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Los Angeles County health officials and the Red Cross made an urgent call for donors Tuesday after the cancellation of nearly 2,700 blood drives across the U.S., including more than 160 in Southern California, caused a “severe” shortage during the coronavirus outbreak.

The Red Cross released this infographic on March 17, 2020 with information about donating blood.
The Red Cross released this infographic on March 17, 2020 with information about donating blood.

The “unprecedented” cancellations resulted from the temporary closures of schools and workplaces, the organization said.

In Southern California, the Red Cross has seen about 5,500 fewer donations in the past few weeks.

The nonprofit urged healthy individuals to give blood as soon as possible with a reassurance that it is safe to do so.

“We know that people want to help, but they may be hesitant to visit a blood drive during this time,” said a statement from Chris Hrouda, president of the Red Cross Biomedical Services. “We want to assure the public that blood donation is a safe process, and we have put additional precautions in place at our blood drives and donation centers to protect all who come out.”

In a news conference on Tuesday, L.A. County Department of Public Health Director Christina Ghaly also highlighted the need for the continuous replenishment of blood supply at hospitals.

The county is planning to establish additional blood donation sites in the coming weeks, Ghaly said.

Donation centers are checking the temperatures of staff and donors before they enter a blood drive, according to the Red Cross. Other precautionary measures include offering hand sanitizers throughout the donation process, increasing the distance between blood donors, and the regular disinfection of surfaces and equipment.

The Red Cross said there is no evidence that the coronavirus can be transmitted through blood transfusion, and that there have been no reports of the spread of a respiratory virus through blood.

Those interested can visit the organization’s website to schedule an appointment at a nearby donation center. To cut time spent at the site, donors can complete the required questionnaire online or through the Red Cross app. (Click here for more information on who’s eligible to donate blood.)

“Volunteer donors are the unsung heroes for patients in need of lifesaving blood transfusions,” Hrouda said. “If you are healthy, feeling well and eligible to give, please schedule an appointment to give now.”