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March 12, 2020

Blood supply dwindling in Philly region as coronavirus scares donors away

Update, March 19, 2020

The American Red Cross now faces a severe blood shortage nationwide prompted by cancellations to blood drives. More than 2,700 blood drives have been canceled across the United States, resulting in 86,000 fewer blood donations. 

Healthy individuals are urged to donate blood by scheduling an appointment at or by calling 1-800-RED-CROSS. 

The American Red Cross is struggling to maintain its blood supply in the Philadelphia area as coronavirus fears sweep the region.

The organization's Eastern Pennsylvania chapter, which covers Southeastern Pennsylvania, needs to bank 600 pints of blood each day to meet hospital demand. That is not happening.

"We are experiencing a challenge to keep the blood supplies stable," said Alana Mauger, communications manager for the American Red Cross Blood Services.

Blood donations typically dip during respiratory season, Mauger said. But the spreading coronavirus has kept even more people home. About 12 blood drives have been canceled in the region since March, she said.

The same situation is playing out at blood centers across the United States. But health officials insist it's safe to give blood – and badly needed.

Many cancer patients rely on blood and platelet transfusions. Further depletions could cause the postponement of non-essential procedures.

"That's something we absolutely do not want to have happen," said Dr. Peter Marks, director of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research. "To ensure an adequate blood supply we need people to come out and donate blood."

The coronavirus poses no known risk to the donation process, officials say.

Donation tables are sanitized and all equipment is sterilized, Mauger said. Donors are screened for illness beforehand. And hand sanitizer is available.

"We always have safety precautions in place that we'll continue," Mauger said.

Anyone who recently has traveled to China, Hong Kong, Italy or South Korea is being asked to postpone their donation for 28 days.

Additionally, no coronavirus cases have been traced to blood transfusions.

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