Health Officials Ask Americans To Donate Blood As Coronavirus Threatens Supply

Amid the COVID-19 epidemic, blood drives on campuses and corporate offices across the Mountain West have been cancelled. That's led to a "severe blood shortage."

The good news is that citizens are responding. In Colorado, for example, Gov. Jared Polis called for more donors, and the Children's Hospital Colorado, which on Monday tweeted an appeal for new donors, filled all of its appointments this week. The same is true for other blood centers.

"We're seeing a very good response," said Matt Ochsner with the Red Cross of Idaho and Montana. "We're still very much seeing a shortage. People are kind and generous and do what they can to help their friends and neighbors in times like this."

Missoula's John McGrew is a blood donor who answered the call this week.

"It really is important and you can't underestimate the value that this will have to somebody," McGrew said. "I just think it's an easy way to support the community."

The U.S. surgeon general, Dr. Jerome Adams, on Thursday urged healthy Americans, especially younger ones, to donate blood, saying, "Social distancing does not have to mean social disengagement."

The American Red Cross says donation centers are providing extra spacing between patients and have extra hygiene and safety precautions in place. The organization asks that you make an appointment rather than just walk in so the centers can maintain social distancing.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUER in Salt Lake City, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.