The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has released new guidelines for blood donors to bolster the supply of urgently needed blood and blood components. The country’s blood supply has fallen dramatically as workplaces and schools cancel blood drives in the wake of COVID-19 shutdowns across the country.  
To meet this need, the agency is recommending new eligibility rules to welcome groups formerly banned from donating blood. Most notable perhaps is a partial lifting of the controversial ban on men who have had sexual relations with another man within the last 12 months. The deferral period has been decreased to three months. 
This also applies to women who have slept with a man who has slept with another man within the past three months. 
The deferral period has also dropped from 12 to three months for people who have gotten a tattoo or piercing, or have visited malaria-endemic areas. 
“Based on recently completed studies and epidemiologic data, the FDA has concluded that current policies regarding certain donor eligibility criteria can be modified without compromising the safety of the blood supply,” said Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, in a statement. 
The agency is recommending that these guidelines continue beyond the coronavirus pandemic. 
“The updated recommendations in these guidances are based on data and analysis that the FDA believes are applicable to circumstances outside of (and after) the COVID-19 pandemic and reflect the agency’s current thinking on this issue,” Marks said. “These recommendations are expected to remain in place after the COVID-19 pandemic ends, with any appropriate changes based on comments we receive and our experience implementing the guidances.”