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Red Cross urges giving blood amid coronavirus concerns

The American Red Cross has raised another concern about the outbreak of coronavirus in the United States: a potential blood shortage.

Cold and flu season already has hampered blood donations. With the rise of coronavirus, the number of people eligible to give blood for patients in need could decrease further, the Red Cross warns.

With that in mind, the American Red Cross encourages healthy, eligible individuals who feel well find the time to give blood or platelets to help maintain a sufficient blood supply.

“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.

Donating blood is a safe process and people should not hesitate to give or receive blood. No data or evidence has shown so far that coronavirus can be transmissible by blood transfusion, the Red Cross stated.

The Red Cross only collects blood from individuals who are healthy and feeling well at the time of donation and who meet other eligibility requirements, listed at RedCrossBlood.org.

At each blood drive and donation center, Red Cross employees follow safety protocols that include wearing gloves, routinely wiping down donor-touched areas, using sterile collection sets for every donation and preparing the arm for donation with an aseptic scrub. These mitigation measures will help ensure blood recipient safety, as well as staff and donor safety in reducing contact with those who may potentially have this respiratory infection.

Nonetheless, the Red Cross has implemented new blood donation deferrals out of an abundance of caution. Individuals are asked to postpone their donation for 28 days after:

— Travel to China and its special administrative regions, Hong Kong and Macau, as well as Iran, Italy and South Korea;

— Diagnosis of COVID-19, contact with a person who has or is suspected to have the virus.

The Red Cross, with the help of its blood drive hosts and blood donors, can help ensure the safety and availability of the U.S. blood supply for patients. To learn more about hosting a blood drive, go to RedCrossBlood.org.

Blood donation opportunities in the region include:

— Dickinson County: 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. today at Norway High School, 300 Section St., Norway; and 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. April 2 at Bay College West, 2801 N. U.S. 2 in Iron Mountain.

— Menominee County: noon to 6 p.m. March 23 and 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. March 24 at First Presbyterian Church, 923 Fifth St., Menominee; noon to 5 p.m. March 31, Bethel Lutheran Church, 1309 14th Ave., Menominee; 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 3, North Central High School, W3795 U.S. 2/41, Powers.

— Marinette County: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. March 30, Beecher Town Hall, W7971 County Road Z, Pembine.

To donate blood, individuals need to bring a blood donor card or driver’s license or two other forms of identification that are required at check-in. Individuals who are age 17 in most states or 16 with parental consent where allowed, weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood.

The U.P. Regional Blood Center is experiencing a critical need for O negative, A negative and B negative blood types. Donors with type O blood and platelet donors are especially needed as well.

To make an appointment to donate blood, use the Red Cross Blood Donor App, go to RedCrossBlood.org, call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or enable the Blood Donor Skill on any Alexa Echo device.

The UP Regional Blood Center has collection sites in Marquette, Hancock, Escanaba and Sault Ste. Marie and is the primary supplier of blood to 13 U.P. hospitals. For center details and blood drive locations, go to the Facebook page or website at http://www.mgh.org/our-services/all-services/regional-blood-donation.

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