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Blood donations critically low amid coronavirus outbreak

Cancellations of blood drives throughout the region and nationwide have led to critical shortage of blood locally. Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz has said the region only had enough blood to last a few days, though the cancellation of elective surgeries is expected to help extend the existing supply.

For that reason, the Red Cross and ConnectLife are urging organizations to host local blood drives and are urging donors to make appointments to donate blood locally.

"We have had an unprecedented number of blood drive cancellations because of coronavirus concerns," said Jay Bonafede, spokesman for the American Red Cross Western and Central New York Region.

Much of that is due to the fact that places where blood drives are typically held – schools, colleges, businesses – are now shut down, he said. In the western and central regions, which encompass the greater Buffalo, Rochester, Corning and Binghamton areas, that has translated into a cancellation of roughly 200 blood drives and the loss of 5,000 units of blood for the Red Cross alone.

Nationwide, the Red Cross is down about 200,000 units of blood, Bonafede said.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention asks that healthy individuals donate blood, while maintaining proper social distancing procedures such as adequate spacing while waiting or between beds. Health officials have stated there is no evidence that the new coronavirus is transmitted through the blood.

"That need for blood is constant," Bonafede said.

He pointed out that blood platelets only have a shelf life of five days, while whole blood has a shelf life of 42 days. Even though non-emergency surgeries have been canceled, accidents, cancer treatments and other illnesses will still require blood in the days ahead.

Anyone or any organization interested in hosting a blood drive is asked to visit the website Redcrossblood.org or call the chapter office at 886-7500.

Donors interested in making an appointment to donate blood are encouraged to use the Red Cross Blood Donor app, visit the Red Cross or Connect Life websites or call 1-800-REDCROSS.

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