Americans capable, willing, and able to donate blood are encouraged to do so during an era of social distancing.
"Social distancing doesn't have to mean social disengagement," U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams said during the Coronavirus Task Force briefing on Thursday, warning of blood shortages.
American Red Cross Senior Vice President Paul Sullivan told Cheddar he's concerned about an already low blood supply in the U.S., compounded by a recent wave of coronavirus-inspired blood drive cancellations, numbering more than 5,000 drives resulting in some 170,000 fewer donations.
Sullivan said he still plans to continue donating.
However, the Red Cross is changing its normal precautions in response to coronavirus concerns. Sullivan told Cheddar those new precautions include temperature checks before entering the donation space and changing gloves between each collection.
Surgeon General Adams also explained beds are six feet apart and staff members are disinfecting surfaces more often.
"So give blood today. You'll feel good about it, and you'll be helping your country and community during this crisis. And you might even save a life," he said.
Red blood cells only have a shelf life of 42 days and platelets just 5 days, so blood donations must continue in order to continue vital medical procedures to keep people alive.
"As this progresses, the way it will challenge our healthcare system … it will be just that — it will be very challenging," Sullivan warned. "No one gets a transfusion if they don't need it. We don't want to put the medical community in a situation where they have to pick who gets blood and who doesn't."
** This story was updated to reflect the shelf life of red blood cells and the updated number of blood drive cancellations. **