Red Cross Pleads for Donations Amid Critical Blood Shortage

As COVID-19 concerns explode throughout the country, the American Red Cross, like most other organizations, has faced an onslaught of cancelations. But for the international aid nonprofit, the sudden drop in donations was a matter of life and death.

In recent weeks, roughly 7,000 Red Cross blood drives were canceled in the United States, resulting in 200,000 fewer blood donations. Northern California, meanwhile, saw 118 drives called off, 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 a recent weekday.

The result? A total success, McCormack reported.

Fifty people signed up and donated a 33 units of blood in all—enough to save 99 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,” McCormack said.

In the days since, local blood drives have begun to return on a regular basis.

The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted the Red Cross to implement 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 a March 25 drive in Gilroy, 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 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 Red Cross by visiting, using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, or by calling 1-800-RED-CROSS. Click here to find the time and location of an upcoming blood drive.


  1. So proud of Gilroy; go Gilronians! Big thanks to Saint Mary’s church and other local churches for their food drives and other support to community members. Those of you with a little more of money and supplies, please donate to your local churches.

  2. It’s extremely confusing to be told over and over that we should not to leave our houses or be around other people for ANY reason, yet somehow we should feel perfectly safe while giving blood. I have to admit that I’m very reluctant, although I normally turn out for blood drives. My husband has lung damage from a pulmonary embolism and I can’t take any risk of infecting him.

  3. Erik, after trying the link in your article for a couple days and experiencing website issues, finally yesterday I was able to schedule the earliest available appointment for whole blood – on April 17. This was strange because, in my experience as a regular Red Cross blood donor, I have always been able to get an appointment within a few days. Knowing how the Red Cross has a long history of requesting much but then just banking what they get and delivering little more than coffee and sandwiches during publicized disasters, I’m wondering if this long lead time is due to lack of supplies or staff, social distancing requirements in their facility, or, as I fear, that they are overwhelmed with donors at this time. The latter seems quite plausible, with so many people not working and with nowhere else to go. So I’m wondering, is my scheduled trip to their office on North First Street going to be “essential”, or should I cancel it? A follow-up article would be appreciated.

  4. Well, the Red Cross did the follow-up for you, Erik. I just received a email from the Red Cross. Here is how it begins:

    Thank you for scheduling an appointment to donate blood at the American Red Cross – SAN JOSE Donor Center 4/17. I hope you and your loved ones are well and safe. We have received an outpouring of support from donors like yourself and wanted you to know that it is truly appreciated by the American Red Cross and more importantly, the hospital patients we serve.

    Due to COVID 19 and the ever changing guidelines of COVID 19 and social distancing, we need to ensure the safety of our donors, and staff which has resulted in staffing challenges on this day and the need to keep to those social distancing guidelines. We have had to make the difficult decision to cancel all whole blood appointments…

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