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American Red Cross declares a ‘Blood Emergency’ for the Holidays

American Red Cross
Tiffany Taylor
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic strained the blood supply for patients in 2021. Blood donations are desperately needed now to meet the needs of accident and burn victims, heart surgery and organ transplant patients, and those receiving treatment for leukemia, cancer or sickle cell disease.

The American Red Cross is declaring a “Blood Emergency,” as they begin the holiday season with their lowest blood supply in a decade. Following months of low turnout and a decrease in new blood donors, the American Red Cross is urging individuals eligible to give blood to do so.

Louis Zimmerman works for the American Red Cross and is in charge of scheduling blood drives across 15 different counties in the Western Kentucky region. He said there has been a sharp decrease in blood donations.

“I think donations are down approximately 30% from other years at this time of year, which has an impact on the blood supply,” Zimmerman told WKMS.

The American Red Cross is asking for all blood-types to donate with special emphasis towards those with Type O blood, whether that be positive or negative. Type O is the blood type most requested by hospitals and around 45% of individuals in the U.S. have Type O blood.

Zimmerman said that while this year’s need for blood is greater than in the past, part of the reason the blood supply is so strained is due to staffing shortages with both workers for the American Red Cross and at locations where blood drives are held.

“We’re having some staffing issues,” Zimmerman said. “In addition to that, there’s a number of plants where we may go to collect blood but they might not have as many people on site. So, at a number of the different businesses where we go, we’re not collecting as much blood as we might have at another time of the year.”

Zimmerman added that the American Red Cross is low on phlebotomists and is currently working to train more. He said the shortage of phlebotomists means the American Red Cross can’t run as many drives as they have in years past.

Zimmerman said the holiday seasons normally sees a greater need of blood similar to during the summer months. He says that peoples’ plans to travel usually lead to an increase in traumatic injuries, and these same plans also contribute to donors feeling less likely to give when it is out of their way to do so.

“At the same time, this is normally a period where people aren’t engaged in their normal activities, and regular donors might not be scheduling a donation as they normally would.” Zimmerman said.

Zimmerman said, for those intending to donate blood at a drive, masks will be required to be worn by everyone attending, regardless of vaccination status.

For those wishing to donate, appointments can be scheduled at for locations in the local area. The American Red Cross is also giving out free gifts to individuals who donate before Dec. 16.

Zacharie Lamb is a music major at Murray State University and is a Graves County native.
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