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COVID-19 adding to challenges at Red Cross

The American Red Cross typically has a tough time keeping the blood supply strong during the winter months when inclement weather and seasonal illnesses can impact donors.

The COVID-19 pandemic adds another challenge in keeping the blood supply strong. The Red Cross is asking healthy individuals to make an appointment to give blood or platelets this month.

Every day there are thousands of patients who rely on lifesaving blood donations – people like Leslie Johnson. In 2005, a farming accident left Johnson with broken bones and massive bleeding. In the first 24 hours after the accident, she received 10 units of blood and platelets. Additional transfusions and surgeries followed.

Johnson’s high school-age daughter, Emily, hosted a blood drive last semester because she recognizes the role of blood in helping save her mom’s life.

“If blood had not been available when she needed it, she might not be here today. I might not have had my mom growing up. It’s my honor to be able to promote blood donation and help pay it forward to others in need.”

As Leslie Johnson faces additional surgeries to address ongoing injuries from the accident, she may need more blood transfusions.

“It’s so important, especially as we navigate this pandemic, to make sure there is blood available,” said Emily. “Blood is such a meaningful gift to give.”

The Red Cross is testing blood, platelet and plasma donations for COVID-19 antibodies. The test may indicate if the donor’s immune system has produced antibodies to this coronavirus, regardless of whether an individual developed COVID-19 symptoms. Red Cross antibody tests will be helpful to identify individuals who have COVID-19 antibodies and may now help current coronavirus patients in need of convalescent plasma transfusions. Convalescent plasma is a type of blood donation collected from COVID-19 survivors that have antibodies that may help patients who are actively fighting the virus. Plasma from whole blood donations that test positive for COVID-19 antibodies may be used to help COVID-19 patients.

COVID-19 antibody test results will be available within one to two weeks in the Red Cross Blood Donor App or donor portal at RedCrossBlood.org. A positive antibody test result does not confirm infection or immunity. The Red Cross is not testing donors to diagnose illness, referred to as a diagnostic test. To protect the health and safety of Red Cross staff and donors, it is important that individuals who do not feel well or believe they may be ill with COVID-19 postpone donation.

Each Red Cross blood drive and donation center follows the highest standards of safety and infection control, and additional precautions including temperature checks, social distancing and face coverings for donors and staff – have been implemented to help protect the health of all those in attendance. Donors are asked to schedule an appointment prior to arriving at the drive and are required to wear a face covering or mask while at the drive, in alignment with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention public guidance.

All blood types are needed to ensure a reliable supply for patients. A blood donor card or driver’s license or two other forms of identification are required at check-in. Individuals who are 17 years of age in most states (16 with parental consent where allowed by state law), weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood. High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger also have to meet certain height and weight requirements.

For more information or to make an appointment, download the American Red Cross Blood Donor App, visit RedCrossBlood.org or call 800-733-2767.

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