In her 15 years working working with blood banks, Dr. Claudia Cohn says she has never seen the national blood supply so low.
“This is the worst shortage I've experienced since I've been in this in this line of work,” said Cohn, the American Association of Blood Banks' chief medical officer.
The association's Interorganizational Task Force on Domestic Disasters and Acts of Terrorism says the blood supply in the United States has dropped to “red” level, meaning most of the nation's blood bank inventories have less than a one-day supply. Donations are urgently needed.
Blood banks centers consider themselves prepared when they have on hand about three days' worth of the normal demand for blood, Cohn said.
The task force, made up of U.S. blood services, associations and commercial entities and government liaisons, said this is the first time its lowest supply designation has been reached since the nationwide shutdown in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The problem now is one of supply and demand, Cohn said. Blood drives are being held less frequently because of pandemic-related closures, and nonessential surgical procedures that were postponed during the pandemic are resuming as vaccination rates increase. Summer also is the peak season for traffic crashes, which can strain blood supplies.
In northern Nevada, blood banks have about 50% less supply than normal, said Scott Edward, senior recruitment manager for Vitalant, a nationwide blood services provider.
“It’s about a 20% drop in units that we're able to collect from our from mobile (blood drives) so it's a sizable percent," Edward said. "Even the drives that we do add, it's difficult for us to book the drives that we need to feel confident.”
Edward said the “unusual state” of donations probably will continue through the end of the year.
Blood donations are used in surgeries, traumatic injuries and chronic illnesses. According to the Red Cross, about 36,000 units of blood are needed every day, and 13.6 million units are collected each year.
Cohn says donating blood is an easy way to help the community.
“A blood donation takes 60 minutes to an hour and a half, and each time they do that they're saving a life," she said.
How to help: The American Red Cross is asking people who are feeling healthy and well and are eligible to give blood or platelets to make an appointment to donate through the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767). Or find a local blood collection site and schedule an appointment to donate by visiting www.aabb.org/giveblood or calling America's Blood Centers at 1-202-393-5725. Local blood collection sites can be found by visiting americasblood.org/for-donors/find-a-blood-center/. Appointments can also be made at www.vitalant.org and by phone at 877-25-VITAL (877-258-4825).
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Blood banks urge donations as US blood supply drops, demand increases