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 redcrossblood.org, 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.