Red Cross declares first national blood crisis in US

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FILE – The exterior of an American Red Cross branch that started to treat COVID-19 patients with plasma donations on May 11, 2020 in Fairfield, New Jersey. (Photo by Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images)

(The Hill) — The Red Cross has declared its first-ever national blood crisis in the U.S.

In a statement emailed Tuesday, the organization has warned members of the public of the consequences of its worst blood shortage in more than a decade — including doctors being forced to make “difficult decisions” about which patients receive blood transfusions over others.

The American Red Cross said it had “less than a one-day supply of critical blood types” and has had to limit distributions to hospitals.

“At times, as much as one-quarter of hospital blood needs are not being met,” the organization said.

The COVID-19 pandemic has seen a 10% overall decline in the number of people donating blood, in addition to ongoing blood drive cancellations and staffing limitations. 

The Red Cross urged the public to make an appointment to donate blood as “blood and platelets donations are critically needed to help prevent further delays in vital medical treatments.”

Donors of all blood types — especially type O — are being urged to make an appointment now to give in the weeks ahead, with the Red Cross noting that the pandemic has seen a 62% drop in blood drives at schools and colleges.

“Winter weather across the country and the recent surge of COVID-19 cases are compounding the already-dire situation facing the blood supply,” said 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.”

The Hill has reached out to the American Red Cross for comment.

The New York Times reported in December that the country’s blood supply faced a critical shortage after the first wave of coronavirus infection hit the U.S. in March 2020. 

The shortage was a result of canceled blood drives when businesses closed in 2020, and The Times noted that the most frequent donors — historically older Americans — were apprehensive of going to donation centers.

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