In honor of Black History Month this February, the American Red Cross encourages eligible donors, and especially those who have recovered from COVID-19, to give blood to honor the legacies of African Americans like Dr. Charles Drew and Dr. Jerome Holland. Their passion for helping improve the lives of patients in need of lifesaving blood products is carried on through dedicated blood donors, blood drive sponsors, volunteers and Red Cross employees.
Drew, an African American surgeon, was the medical director of the first Red Cross blood bank in 1941. Drew’s research about the storage and shipment of blood plasma proved that blood could be stored for transfusions. Many of the processes he developed are still in use today.
As the first African American chair of the Red Cross Board of Governors, Holland was passionate about blood research. His commitment to providing the safest possible blood products for patients in need helped inform many safeguards the Red Cross has in place today to not only protect patients but also blood donors.
Donors have the ability to create a legacy of their own simply by rolling up a sleeve to give blood, platelets or plasma to help patients in need. COVID-19 survivors are especially needed to address a convalescent plasma shortage. These individuals may have antibodies in their plasma that could help patients currently battling the virus.
Blood donation appointments can be made by downloading the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or enabling the Blood Donor Skill on any Alexa Echo device. As a thank-you for helping ensure a stable blood supply, those who come to give this February will receive a $5 Amazon.com Gift Card via email, courtesy of Amazon. (Restrictions apply. Additional information and details are available at RedCrossBlood.org/Together.)
Inspiring lifesaving action
This gift is made possible by a generous $1 million donation from Amazon, and the Red Cross hopes it will motivate donors to roll up a sleeve to ensure patients continue to have access to lifesaving blood products. During this pandemic, the Red Cross has been fortunate to witness the best of humanity and grateful to partners like Amazon, who have stepped up to help. Amazon’s generous donation will specifically help support the Red Cross efforts to collect a sufficient amount of convalescent plasma to treat COVID-19 patients as well as support the needs of sickle cell patients by helping to engage the Black community on the importance of giving blood and hosting blood drives.
In addition to Amazon’s financial gift, Amazon has opened their corporate and operations building to host blood drives nationwide. In 2020, Amazon hosted 65 blood drives, collecting nearly 2,000 donations to help save thousands of lives
Important COVID-19 information for donors
The Red Cross is testing blood, platelet and plasma donations for COVID-19 antibodies. The test may indicate if the donor’s immune system has produced antibodies to this coronavirus, regardless of whether an individual developed COVID-19 symptoms. Red Cross antibody tests will be helpful to identify individuals who have COVID-19 antibodies and may now help current coronavirus patients in need of convalescent plasma transfusions. Convalescent plasma is a type of blood donation collected from COVID-19 survivors that have antibodies that may help patients who are actively fighting the virus. Plasma from whole blood donations that test positive for COVID-19 antibodies may be used to help COVID-19 patients.
COVID-19 antibody test results will be available within one to two weeks in the Red Cross Blood Donor App or donor portal at RedCrossBlood.org. A positive antibody test result does not confirm infection or immunity. The Red Cross is not testing donors to diagnose illness, referred to as a diagnostic test. To protect the health and safety of Red Cross staff and donors, it is important that individuals who do not feel well or believe they may be ill with COVID-19 postpone donation.
Each Red Cross blood drive and donation center follows the highest standards of safety and infection control, and additional precautions – including temperature checks, social distancing and face coverings for donors and staff – have been implemented to help protect the health of all those in attendance. Donors are asked to schedule an appointment prior to arriving at the drive and are required to wear a face covering or mask while at the drive, in alignment with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention public guidance.