CHICAGO (CBS) — With thousands of blood drives cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, blood centers are urging the public to donate blood if they’re healthy.

According to the Illinois Coalition of Community Blood Centers, there is a blood shortage in the Chicago-area, and that blood is desperately needed.

“There’s a real crisis going on now with all schools and a lot of the businesses shutting down, that has resulted in almost 4,000 blood drives being cancelled nationwide,” said Margaret Vaughn, Government Affairs Director of the Illinois Coalition of Community Blood Centers. “Sixty percent of the blood that is collected is done out in the field. So that 60% of blood they were depending on is not coming in.”

Vaughn said that everyone from cancer patients, sickle cell patients, trauma patients, mothers giving birth, babies in the neonatal units and those in burn units rely on donated blood for their procedures.

“When they need it they need it now, it has to be tested on the shelf ready to go. Once it’s tested it only has a 42 day shelf life. Unlike paper towels and toilet paper, you can’t stock pile it.”

She acknowledged that people have concerns as a result of COVID-19 fears. Vaughn stressed that anyone donating blood has to be healthy, not sick.

“COVID-19 is a respiratory disorder. It is not something that can be contracted through blood. You cannot get the coronavirus through a transfusion,” Vaughn added.

The first step is to register online at www.vitalant.org.

Vaughn said there is a 10-15 minute health screening time.

RELATED: Red Cross Seeking Blood Donations In Case Of A Shortage During Coronavirus Outbreak