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Red Cross pleads for blood donations, says hospitals may face shortages

The omicron surge has further diminished the number of donors, the organization said, leading to its "worst blood shortage in over a decade."
Red Cross Declares National Blood Crisis, As Supply Levels Hit Critical Low
Patients donate blood in San Francisco. The American Red Cross declared a national blood crisis Tuesday. Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

The pandemic, particularly the recent delta and omicron waves, has wreaked havoc on blood donations in the U.S., prompting the American Red Cross to launch a nationwide drive to replenish depleted supplies.

The nonprofit medical and emergency relief organization said in a statement Tuesday that it's "facing a national blood crisis — its worst blood shortage in over a decade, posing a concerning risk to patient care."

Accident victims, cancer patients and people with blood disorders such as sickle cell disease are among those most at risk due to the decline in donations, according to Dr. Pampee Young, chief medical officer of the Red Cross.

“While some types of medical care can wait, others can’t,” Young said in a statement. "We’re doing everything we can to increase blood donations to ensure every patient can receive medical treatments without delay, but we cannot do it without more donors.”

The Red Cross supplies 40 percent of the nation's donor blood supply, the organization said, but has "had to limit blood distributions to hospitals in recent weeks."

"On certain days, some hospitals may not receive as much as one-quarter of the blood products requested," the Red Cross statement said. "Blood cannot be manufactured or stockpiled and can only be made available through the kindness of volunteer donors."

The Red Cross said in its statement that the number of people donating blood has dropped 10 percent since the beginning of the pandemic, but representatives from the organization were unable to offer further details or answer NBC News' questions about the blood shortage.

The organization added in its statement that it is especially looking for people with O positive and O negative blood to step forward, though all types are needed.

The Red Cross is even offering two Super Bowl tickets, plus airfare and three nights of hotel accommodations, to one donor who rolls up a sleeve before the end of the month. All donors in that time period will be entered to win, with two additional prizes offered: a home theater package and $500 e-gift card.