The American Red Cross is facing a major blood donation shortage. On Tuesday, the organisation announced its first-ever national blood crisis, citing the damaging effects that the winter COVID-19 surge has had on the blood supply. They’re now calling for eligible people to donate as soon as possible.
From the very beginning, the covid-19 pandemic has been wreaking havoc on the nation’s blood supply. The Red Cross, which accounts for about 40% of the country’s donated blood, has reportedly had a 10% overall decline in blood donations since March 2020. Much of this decline has come from a 62% drop in college and high school blood drives due to the pandemic. Students have only accounted for about 10% of donors in the past two years, compared to being 25% of donors in 2019, according to the Red Cross.
But it seems that this winter has only piled onto the crisis. The Red Cross says that ongoing blood drives have been recently cancelled due to illness, weather-related closures, and staffing limitations, and it notes that a surge of COVID-19 cases and an active flu season are likely compounding an “already bad situation.” As a result, the organisation is now reporting its worst blood shortage in over a decade, with some areas having less than one day’s supply worth of critical blood types. The shortage is expected to leave some hospitals unable to receive one of every four blood products they need.
“Doctors have been forced to make difficult decisions about who receives blood transfusions and who will need to wait until more products become available. Blood and platelet donations are critically needed to help prevent further delays in vital medical treatments,” the Red Cross said in its announcement.
The Red Cross asks people to donate blood today if they can, especially if they carry O type blood. If people can’t make it to a blood drive or donation centre immediately, they should schedule an appointment as soon as possible, the organisation says. Because blood can’t be synthetically mass-produced or stored indefinitely, the supply needs to be constantly replenished, ideally by frequent donors. So it’s important to donate whenever the window of opportunity opens up (different methods of donation will require different periods of rest in between).
You can search for available places to donate blood locally via the Red Cross website.