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The American Red Cross is experiencing an emergency blood and platelet shortage and is urging the public to donate in order to meet the needs of patients this fall.

Red Cross officials said they must collect 10,000 additional blood products each week throughout October in order for their blood supply to recover and help patients in need. A sharp drop in blood donor turnout has resulted in the lowest post-summer blood inventory level in six years.

“Fall is typically a time when the blood supply rebounds as donors are more available to give than during the busy summer months, but this year has presented a unique and serious challenge,” said Dr. Pampee Young, chief medical officer for the Red Cross.

People of all blood types, especially type O, are asked to make an appointment immediately to make a blood donation.

“Fall is typically a time when the blood supply rebounds as donors are more available to give than during the busy summer months, but this year has presented a unique and serious challenge.”

Dr. Pampee Young, American Red Cross

Donor turnout has declined drastically this year due to the recent surge of COVID-19 cases across the country, people returning to work, and in-person learning, the Red Cross said.

“While it’s clear the pandemic continues to weigh heavily on our minds, the Red Cross asks the public to remember donating blood and platelets is essential to the many patients who rely on lifesaving transfusions every day,” Young said.

The organization said in August that participation from blood donors was down 10 percent, but blood product distributions continue to remain strong.

Anyone who gives a donation through Sept. 30 will receive a limited-edition, football-inspired Red Cross T-shirt as well as a free haircut coupon from Sport Clips Haircuts.

People donating in October will receive a link by email to claim a free Zaxby’s Signature sandwich reward or can receive a $5 e-gift card to a merchant of their choice.

Appointments can be made at the Red Cross website.