After just over two years trapped in the COVID-19 pandemic, America finds itself facing an epidemic: the nation’s blood bank is in crisis.
Currently, blood donations are reaching an all time low, hospitals all over America feeling the effects. In the past, the American Red Cross has records of over 13.6 million units collected in a year, the donations aliquoted into 7 million portions and distributed to about 2,600 hospitals across the nation. As of January, the Red Cross reported they are receiving a mere fourth of the blood products and supplies they need for treatments. In more recent weeks, there have also been cases where not even a full day’s supply of blood has been available to hospitals. Responsible for 40% of the nation’s blood supply, the American Red Cross is struggling to keep up with the demand they are facing.
But what caused this? Since March 2020, people have had fewer opportunities to donate. According to Diya Aggarwal ’22, co-head of the Red Cross Club at Hopkins, student drives are a large contributor to the American Red Cross. Due to schools shutting down, going virtual, and the implementation of COVID protocols, however, the drives were incredibly unsuccessful for the past two years. A combination of less drives being held and minimal donor turnout, the Red Cross’s intake drastically declined, with “a 62% drop in student blood drives the last two years, the number of student donors falling by 15%,” Aggarwal states. In addition, staffing limitations due to COVID regulations also prevented successful blood drives from being executed.
At Hopkins, the American Red Cross is represented in the Red Cross Club, led by Essie Gau ’23 and Diya Aggarwal ’22. In the past, the club has held an annual blood drive, open to the Hopkins community and general public. Gau and Aggarwal emphasize the importance of a single donation. Aggarwal states, “Many donors don’t know what happens to their blood after they donate it, but one donation can save up to three lives.” According to Aggarwal, donors can see exactly where they are making an impact via the Red Cross Donor app. This year, in order to help with the national crisis, the Red Cross Club has organized multiple blood drives in the past few months, with plans to host at least one more before the end of the school year. According to Gau, the club has also tried to provide more information in order to increase donor turnouts. Gau states that the club “opened the drive up to parents and 16-year-old students with parental consent. We also made public the weight and height requirements so that almost everyone who signed up was eligible to donate.” Gau states this strategy positively affected outcomes: “Both of the blood drives we hosted this year have been very successful, especially our most recent drive. Our goal was to collect 37 units of blood, and we collected 41!”
Still, the American Red Cross is struggling. Gau pleads to the Hopkins community for their attention to this matter, as “The Red Cross is currently facing the lowest blood donor turnout since the pandemic began, so your donation is important now more than ever.”