Following a difficult Fourth of July week for blood and platelet donations and ongoing challenges finding new blood donors, officials with the American Red Cross say the organization now faces a blood shortage and has issued an emergency call for eligible individuals of all blood types to give now and prevent delays in medical care.

Three blood drives have been scheduled in West Plains and Gainesville to help restore supplies.

Donors in West Plains can give blood between noon and 5 p.m. Thursday at AirMedCare, Air Evac Lifeteam Membership, 1800 S. U.S. 63, or between 7 and 11 a.m. July 30 at Armstrong Hardwood Flooring Products, 508 Thornburgh.

In Gainesville, donors can give between noon and 5 p.m. July 24 at First Baptist Church, 119 Second St.

About 450 fewer blood drives were organized nationally by businesses and other community groups last week than during a typical week as people across the country celebrated Independence Day holiday with activities and travel, said Red Cross officials.

They pointed out decrease in blood drives has led to about 17,000 fewer blood donations than needed for patients in a single week.

“Medical emergencies and critical treatments don’t stop for holiday celebrations. Patients depend on lifesaving blood transfusions every day,” said Cliff Numark, senior vice president, Red Cross Blood Services. “Right now, the Red Cross only has less than a three-day supply when we need a five-day supply to be prepared for all situations that require blood products. To help meet this need, we’ve added about 8,000 additional appointments at blood donation centers and community blood drives over the next few weeks to accommodate more donors. But we need people to fill those appointments, please join us today.” 

In June, the Red Cross launched the Missing Types campaign to encourage new donors and those who have not donated recently to give blood or platelets during the challenging summer months. Through the campaign, the letters A, B and O — letters that make up the main blood groups — disappeared from popular brands to symbolize what happens when blood goes missing from hospital shelves during blood shortages. 

Despite an encouraging response to the campaign, blood donations still fell short of expectations in June, resulting in more than 24,000 fewer donations than needed, 200 fewer in the Greater Ozarks and Arkansas Blood Services Region, and causing a significant draw down of the Red Cross blood supply, said officials. 

“Blood is only available when generous blood and platelet donors roll up a sleeve to give, and right now, all donors — especially those give have never given or haven’t given in a while — are urged to make an appointment to give today,” said Numark.

Donors of all blood types, especially type O, are urged to make an appointment to donate using the Blood Donor App, at RedCrossBlood.org or by calling 800-RED CROSS (800-733-2767). Donation appointments and completion of a RapidPass online health history questionnaire are encouraged to help reduce the time it takes to donate.

Those interested in hosting a blood drive can learn more and sign up to sponsor a drive this summer by visiting RedCrossBlood.org/HostADrive.

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