The head of the American Red Cross says the COVID pandemic produced the most dire blood shortages of the last decade.
Gail McGovern told the Economic Club of Indiana at one point, the Red Cross was down to a one-day supply of blood, with hospitalizations skyrocketing while planned donation drives were getting canceled.
That’s on top of the dozens of disasters the organization normally responds to. McGovern says the Red Cross those disaster operations continued, but with new pandemic protocols at shelters for hurricane and wildfire victims. McGovern says the organization required masks, implemented new seating arrangements to allow social distancing, and replaced cafeteria-style food lines with box lunches. She says she’s both proud and relieved the shelters didn’t have a single COVID outbreak.
McGovern says her biggest worries now aren’t the pandemic, but a growing refugee crisis in Ukraine, and climate change. In the last decade, she says, the number of natural disasters packing a billion-dollar impact has doubled, and have struck in unexpected times and places, from last year’s winter storm in Texas to the tornadoes which ravaged Kentucky in December.
McGovern calls the situation in Ukraine “gut-wrenching.” She says the American Red Cross is providing financial support to European affiliates who are assisting millions of refugees from the Russian bombardment, supplying medical care, counseling, food, and shelter. McGovern says the American Red Cross has also sent I-T and communications specialists to Poland, Romania, Moldova and Hungary to help the relief effort.