It's a shortage that's nothing short of unprecedented, as the American Red Cross announces its first-ever national blood shortage crisis.

"We're really in a unique situation,"  said Peter Brown, executive director of the Pennsylvania Rivers chapter of the American Red Cross, which serves Berks and several other Pennsylvania counties. "The overall blood supply is the lowest that it's been in at least 10 years."

The Red Cross is urging individuals and groups to help out.

"Our new donors are down about 10% over the last full year without COVID," Brown said. "A big percentage of our blood that we collect comes from colleges and universities and high schools, and those drives, because of all the COVID restrictions, have dropped about 62% over the last, over a year since 2019."

With Acting State Secretary of Health Keara Klinepeter recently saying the health department plans to bring out-of-state health care workers into Pennsylvania to help hospitals and nursing homes, the blood shortage is an added issue making their life-saving work more challenging.

"We're at a point now where a lot of hospitals are being forced to make some difficult decisions about delaying procedures or transfusions," Brown said. "Nationally, we have about a day's supply of blood on hand. Normally, it should be a minimum of five days'."

Anyone willing to help should visit the Red Cross website, where you can enter your zip code and see a list of the available drives in your area.

If you can't donate blood, you can still help.

"We have a need for volunteers to help as blood donor ambassadors," Brown explained. "They're sort of the greeter, and they start the process with each donor who comes in, and then we also need volunteers who can drive the blood."

The Red Cross website has all the details on local volunteer opportunities.

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