Mounting warnings that Americans should stay home and avoid crowds to stop the spread of a deadly new coronavirus are triggering an unexpected — and potentially ominous — downside: a drop in the nation’s blood supply.
Dozens of blood drives have been canceled and regular donors are no-shows, industry officials said, especially in states like Washington and California, where the virus is spreading more broadly within communities and health officials are urging residents to avoid public gatherings to reduce risk.
The crisis that in the U.S. has sickened more than 230 people and left at least 12 dead poses a problem for blood industry officials worried not only about infection control, but also about a dip in donations. Nearly 13 million whole blood and red blood cells are collected each year in the U.S. and commonly used in transfusions for trauma, surgeries and illness.
“It’s definitely a threat to the blood supply,” said Dr. Louis Katz, who is leading the response to the outbreak for AABB, a nonprofit transfusion medicine association. “We’ll lose donors that are afraid to come out in public.”