Gov. Baker: Blood donations are ‘essential’ and ‘save lives’ amid coronavirus outbreak

DEDHAM, Mass. — Because many places where blood drives typically take place are closed amid the coronavirus outbreak -- colleges, universities, businesses -- there have been fewer blood donations in Massachusetts and across the country.

As of Friday night, more than 220 blood donations have been canceled in Massachusetts, resulting in more than 6,100 fewer donations available for Massachusetts hospitals, according to Holly Grant, CEO of the American Red Cross in Massachusetts.

But Grant said the Red Cross is working around the clock to add more safe opportunities, “so that everybody who wants to give blood is able to do so." Every unit of blood can save up to three lives, she added.

Related: President Trump approves Massachusetts disaster declaration

"If they were exposed to somebody with COVID-19 or traveled to a country with high cases of COVID-19 they cannot be blood donors,” said Dr. Jorge Rios, the medical director of the American Red Cross Blood Services, which is taking their added safety measures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Gov. Charlie Baker echoed Grant’s statement, calling blood donations “an essential service.” He visited the Red Cross location in Dedham on Saturday.

“I think it’s critically important for all of us to understand and recognize that a huge portion of the blood that healthcare providers at hospitals rely on comes from neighbors and friends and fellow residents of the Commonwealth,” Baker said.

“Right now, the Red Cross is in ongoing critical need for blood and platelet donations amid these corona uncertainties," Grant said. Nationally, the Red Cross has seen nearly 300,000 blood donations go uncollected due to coronavirus concerns, she added.

“Our numbers are hovering between 5,500 and 6,000 donations that have not been collected,” she said of Massachusetts.

Baker asked that, given the free time many people have right now, that they consider donating blood and incorporating it into their free time.

“In the end, like many other things, this one does save lives,” Baker said.

>>>MORE: Governor Baker asks visitors to self-quarantine

Dr. Rios said that blood drives are mandating social distancing between the blood donors and the staff, and that temperatures are taken beforehand of every potential donor.

The Red Cross says public health guidelines don’t require them to have masks available for workers collecting blood donations, but they say on Monday they will have them at every Red Cross Donation Center across the country.

“Thank you so much for what you’ve done for your fellow residents,” Baker said to those who have and continue to donate blood and platelets.

Watch Gov. Baker’s full news conference below.