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Record-breaking cold and winter storms across much of the U.S. has forced the cancellation of hundreds of American Red Cross blood drives in about 30 states and caused more than 15,000 blood and platelet donations to go uncollected.

The Red Cross is urging healthy individuals, especially those with type O blood, to give now to ensure blood products are available for patient emergencies when help can’t wait.

Every day thousands of patients rely on lifesaving blood donations. The need for blood is constant, even during snowstorms and the COVID-19 pandemic. To help ensure life-saving patient care isn’t impacted, individuals in areas unaffected by severe weather are urged to make appointments to donate 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.

Tina Rocco knows firsthand how important it is to have blood on hospital shelves. After welcoming baby Gemma by cesarean section, she began hemorrhaging badly and was rushed back into the operating room.

“I was later told it was several pints of blood and an amazing doctor that saved my life,” Rocco said. “That allowed me to hold my first daughter and go home all together as a family of three.”

Before that day, Rocco hadn’t known anyone who needed blood transfusions. Now, this grateful mother says, “You truly never know when you, or someone you love, might need it.”

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 high levels of 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.

Upcoming blood donation opportunities Feb. 22-March 15:

Black Hawk County

Cedar Falls: March 11: noon-5 p.m., Nazareth Lutheran Church, 7401 University Ave.

LaPorte City: March 5: 8 a.m.-noon, Union High School, 200 Adams St.

Waterloo: Feb. 24: 10 a.m.-3 p.m., Blessed Maria Assunta Pallota, 3231 W. Ninth St.; March 3: noon-4 p.m., Pinecrest, 1407 Independence Ave.

Bremer County

Janesville: March 3: 12:30-5:30 p.m., Messiah Lutheran Church, 229 Chestnut St.

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