Coronavirus affecting the nation’s blood supply

A looming shortage threatens the nation’s blood supply as donations drop.

Editor's Note: The information published in this story is accurate at the time of publication. Always refer to for UAB's current guidelines and recommendations relating to COVID-19.

COVID 19donationjoomlaAmerica’s blood supply, already limited, has been dramatically affected by the novel coronavirus epidemic. As part of recommended social distancing, many frequent or casual blood donors have curtailed their normal activities, including blood donation. Yet the need for blood products remains constant. As a result, blood supplies are rapidly running out.

“The American Red Cross is urging hospitals to reduce blood use in an effort to maintain suitable reserves for those patients who could need a blood transfusion, such as those with cancer, sickle cell disease, undergoing emergent surgery, trauma victims or post-partum women,” said Marisa Marques, M.D., director of Transfusion Services at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. “We are urging citizens to donate at this time of tremendous need.” 

The Red Cross, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the United States Food and Drug Administration echo that request. Blood centers have implemented multiple strategies to reduce any potential risk of exposure to staff and donors.

“The last thing a patient should have to worry about during this time is a blood shortage,” said Marla Troughton, M.D., medical director of the Alabama Region of the American Red Cross. “Donating blood is a safe process, and people should not hesitate to

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give or receive blood. If you are healthy, feeling well, and eligible to give blood or platelets, please make an appointment to donate. You can help change the headlines with a blood donation.”

To find a blood drive or fixed donation location, go to the American Red Cross website.  

Donors can give blood up to six times a year, every eight weeks. The process takes about 45 minutes; the actual blood collection usually takes less than 20 minutes. Donors should bring a photo ID.

UAB is one of the largest users nationally of blood supplied by the Red Cross. Blood products are used during surgery, transplantation, trauma care, difficult pregnancies and cancer treatment. It is not unheard-of for a single patient to require as many as 100 units.