The number of blood donations has not been this low in twenty years, the Red Cross says

The United States is facing a serious shortage of emergency blood supplies, the American Red Cross said Monday. About 40% fewer people donate blood today than at any time since 2004.


What you need to know

  • Emergency blood supplies are at a 20-year low
  • The Red Cross says lifesaving blood is needed every two seconds in the US
  • The nonprofit is the largest supplier of emergency blood in the US
  • In most states, blood donors must be at least 17 years old, weigh 110 pounds and be in good health

“One of the most distressing situations for a doctor is a hospital full of patients and an empty refrigerator without blood products,” Dr. Pampee Young, chief physician of the Red Cross said in a statement.

According to the nonprofit, the nation's largest provider of emergency blood, lifesaving blood is needed approximately every two seconds.

“Blood is only available because of the generosity of those who roll up their sleeves to donate,” Young said, adding that the Red Cross experienced a 7,000 unit shortfall in blood donations between Christmas and New Year's Day.

The Red Cross has already seen a drop in donations due to COVID-induced work-from-home policies that have reduced the number of workplaces hosting blood drives. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration also changed some eligibility requirements, reducing the number of 16- to 18-year-olds who can contribute.

The Red Cross expects emergency blood shortages could continue because winter weather and the respiratory illnesses it causes could affect people's ability to donate.

As part of National Blood Donor Month, the Red Cross is partnering with the National Football League to give donors the opportunity to win tickets to this year's Super Bowl in exchange for their blood or platelets. To donate bloodthe Red Cross requires a blood donor card, driver's license or two other forms of identification. Most states require donors to be at least 17 years old, weigh 110 pounds and be in good health.

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