient, or to one of the fixed sites.”

The centers in Utah are still open and still taking in donations.  However, the organization is taking more steps to ensure people feel safe when they arrive.  Woodruff says they’re spacing out beds to follow recommended social distancing practices. They’re also increasing the number of times they disinfect their equipment.  Also, every person’s temperature will be taken before they enter a blood drive location.


(Healthy donors needed during Coronavirus outbreak from American Red Cross on Vimeo.)

“We prescreen everyone that comes in to make sure their temperature is OK.  [They fill out] a brief questionnaire,” Woodruff says.

The need is great, nationwide. Red Cross officials say doctors in Ann Arbor, Michigan report having only one day’s worth of blood supply for the entire hospital.


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