March 31, 2020
By Naomi Lopez

The generosity of Americans is so deep-rooted in our history that the Smithsonian has a dedicated exhibit that explores “how Americans’ gifts of time, expertise, and resources have shaped the world and continue to do so.” Perhaps it is a desire to seek silver linings in difficult times, but our unique and inspiring spirit of generosity seems even more robust in times of crisis like we face today.

According to Giving USA, Americans gave more than $425 billion to charitable causes in 2018. But we also give in ways that aren’t as easy to measure as I witnessed last week.

With so much uncertainty about our jobs, retirement accounts, sparse grocery store shelves, and our own health, I was heartened to see my local Red Cross’s donation center filled to capacity with blood donors. In my state of Illinois and my town, elected officials have been encouraging blood donations as there is a severe blood shortage.

The Red Cross relies on blood donations, and most of those come through blood drives that are organized and supported by area employers, university campuses, and libraries. But with so many businesses and public facilities shuttered right now, those important sources of donations—which account for 80 percent of total blood donations—are not available.

In order to protect blood donors’ health, as well as the health of their employees and volunteers, the Red Cross is taking additional measures such as spacing donation beds, temperature checks of staff and donors (multiple checks in my case), and providing hand sanitizer to donors upon entry and exit of the facility.

The blood donations won’t directly benefit COVID-19 patients. But they are needed for about one in seven patients who might include burn victims, car accident victims, and women facing post-partum hemorrhaging. The donation of one pint can help to save up to three patients.

The current crisis is ongoing, and there will be a continued need for additional blood donations. Blood donations may be made once every two months. (For more information, visit www.redcross.org/give-blood.html.)

Seeing all five blood donation beds at my local facility full reminded me that, despite our differences, the single most important thing that consistently unites us is our ability and willingness to respond in times of need.

Naomi Lopez is Director of Healthcare Policy at the Goldwater Institute.

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