Red Cross declares national blood crisis as donations plummet during on-going pandemic

The low supply is forcing doctors to make difficult decisions about who is going to get the blood, a Red Cross spokesperson says.
SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Not only are we dealing with a pandemic, but the American Red Cross says we're in a blood crisis that may put patients at risk.

Marcia Antipa is a spokesperson for Red Cross public affairs. She joined ABC7 News on our 3 p.m. program "Getting Answers" on Tuesday to explain the dire situation.

"In fact, there's been a 10-percent decline in (blood) donations since the pandemic began," Antipa said.

She says donor turnout has "plummeted," partly due to a 62-percent drop in drives at schools and colleges.

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She says the number of donors has always fluctuated, but the reality is, "the need is constant."

"Every two seconds, someone in the United States needs blood," she said.

Just how low is the blood supply that it's being deemed a "national crisis?"

"The Red Cross has gotten down to a one-day supply in recent weeks," Antipa said.

That one-day supply is national. In the Bay Area, she says it's about the same.

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Blood donations in the Bay Area are down significantly as the region reacts to the spread of the novel coronavirus.

She says this makes it challenging for the organization to supply hospitals, which forces doctors to make difficult decisions about who is going to get the blood.

In severe cases, a single patient can use an entire hospital's supply of blood, Antipa explained, as she told a sobering story about a woman who not only needed the hospital's entire supply but was airlifted to a second treatment center for more.

She noted the Red Cross strictly supplies the blood, and it's up to the hospitals and doctors to decide where it's needed most.

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Aside from a drastic reduction in blood drives, she says many people have stopped coming in to donate during the pandemic and the Red Cross, like many medical institutions recently, is also facing staffing shortages.

This means they are looking for phlebotomists who can be trained and paid, and for volunteers to staff blood donation drives.

Of course, the biggest need is for blood donors.

"It is OK to donate if you're vaccinated," she said, adding that the blood drive center will just want to know which type of vaccine you had.

Questions about edibility can be answered at or by calling 1-800-REDCROSS.

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The Red Cross is also offering incentives, something Antipa says isn't new.

If you donate in the month of January, you will be entered into a drawing to win two tickets for this year's Super Bowl in Los Angeles.

Although, Antipa believes most people donate from the goodness of their hearts, not for incentives.

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