On any average year, it’s essential for those who can to give back and help others in need. March 25th is a day to give back and support those helpers in our communities who work tirelessly to care for those in need of help. And while during any normal year this day is important, it’s pretty undeniably clear that 2020 is not any normal year. 2020 is the year of the coronavirus, when the entire world is not only combatting a common enemy in the form of a global pandemic, but is also being asked to do the seemingly impossible — to unite as a human race to stop the spread of an invisible enemy, and to do anything and everything we can to help first responders and volunteers on the front lines.
There’s never been a better or more important time to honor American Red Cross Giving Day than right now. While the official day to give generously is March 25th, we’d venture to say that there is no bad day to help, and that no assistance is unnecessary or invaluable.
Every year the funds raised on Red Cross Giving Day go to help families and people in need across the country, by providing hope and urgent relief, covering the costs of necessities like food, shelter, and other essentials. For every dollar raised, 90 cents is invested in delivering care and comfort to those in need. And we all know that there are plenty of families in need every day, due to events such as natural disasters or home fires and other struggles. American Red Cross volunteers and staff donate time, money, and blood to help those in need, by not only giving funds but also learning, teaching and practicing life-saving skills to be armed in preparation for any kind of emergency. When things get tough, the Red Cross are the helpers. And now the helpers need our help.
So, how can you actually make an immediate impact?
For starters, the Red Cross needs blood from healthy individuals urgently. As in, right now.
Generally speaking, the winter season is a dry time for blood donations. Blame it on the flu circulating communities or the cold weather, but people tend to put off donating blood until the winter has passed and healthier/warmer months come our way. And while that’s not ideal on any average year, we repeat, 2020 is not average in any way.
Blood drives are being cancelled left and right, with people both being told to stay home and self-quarantine or practice social distancing, avoiding crowds and public (potentially germ-infested) places. According to reports from the American Red Cross, about 1,500 of their annual blood drives in various locations across the country have been cancelled due to concerns related to the coronavirus. All those cancelled blood drives and missed opportunities for people to donate blood equates to a massive drop in blood supply for those in need. And while the threat of COVID-19 is certainly top of mind and a huge worry for millions of people across the globe, there are still other medical conditions to consider — people still need blood transfusions, patients are still recovering from burn and accident injuries, hospitals still need blood donations, and the supply is dwindling.
“We’re asking the American people to help keep the blood supply stable during this challenging time. As communities across the country prepare for this public health emergency, it’s critical that plans include a readily available blood supply for hospital patients,” said Chris Hrouda, president, Red Cross Blood Services, in a recent press release. “As fears of the coronavirus rise, low donor participation could harm blood availability at hospitals, and the last thing a patient should worry about is whether lifesaving blood will be on the shelf when they need it most,” he said in a plead for public assistance and action.
Curt Bailey, president and CEO of Bloodworks Northwest, told Time that just a couple of weeks ago in early March, “we sounded the alarm and said the blood supply is going to collapse…We used that word, which we had never used before, to make it very clear to people: this is it.” Soon if we don’t fix this unprecedented crisis, the Red Cross will reach critical levels of inventory for blood supply.
Hrouda urges, if you are healthy and able, “keep giving, keep hosting blood drives. Patients across the country need our help.”
Healthy being a key word here. Only consider donating blood if you are healthy, have no symptoms of the coronavirus or the flu, and have not traveled abroad or come into contact with anyone who is suspected to have the virus. Follow CDC recommendations, and pay close attention to the current state of your health and those around you. While there is no data to support that the coronavirus can be transmitted by blood transfusion, the Red Cross is still committed to protecting the health and safety of patients, volunteers and staff, especially during this pandemic. Workers are taking people’s temperatures before they even enter blood drives, donors are being spaced out so they are 6 feet away from each other, and facilities are being cleaned down thoroughly per CDC protocol.
If you are healthy and able, please consider donating blood. The entire process only takes about an hour, with the actual blood donation taking about 8-10 minutes. You need to bring a blood donor card or driver’s license or two other forms of identification that are required at check-in.
And even if you are not able or willing to donate blood in this current climate, there are still other ways to help. On March 25th, and literally any day before or after that, the Red Cross is encouraging donations from those able to give. No amount is too small, no generous offering insignificant. Any amount helps, and the funds will go to support the lifesaving work of the American Red Cross, an organization committed to helping those in need in challenging times or in the aftermath of emergency events — and there’s no denying it, now is a challenging time.