As COVID surges, Red Cross declares first-ever blood crisis

(KSTP) – The American Red Cross says it is facing its worst blood shortage in more than a decade while COVID-19 continues to surge across the country.

The Red Cross declared its first-ever blood crisis on Tuesday, saying all types of blood are needed, especially O positive and O negative.

"While some types of medical care can wait, others can’t," Dr. Pampee Young, chief medical officer of the Red Cross, said in a statement. "Hospitals are still seeing accident victims, cancer patients, those with blood disorders like sickle cell disease, and individuals who are seriously ill who all need blood transfusions to live even as Omicron cases surge across the country. We’re doing everything we can to increase blood donations to ensure every patient can receive medical treatments without delay, but we cannot do it without more donors. We need the help of the American people."

The Red Cross says it’s dealing with a 10% drop in the number of people donating blood since the pandemic started, and has particularly experienced low donor turnout since the delta variant began spreading in August.

The organization asks anyone who can donate blood or platelets to make an appointment to ensure a sufficient blood supply can be maintained.

About 40% of the nation’s blood is supplied by the Red Cross, which has had to limit blood distributions to hospitals over recent weeks due to low supply.

"Every community in America needs blood on a daily basis," Young said. "At a time when many businesses and organizations across the country are experiencing pandemic challenges – the Red Cross is no different. And while we are all learning how to live in this new environment, how we spend our time, where we work, how we give back, how we make a difference in the lives of others – donating blood must continue to be part of it."

January is also National Blood Donor Month, which the Red Cross hopes will help bring awareness to the blood shortage. To help raise awareness, the Red Cross and the NFL are partnering this month to automatically enter those who donate blood, platelets or plasma in January for a chance to win a trip to Super Bowl LVI in Los Angeles. The Red Cross is also entering those who donate for a chance to win a $500 e-gift card and a home theater package.

Additionally, the Red Cross says blood drive volunteers are needed to support collections across the U.S. Anyone can apply to volunteer online.