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Red Cross warns of blood shortage amid Omicron surge

Published: Jan. 12, 2022 at 4:46 PM EST
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BANGOR, Maine (WABI) - Blood donations around the country are urgently needed.

On Tuesday, the American Red Cross declared its first-ever blood crisis.

The Red Cross supplies 40% of the nation’s blood.

In recent weeks, the non-profit says they have had to limit blood distributions to hospitals.

In fact, the Red Cross says on certain days, some hospitals may not receive as much as one-quarter of the blood products requested.

Caroline King is the Executive Director of the Bangor Chapter of the American Red Cross.

She says there are a number of factors that have led to the shortage.

The surge in COVID-19 cases has played a major role.

Recent storms, staffing issues, and canceled blood drives are also contributing to the shortage.

Overall, King says the process to donate blood is simple and takes less than an hour.

“When you show up, they are going to check your temperature” said King “They’re going to check your blood pressure. They’re going to check your iron levels. Assuming all goes well - they’re going to ask you a whole bunch of questions about where you’ve been, what medication you’re taking, and then it takes about seven or eight minutes to actually donate blood. Then, we will feed you snacks. You wait a few minutes, and then you’re on for the rest of your day. If you make an appointment, please keep that appointment. We’ve noticed a number of folks who are compelled in the moment to make an appointment but then forget, get busy, or aren’t able to keep that appointment, so we encourage folks to do things: make the appointment and then keep the appointment.”

There’s some incentive to donate. Anyone who rolls up their sleeves to donate blood between January 1-31, 2022, will automatically be entered to win two tickets to Super Bowl LVI in Los Angeles, California.

You will also be automatically entered to win a home theater package and a $500 e-gift card. Terms apply; visit RedCrossBlood.org/SuperBowl for more information.

“If you don’t win the trip to the Super Bowl, you still potentially allowed someone to see the Super Bowl on TV. Your donation of blood can save someone’s life so they’ll get to see the Super Bowl, even if you’re not live in person watching the Super Bowl,” she said.

While the shortage may not be resolved overnight, King encourages folks to make an appointment to give blood, either through their website or through the Blood Donor App.

All types are needed now.

“O positive and O negative, those are the most commonly used blood types, but we love our A’s and B’s as well. We want anybody who has red blood cells in their body, we would welcome you,” said King.

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