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Essentia Health warns of 'severe' blood shortage, calls on people to donate

The blood supply in the U.S. has reaching worrying levels.

A Minnesota health care system is warning residents that a "severe" blood shortage could become dire without the help of donors.

Blood was already in short supply as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Essentia Health said Wednesday, with fewer people choosing to donate. Now, hospitals and medical facilities face another likely drop, with donor numbers often dipping during the busy holiday period.

“Blood shortages can pose a significant risk to hospital operations and can result in delay of some surgeries,” said Dr. Maria Beaver, pathologist and transfusion services medical director at Essentia Health, in a media release.

The warning from Duluth-based Essentia Health, which operates 14 hospitals and dozens of clinics in Minnesota, comes on the heels of a similar alert from some of the nation's largest blood donor organizations.

"The blood supply in the United States has reached one of its lowest levels in recent years," a joint statement from AABB, America’s Blood Centers and the American Red Cross reads. 

The organizations say some blood centers are reporting less than a one-day's supply of blood, which is "dangerously low." It has reached the point where some hospitals have changed or canceled treatments, including surgeries, because they don't have enough blood. History suggests the weeks ahead won't provide much relief.

"The current status of the U.S. blood supply is particularly concerning amid the holiday season and winter months — a time in which blood donations typically decrease due to travel, inclement weather and seasonal illnesses," the organizations' joint statement says.

Anyone interested in donating blood can find a site through www.aabb.orgwww.americasblood.org or www.RedCrossBlood.org.

Shelly Moen, laboratory operations director for Essentia Health's East Market, said in the news release there is a "critical need" for Type O-negative blood, and an "urgent need" for all other blood types.

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Blood shortage nearing emergency levels

Officials with the American Red Cross say the blood supply has reached emergency levels with about 50,000 fewer donations than expected in June. Donors of all blood types are urged to give as soon as possible, especially O positive, O negative, B negative and A negative.