Red Cross faced with blood shortage

COVID-19 concerns cancel many blood drives

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HELPING OUT Danelle Jahn of Gilroy prepares to give blood with the help of American Red Cross staffer Harold Andrews during a blood drive at First Baptist Church on March 25. Photo: Erik Chalhoub

As COVID-19 concerns exploded throughout the country, the American Red Cross, like most other organizations, was faced with an onslaught of cancellations.

But for the Red Cross, such cancellations could result in a life-or-death situation for someone in need.

In recent weeks, roughly 7,000 Red Cross blood drives were canceled in the country, resulting in 200,000 fewer blood donations.

Northern California, meanwhile, had 118 drives canceled, with an expected 3,863 uncollected blood donations.

In the face of a severe blood shortage and a community of donors worried about stepping outside their homes, lifetime Red Cross volunteer Camille McCormack helped organize a drive at the First Baptist Church in Gilroy on March 25.

The result? A total success, McCormack reported.

About 50 people signed up for the drive and donated 33 units of blood. As McCormack puts it, one unit of blood can save three lives.

“I am so grateful to all those who made this drive very relevant in these trying times where there is an extreme need for blood donations,” she said.

Now, local blood drives are returning on a regular basis. The next drive in Gilroy will be at LDS Gilroy, 7999 Miller Ave., on April 9 from 12:30-6:30pm.

In response to COVID-19, the Red Cross has implemented a number of new safety measures, including providing hand sanitizer and spacing beds to follow social distancing practices between blood donors.

Penny Mount, a 10-year Red Cross volunteer, was busy checking in donors during the March 25 drive, and said she was “thrilled” with the turnout.

 “I’m so happy with the community that has come forward to donate,” she said. “They absolutely jumped to the task.”

Mount admitted she was hesitant to take part in the blood drive during the COVID-19 outbreak. But a pep talk from her 98-year-old aunt Betty Grenig, who recently marked her 80th year as a Red Cross volunteer, helped assuage her concerns.

“She told me the Red Cross would never put me in harm’s way,” Mount said.

Joseph and Danelle Jahn of Gilroy were among the donors in the March 25 drive, and both said this was the first time in a number of years they had donated blood.

When asked why they wanted to participate, the Jahns were succinct in their response.

“They needed the blood,” Danelle Jahn said.

Individuals can schedule an appointment to give blood with the American Red Cross by visiting redcrossblood.org, using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, or by calling 1-800-RED-CROSS.

To find an upcoming blood drive, visit redcrossblood.org/give.html/find-drive.

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