The American Red Cross is calling for blood donations as the COVID-19 pandemic is causing the cancelation of many community blood drives.

“When COVID hit initially, we saw blood donations drop off precipitously,” said Adam Whitaker, the executive director for the central and southern Utah chapter of the American Red Cross.

There are no mobile blood drives for the American Red Cross scheduled for July within Lehi, according to the organization’s website. Whitaker said donations have ebbed and flowed since the pandemic and summertime hit. 

“We are in an urgent state, and summertime typically brings that anyway,” Whitaker said.

The number of people who donate blood, and the number of blood drives typically decreases in the summertime as people leave for vacations and high schools and universities aren’t in session and hosting drives. The problem has been exacerbated as companies, churches and organizations have canceled blood drives due to concerns surrounding COVID-19 and gatherings.

Most blood is collected through mobile drives at churches, businesses and other organizations. 

Estimates show that someone in the United States needs blood every two seconds, which includes cancer patients, those involved in car crashes and those who have experienced complicated childbirths. Only 3% of Americans donate blood.

Tens of thousands of people donated blood to the American Red Cross in the wake of the COVID-19-related shortage. With red blood cells requiring transfusion within 42 days of donation and platelets within five days, the need continues. 

The American Red Cross has partnered with “WONDER WOMAN 1984” to encourage donations. Donors who give blood in July will be automatically entered into a giveaway to win prop replicas from the movie.

Whitaker said many churches are on rotations and sponsor four blood drives a year. Due to COVID-19, some of those aren’t currently in that rotation. Donation drives planned as part of Eagle Scout projects have also mostly dried up since The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints separated from the Boy Scouts of America.

Whitaker said that the demand for the blood supply has gone up by 30% now that elective procedures in hospitals have been reintroduced. Demand also typically increases in the summer as there’s an increase in injuries.

One donation can help up to three patients.

Due to COVID-19, sites are urging donors to schedule appointments before they come in to give blood. Donors are also required to wear a face-covering or mask.

Donors are screened for COVID-19 and are not allowed to donate if they show symptoms. Donated blood is tested for COVID-19 antibodies, and donors choose to be alerted within seven to 10 days if antibodies–which are an indication if someone has had COVID-19–appear in their blood. Whitaker said the test is part of the regular donation process and the donor is not charged for it.

Whitaker said the Wasatch Front has traditionally been a strong area for donors. “This chapter has a long, long history of being very generous with their time, and with talents, and, in this case, with the donation of their blood.” 

To make an appointment to donate blood, use the Blood Donor App, visit http://RedCrossBlood.org or call 1 (800) RED-CROSS.

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