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Severe blood shortages continue as blood drives see low turnouts

The American Red Cross is appealing to the public to help with blood, platelet and plasma donations to maintain stable blood supplies to help people who rely on lifesaving donations.

Blood banks across the country have seen donation drives scrapped as the government and local jurisdictions have urged Americans to stay home.

Earlier this month, the Food and Drug Administration eased restrictions on blood donations from gay men and other key groups because of a drop in the nation’s blood supply triggered by the coronavirus outbreak. The policy has allowed more Americans to give blood, including gay and bisexual men and people with recent tattoos and piercings.

Donation centers adhere to safety guidelines, including checking the temperature of potential donors and making sure they sit 6 feet apart during the collection process. If a person did test positive, recovered, and tested negative they are still eligible to donate.

The Red Cross, in coordination with the Food and Drug Administration, is seeking plasma donations from recovered COVID-19 patients to help those fighting the virus. Convalescent plasma, the liquid part of blood collected from patients who have recovered from coronavirus, is already being used to treat some patients.

“COVID-19 patients develop antibodies in the blood against the virus; antibodies are proteins that might help fight the infection,” the FDA said. “Convalescent plasma is being investigated for the treatment of COVID-19 because there is no approved treatment for this disease, and there is some information that suggests it might help some patients recover from COVID-19.”

It is not yet known if convalescent plasma being given to coronavirus patients could shorten the duration of their illness, reduce morbidity or prevent death.