Emergency blood shortage: Donor turnout reaches lowest levels of year


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As the nation returns to in-person workplaces and schools amid a surge in COVID-19 cases, the American Red Cross faces an emergency blood and platelet shortage. Donor turnout has reached the lowest levels of the year, decreasing by about 10% since August.

Those who are eligible to donate are urged to do so now to help overcome this current shortage.

“Throughout the pandemic, we have experienced challenges collecting blood for patients from blood drive cancellations to surging hospital demand. Now with decreased blood donor turnout, our Red Cross blood supply has dropped to the lowest it has been at this time of year since 2015,” said Chris Hrouda, president of Red Cross Biomedical Services. “We recognize that this is a trying time for our country as we balance the new demands of returning to former routines with the ongoing pandemic, but lifesaving blood donations remains essential for hospitals patients in need of emergency and medical care that can’t wait. The Red Cross is working around the clock to meet the blood needs of hospitals and patients – but we can’t do it alone.”

Blood product distributions to hospitals have remained strong, significantly outpacing blood donations in recent weeks. The Red Cross needs to collect 10,000 additional blood products each week over the next month to overcome the current shortage and meet the needs of patients in hospitals across the country.

Those who are eligible are urged to share their good health – please schedule an appointment to give blood or platelets as soon as possible by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767). All blood types are needed.

The Red Cross has had less than a day’s supply of certain blood types in recent weeks. The supply of types O positive and O negative blood, the most needed blood types by hospitals, dropped to less than a half-day supply at times over the last month − well below the ideal five-day supply. There is also an emergency need for platelets, which is the clotting portion of blood and must be transfused within five days of donation.

Fall is typically a time when the blood supply rebounds from summer blood shortages when blood donations increase as blood drives return to school campuses after summer break and donors are more available than during the busy summer months. While it is clear that the pandemic continues to weigh heavily on people’s lives, the Red Cross asks the public to remember that donating blood is essential to help save the lives of patients who depend on the availability of blood.

One donor can make a big impact

Shaun Brennan of Tennessee has proven that one donor can make a significant impact on hospital patient care. Brennan recently gave his 500th donation of blood or platelets, a milestone that less than one percent of all donors in the Red Cross national system achieve. He has continued to donate regularly throughout the pandemic to ensure patients receive the treatments they need and invites others to join him.

“I’m just one person and have been able to contribute what I have. But no matter what I do individually, it’s not nearly as powerful as what we could do collectively,” said Brennan. “I’m a busy guy, but I make time because it’s about the person I’m helping. When you add it up, there is no comparison. It’s not about finding time to donate, it’s about making time to donate. It’s all about saving lives.”

A single blood donation can help save more than one life—a teen who was in an accident, a grandfather in need of heart surgery, a friend being treated for cancer or a child with sickle cell disease.

Those who come to donate with the Red Cross through Sept. 30 will receive a limited-edition football-inspired T-shirt while supplies last, plus a free haircut coupon via email from Sport Clips Haircuts. All those who come to donate in October will receive a link by email to claim a free Zaxby’s Signature Sandwich reward or get a $5 e-gift card to a merchant of their choice.

Blood drive safety

Each Red Cross blood drive and donation center follows the highest standards of safety and infection control, and additional precautions – including face masks for donors and staff, regardless of vaccination status – have been implemented to help protect the health of all those in attendance. Donors are asked to schedule an appointment prior to arriving at the drive.

Individuals who have received a COVID-19 vaccine are still eligible to donate blood and platelets. Knowing the name of the manufacturer of the vaccine they receive is important in determining blood donation eligibility. The Red Cross only collects blood from individuals who are healthy and feeling well at the time of donation.

About blood donation

A blood donor card or driver’s license or two other forms of identification are required at check-in. Individuals who are 17 years of age in most states (16 with parental consent where allowed by state law), weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood. High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger also have to meet certain height and weight requirements.

Blood and platelet donors can save time at their next donation by using RapidPass to complete their pre-donation reading and health history questionnaire online, on the day of their donation, before arriving at the blood drive. To get started, follow the instructions at RedCrossBlood.org/RapidPass or use the Blood Donor App.

The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides comfort to victims of disasters; supplies about 40% of the nation’s blood; teaches skills that save lives; distributes international humanitarian aid; and supports veterans, military members and their families. The Red Cross is a nonprofit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to deliver its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org or cruzrojaamericana.org, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.

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