The American Red Cross is urging healthy individuals to donate blood as the supply in both Maine and nationwide takes a hit as donations drop amid concerns about the coronavirus outbreak. 

According to Mary Brant, communications manager of biomedical services at American Red Cross of Maine, roughly 2,700 blood drives have been canceled across the country since Friday, leaving 86,000 blood donations uncollected. In Maine, 33 blood drives have been canceled, leaving 946 fewer blood donations. This numbers are expected to rise as concerns over the pandemic continue to escalate. 

The shortage of blood supplies does not affect patients afflicted with COVID-19 or the ability of health providers to respond to cases of that illness. However, a reliable supply of donated blood is crucial for certain surgical procedures, victims of car accidents, cancer patients and a range of other emergency operations. The Red Cross is working to address risks and concerns surrounding the virus, so that donors will continue to give blood.

“Extra precautionary measures are being taken to ensure the safety of their donors and staff,” Brant explains, “For both blood drives and donor centers, temperatures are being taken of staff and donors upon entrance, hand sanitizing stations are being placed for use before entering as well as throughout the donation process, and beds are being spaced out to allow social distancing practices between donors.” 

These preventive practices coincide with existing FDA standard operating procedures, which call for strict measures such as requiring all donor-touched surfaces and equipment to be sanitized between uses, and for all employees drawing blood to wear gloves. 

Despite increased safety protocols and escalating public outreach efforts, the number of blood drives and donors has continued to dwindle. 

“To help us ensure that there won’t be a shortage in the blood supply, we need people who are healthy and eligible to donate blood,” Brant remarked. “There is no replacement for a healthy volunteer blood donor.” 

The Portland Blood Donation Center is at 524 Forest Ave. in Portland. Donors can schedule an appointment, find upcoming blood drives, and learn more information by visiting the organization’s website or by calling (800) 733-2767.

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