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Coronavirus – What Social Distancing Means


As the situation around coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in this country evolves, we’ve seen the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issue guidance about canceling or postponing in-person events. This has led to cancellations of entire sports seasons, thousands of schools closed along with theaters, bars, restaurants – and everyone being asked to practice a relatively new term for all of us – “social distancing”.

It’s frightening, confusing and for some, cause for anger. However, there is a public health reason for these measures. These cancellations will help stop or slow down the spread of disease, which will help to avoid overwhelming the health care system so ill patients can be cared for over time.

So what does “social distancing” mean? According to medical experts, social distancing is deliberately increasing the physical space between people to avoid spreading illness. Staying at least six feet away from other people lessens your chances of catching COVID-19. Examples include avoiding mass gatherings, working from home if possible, closing schools, visiting loved ones electronically instead of in person and canceling or postponing conferences or large meetings.

Even during this stressful time, the need for blood is constant. We should all be practicing social distancing, but it’s important to know that blood drives are not considered “mass gatherings” because they are controlled events with trained staff and appropriate safety measures to protect donors and recipients. Donating blood is a safe process and people should not hesitate to give or receive blood.
“[Y]ou can still go out and give blood. We’re worried about potential blood shortages in the future. Social distancing does not have to mean social disengagement,” said U.S. Surgeon General, Jerome M. Adams.

PLEASE GIVE BLOOD Nearly 4,500 American Red Cross blood drives have been canceled across the country due to coronavirus concerns, resulting in some 150,000 fewer blood donations through March 18. Because of these alarming numbers, the Red Cross is now facing a severe blood shortage, which could impact patients who need surgery, victims of car accidents and other emergencies, or patients suffering from cancer.

One of the most important things you can do to ensure we don’t have another health care crisis on top of the coronavirus is to give blood. We understand why people may be hesitant to come out for a blood drive, but we want to reassure the public that we are taking additional precautions to ensure the safety of our donors and staff. This includes:

  • Checking the temperature of staff and donors before entering a drive to make sure they are healthy.
  • Providing hand sanitizer for use before the drive, as well as throughout the donation process.
  • Spacing beds, where possible, to follow social distancing practices between blood donors.
  • Increasing enhanced disinfecting of surfaces and equipment.

Red Cross employees, as always, follow strict safety procedures, including wearing gloves, routinely wiping down donor-touched areas, using sterile collections sets for every donation, and preparing the arm for donation with an aseptic scrub. These measures will help to keep blood recipients, staff and donors safe.

If you are healthy, feeling well and eligible to give blood or platelets, please make an appointment to donate as soon as possible by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).

You can find more information on COVID_19 safety here. For the latest information, please visit the CDC website at  

If you live outside the United States, health and safety tips can be found through the World Health Organization and by following your local Red Cross or Red Crescent society’s social media channels.  

About the American Red Cross:

The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation’s blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit or, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.

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