Stopping elective surgeries helped halt ‘severe’ shortage of blood donations, but increased need for blood may return in weeks

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RICHMOND, Va (WRIC) — The American Red Cross’ mid-March notice of a ‘severe shortage’ of blood donations followed blood drive cancellations across the country, but donor response and Virginia Governor Ralph Northam’s directive for all hospitals to postpone elective surgeries shored-up the need for more blood donations.

In the event a shortage of blood donations returns once Northam’s extension to postpone elective surgeries ends on May 1, the American Red Cross is asking people to schedule donation appointments weeks in advance.

“We still are urging the public to continue maintaining their donation appointments if they have them, as well as to continue to schedule platelet donations because there is a shelf life for blood,” Jonathan McNamara said, a spokesperson for the American Red Cross at their Virginia Regional Office.

Northam extended the halt on elective surgeries Thursday, after his initial directive on March 25 in order to “help conserve supplies of personal protective equipment,” according to a statement.

If mass-blood drive locations are needed, McNamara says the American Red Cross is discussing with partners of large spaces to potentially act as hosts, though he says no plan is set in stone.

“They could be at hotel ballrooms, convention centers, and in some parts of the country we’re doing them in sports arenas and stadiums. So this is a conversation that’s different in each area based on the supply demands, and that situation is shifting a situations on the ground change,” McNamara said.

McNamara noted the American Red Cross is noticing that blood drive appointment times are filled quickly after being posted online; another reason, he said, people are urged to schedule appointments weeks in advance.

Visit the American Red Cross website to find blood drive sites, and to schedule an appointment.

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