The American Red Cross is facing its worst blood shortage in more than a decade—a dilemma the organization calls a “national blood crisis”—and is pleading with people to donate blood.
“Dangerously low blood supply levels are posing a concerning risk to patient care and forcing doctors to make difficult decisions about who receives blood transfusions and who will need to wait until more products become available,” says a press release from the American Red Cross.
In San Benito County, eligible residents can donate blood at upcoming monthly blood drives at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, located at 1670 Cienega Road in Hollister. Blood drives at the church are scheduled for 12:30-5pm Feb. 17, March 17, April 14 and May 19, according to the American Red Cross website.
Donors are urged to make an appointment to donate blood at the scheduled blood drives in advance by visiting https://www.redcrossblood.org/give.html/find-drive. A Jan. 20 blood drive at the local church is already full, according to the site.
Red Cross officials are hoping to entice more blood donations by partnering with the NFL during the month of January—which is known as National Blood Donor Month—to offer a Super Bowl LVI prize package. Anyone who donates blood, platelets or plasma in January will be entered for a chance to win a getaway to the NFL championship game in Los Angeles, says the press release.
Donors will also be entered to win a home theater package and a $500 gift card. Visit RedCrossBlood.org/SuperBowl for more information about the raffle.
Blood and platelet donations are “critically needed” to help prevent further delays in vital medical treatments, says the press release. Donors of all blood types—especially type O—are urged to make appointments to give blood.
In recent weeks, the Red Cross—the nation’s largest supplier of blood—had less than a one-day supply of critical blood types, forcing the organization to limit blood distributions to hospitals. During such times, up to 25% of hospital blood needs are unmet, says the press release.
The Covid-19 pandemic has played a major role in limiting the Red Cross’s efforts to acquire and maintain blood supplies. Since the pandemic began, the number of people donating blood has declined by about 10%, according to the Red Cross.
Furthermore, pandemic restrictions and health concerns have resulted in staffing shortages and the repeated cancelation of blood drives. The pandemic has contributed to a 62% drop in blood drives at schools and colleges, says the press release.
“Winter weather across the country and the recent surge of Covid-19 cases are compounding the already-dire situation facing the blood supply,” said Dr. Baia Lasky, medical director for the Red Cross. “Please, if you are eligible, make an appointment to give blood or platelets in the days and weeks ahead to ensure no patient is forced to wait for critical care.”
In addition to blood donors, the Red Cross also needs the help of volunteers to support critical blood collections across the country.
Blood drive volunteers play an important role by greeting, registering, answering questions and providing information to blood donors throughout the donation process, says the press release. Blood transportation specialists—another volunteer opportunity—provide a critical link between blood donors and blood recipients by delivering blood to hospitals in communities across the country.
To volunteer to support Red Cross blood collections, visit redcross.org/volunteertoday.
Donors can also save up to 15 minutes at the blood drive by completing a RapidPass. With RapidPass, donors complete the pre-donation reading and health history questionnaire online, on the day of donation, from a mobile device or computer.
To complete a RapidPass, follow the instructions at RedCrossBlood.org/RapidPass or use the Red Cross Blood Donor App.
To donate blood, individuals need to bring a blood donor card or driver’s license or two other forms of identification that 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 age 18 and younger also must meet certain height and weight requirements.