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The First National ‘Blood Crisis’ in the U.S.

Pandemic, winter weather postpone blood drives this month

January 18, 2022

The American Red Cross recently announced the first-ever national blood crisis amid a shortage of donors due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The shortage of blood poses a significant challenge to hospitals in Pennsylvania and across the nation as they treat patients with COVID-19 and other conditions. Inclement winter weather has the potential to further limit blood drives this month, the Red Cross said today.

Despite a decreasing supply, the demand for blood continues for hospitals and patients around the nation. More donors are needed to ensure patients can receive medical treatments without delay, said Dr. Pampee Young, chief medical officer of the Red Cross.

“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,” Dr. Young said.

Here’s what you should know about the blood crisis and the challenges it presents for hospitals:

  • Low donor turnout:  Omicron has led to “relentless issues” organizing and staffing blood drives and worsened donor turnout at these events. This continues a trend that began when the rise of the Delta variant reduced donation drives and turnout last summer
  • Continued demand:  More than 16 million units of blood and blood products are transfused annually with more than 45,000 units needed daily
  • Limited supply:  The Red Cross reported limiting blood distributions to hospitals in recent weeks, with some hospitals receiving about 25 percent of the blood products requested
  • All contributions welcome:  All types are needed now, especially types O-positive and O-negative, as well as platelet donations, to help reverse this national blood crisis

“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,” Dr. Young said.

In Pennsylvania, most people can donate blood up to six times a year, if they are:

  • In good health and feeling well
  • At least 16 years old
  • Weigh a minimum of 110 pounds

During National Blood Donor Month, HAP and Pennsylvania’s hospitals urge the general public to learn more about the blood donation opportunities in your community.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health has compiled resources about the available blood donation centers in your community. Additional information is available online.