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Local calls for blood donors grow urgent as shortage persists

John Raoux
People donate blood in this file photo from The Associated Press.

Seattle-based Bloodworks Northwest said it was down to about a one-day supply of both platelets and red blood cells.

The American Red Cross calls it the worst blood shortage in more than a decade, but for local blood banks, that's nothing new.

Bloodworks Northwest has long been sounding the alarm on the need for more blood donations. Still, over the last few days, those calls have become increasingly urgent.

"We first start putting out the message that we have a level of concern when we get down to a few days of inventory," said Dr. Kirsten Alcorn, co-chief medical officer at Bloodworks Northwest.

But the situation now is more critical than that. Alcorn says they're hovering near a one-day supply of both platelets and red blood cells.

"We are in a so-called perfect storm of a whole lot of factors," she said.

The rapid spread of the COVID omicron variant has affected both donors and blood collection staff, who must cancel appointments or stay home from work.

"In addition to that, we just had the holidays, and we know there's typically a drop-off in donors because people are spending time with their families. And right after the holidays we had a snowstorm. So all of these things are affecting donors' ability to come in, meaning we have a lot of open appointments and our blood inventory is low."

Alcorn called it "critical" and said they're worried about the ability to supply hospitals, especially if there's a major disaster or event that suddenly calls for more blood transfusions.

Here are some options for donating:

Ed Ronco came to KNKX in October 2013 as producer and reporter for KNKX’s Morning Edition. Ed started in public radio in 2009 at KCAW in Sitka, Alaska, where he covered everything from city government, to education, crime, science, the arts and more. Prior to public radio, Ed worked in newspapers, including four years at the South Bend (Ind.) Tribune, where he covered business, then politics and government.