March is Red Cross Month, so the 22nd was a fitting time for First United Methodist Church in Moorestown to hold a Red Cross blood drive.
Diane Concannon, communications director for the American Red Cross, explained that blood shortages typically occur in the summer and winter months, but eventually rebound.
“This year, in the fall, we did not see that bounce back in September that we usually do when the schools open up again and everybody’s back from vacation,” Concannon said. “But yet people were moving around more freely and there was still a demand for blood products from our hospitals.”
She noted that due to the omicron and Delta COVID variants, schools operating with virtual and hybrid models couldn’t hold in person blood drives.
“The omicron variant was a lot of the reason for why the American Red Cross went to calling out a blood crisis,” Concannon explained. “ … We had donors that were sick, staffers that were sick.”
Concannon noted the blood supply is still vulnerable even though the Red Cross is out of a blood crisis.
“A lot of that is thanks to our donors and blood drive hosts that stuck with us throughout the whole period that we were just in with the blood crisis, where we were literally moving blood drives around as needed,” she said.
The Red Cross website has information for regular and first-time donors and a donor app with various features.
“The blood donor app will not only give you those reminders about your upcoming appointments, but several days after your donation, it will inform you where your blood is going, like what hospital or what location,” Concannon said.
“So that you’ll know how your blood is helping, plus you can set up your appointments in there (and) it keeps track of how many donations you’ve made,” she added.
The Red Cross didn’t see a blood crisis at the beginning of or at the height of the pandemic because demand wasn’t as high. That, in turn, allowed the organization to adjust accordingly.
“Now we’re seeing a strong demand … and we did in the fall and the demand was increasing,” Concannon said. “We were working with the hospitals 24 hours a day just to try to meet their needs.”
She praised the hundreds of Red Cross volunteers and donors who continued to help during the pandemic.
“(We are) unbelievably so proud of how many still stepped forward and said, ‘This is important; we understand how important it is,’” Concannon offered. “Our volunteers continued to be there for the donors.”
For more information on donating blood, visit redcrossblood.org.