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Las Vegas blood banks seek donors as supply runs low

Updated January 12, 2022 - 6:16 am

The emergency blood supply is several days short of the multiday reserve needed in Southern Nevada, mirroring the national shortage, officials for local chapters of the American Red Cross and Vitalant said Tuesday.

Now, the blood donation nonprofits are calling for more people — especially those with Type O blood — to donate.

Blood donation banks typically keep a four- or five-day supply for blood transfusions, which can happen as much as once every two seconds, officials with the nonprofit blood services provider Vitalant said. It has a less than two-day supply of Type O — the universal blood type most commonly used in emergencies — in the southwest region. The American Red Cross Southern Nevada office has less than a day’s supply of blood, executive director Rachel Flanigan said.

“Our local blood supply is severely impacted by the pandemic, mirroring the blood shortage occurring nationwide due to the impact of the Omicron variant and blood drive cancelations,” Vitalant communications manager Brittany Estrella said in an email. “Vitalant urges the Las Vegas community to make a lifesaving blood donation to help those in need of blood transfusions during the national blood shortage, especially since we are experiencing a historical two-year low blood supply both here in our local community and nationwide.”

Estrella said the organization’s southwest region needs 700 blood donors per day to keep up with demand needed to cover emergencies, cancer patients, sickle cell treatment, surgeries and more.

Red Cross officials say the COVID-19 pandemic has decreased blood donation because there are fewer opportunities for blood drives. The bank estimates a 10 percent decline in donations overall since the pandemic’s onset and a 62 percent decline in school-based drives on university and high school campuses.

“That is a tremendous drop-off in our donors,” Flanigan said. “They made up nearly a quarter of our donors in 2019. We have had difficulties hosting within the campuses due to COVID restrictions, remote learning or whatever the case may be.”

Both major blood banks are offering incentives to get more people to donate. Anyone who donates to Vitalant will be entered in a raffle to win one of four $5,000 prepaid gift cards. Red Cross donors will be entered to win a trip to Super Bowl LVI in Los Angeles and another contest to win a home theater package and a $500 e-gift card.

Both Vitalant and the Red Cross request each donor make an appointment to donate in order to monitor for social distancing. If you are vaccinated against COVID-19, the Red Cross will ask for the manufacturer of your doses. Masks are required on site regardless of vaccination status.

To make an appointment through Vitalant, visit vitalant.org or call 877-25-VITAL. To make an appointment through the Red Cross, visit RedCrossBlood.org or call 800-733-2767.

McKenna Ross is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Contact her at mross@reviewjournal.com. Follow @mckenna_ross_ on Twitter.

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