Blood donors urgently needed to avert shortage amid outbreak

    Surgeon General Jerome Adams speaks during press briefing with the coronavirus task force, at the White House.

    Washington, DC (AP) - The U.S. surgeon general on Thursday urged healthy Americans, especially younger ones, to donate blood as supplies dwindle amid the coronavirus outbreak.

    Supplies already are tight in parts of the country. The bigger concern is that blood has a short shelf life and the regular donations needed to replenish expiring stocks are drying up. Retirees, among the most reliable blood donors, are heeding calls to stay home.

    With college campuses closed and corporate blood drives called off as employees work from home, younger people aren't filling the void.

    “Social distancing does not have to mean social disengagement,” Dr. Jerome Adams said, noting that blood centers are taking extra precautions so people can safely donate.

    The industry has counted more than 12,000 blood drives canceled, some immediately and others set for the coming months. So far, 355,000 fewer blood donations are projected because of the coronavirus outbreak, AABB, formerly called the American Association of Blood Banks, said Thursday. Its website lists donation centers.

    Red blood cells last for 42 days, platelets just five days, and some blood types are rarer than others. Already, blood centers have sent hospitals tips on how to stretch supplies.

    The new coronavirus can't be spread through blood, either getting or giving it. And the message for would-be donors: Answering a call for a local blood drive isn't violating the message to avoid crowds.

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