DANVILLE — Geisinger Medical Center officials expressed concern over a possible shortage of blood donations in the Valley and nationwide due to the coronavirus outbreak during a blood drive Thursday afternoon at the hospital.

Gustaaf de Ridder, system director, transfusion services, at Geisinger, said that "because of coronavirus fear, 4,500 blood drives canceled throughout the country, which will lead to a severe shortage of blood products in our region and the county."

Within Pennsylvania, as of Thursday night, 257 blood drives have been canceled, resulting in a loss of 7,506 units of blood, according to the Red Cross.

“We desperately need blood for our most vulnerable populations, particularly cancer patients and emergency surgical patients" de Ridder said. "We cannot do what we do for these patients without a blood supply. So it's a balancing act you have to consider, the risk of coming out of your house with the risk of us running out of blood to support the entire community.”

Individuals can schedule an appointment to give blood with the Red Cross by visiting RedCrossBlood.org, using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, calling 1-800-RED-CROSS or enabling the Blood Donor Skill on any Alexa Echo device.

De Ridder said Geisinger is taking every measure it possibly can at collection sites to keep everybody safe.

Lisa Keifer, of Sunbury, associate vice president, cancer institute, donated blood on Thursday.

"Cancer patients often require transfusions," Keifer said, "and they’re near and dear to my heart, so I knew there was a need, and wanted to be sure that our patients had the blood supplies that they need to be cared for.

“Blood donors are needed now more than ever," explained Kate Fry, chief executive officer of America’s Blood Centers, the organization that represents close to 50 blood centers throughout the U.S. and Canada. The organization collects close to 60 percent of the nation’s blood supply. "We cannot wait for the situation to intensify further before taking action. The blood supply cannot be taken for granted and the coronavirus only heightens the need for a ready blood supply.”

Blood drives across the country are being canceled, said Chris Hrouda, president of Biomedical Services for the American Red Cross.

“We are doing everything in our power to ensure that we don’t get to a critical level of the blood supply," he said Wednesday. "If we continue to see blood drives cancel, we are going to reach a level of inventory of which we haven’t seen in the past."

Evangelical Community Hospital continues to have its normal blood supply on hand and no word has been received that future supplies have been restricted.

It is hoped that eligible and healthy donors will continue to provide lifesaving blood products to patients through donations at local blood collection sites, added Angela Lahr, vice president of clinical operations at Evangelical Community Hospital. "Any effort to donate will support blood supply to hospitals in need."

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Wednesday said that there have been no reported or suspected cases of transfusion-transmitted coronavirus and the virus poses no known risk to patients receiving blood transfusions.

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