Coronavirus restrictions could lead to U.S. blood shortage in two weeks: blood banks group

NEW YORK (Reuters) - About half of the blood centers in the United States are already reporting low inventory levels and the country could see shortages in about two weeks as blood drives are canceled due to the fast-spreading coronavirus outbreak, AABB, formerly known as the American Association of Blood Banks, said on Tuesday.

“As of yesterday, there were more than 4,000 canceled blood drives throughout the country representing approximately 130,000 fewer blood donations,” Brian Gannon, who chairs a disaster task force for AABB, said in an emailed statement.

“In addition, we are seeing a significant decrease in people coming to blood centers to donate blood. This represents a real concern for patient care,” he added.

U.S. blood banks have been concerned about potential shortages as Americans worried about exposure to the highly contagious new coronavirus avoid donation sites and companies with employees working from home cancel blood drives.

Blood banks in Washington state experienced a shortage earlier this month that required other blood centers to ship blood from outside the region, and supplies in New York state also dipped. New York and Washington state have the nation’s highest number of confirmed cases of COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the new coronavirus.

The American Red Cross also raised the alarm about blood shortages, saying it expects the number of cancellations to continue to increase. The blood shortage could impact patients who need surgery, victims of car accidents and other emergencies, or patients suffering from cancer, it said.

“I am looking at the refrigerator that contains only one day’s supply of blood for the hospital,” Robertson Davenport, director of Transfusion Medicine at Michigan Medicine in Ann Arbor said in a Red Cross statement. “The hospital is full. There are patients who need blood and cannot wait.”

Both the AABB and the American Red Cross encourage Americans to continue to donate. Coronavirus is not transmissible via transfusion, according to the American Red Cross.

The Red Cross said Americans can schedule an appointment to give blood at, using the Red Cross Blood Donor App or calling 1-800-RED-CROSS.

Reporting by Michael Erman, Editing by Franklin Paul and Bill Berkrot