In recent weeks, blood centers in New Jersey and nationwide have reported declines in blood collections, with some seeing their lowest donor turnout in more than a year, according to the American Red Cross.

Diane Concannon, communications director for the American Red Cross New Jersey, said typically summer is slow for blood donations, mainly because schools are closed and blood drives can't be held there. Additionally, more people take vacations during the summer, making it harder to get donors in the door to roll up their sleeves.

Now that things are getting back to normal and people are resuming summertime activities they weren't able to enjoy a year ago due to the coronavirus pandemic, Concannon said the Red Cross is concerned about what impact that will have on blood donor turnout and blood supplies this summer.

When faced with needing blood for life-saving transfusions or to help accident victims, Concannon said it's important to have that blood ready to go when every second counts.

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According to the American Cancer Society, many patient visits and procedures were either put on hold or cancelled during the pandemic to reduce the spread of COVID-19. But as schedules get back to normal, blood and platelet donations have become critical.

Concannon said all blood types, especially O negative blood are needed. O negative is the most common blood type used for transfusions, when the blood type is unknown. As a result, it's always needed on the shelves to be used at a moment's notice in a trauma situation or in an emergency room.

The Red Cross also has an emergency need for eligible donors in New Jersey to make an appointment to give platelets. Platelets, the clotting portion of blood, is primarily given to cancer patients during treatment. Platelets must be transfused within five days of donation, so they are always in great demand.

The Red Cross needs to collect at least 600 units of blood a day in order to keep hospital blood supplies at a safe level.

Blood drives have been essential during the pandemic too, said Concannon. To find one near you, go to www.redcrossblood.org. There, answers to all questions can be found, especially for first-time donors who need help walking through the process.

She said if someone is available, healthy and they want to donate blood and platelets, just plug in your zip code and you'll find all the blood drives and blood donation centers in your area.

Concannon said anyone who donates blood and/or platelets from now until June 13 will receive a limited edition Red Cross T-shirt.

"We appreciate New Jersey donors when we ask and let them know that the need for blood is strong. We can always depend on them to turn out and roll up a sleeve and give blood," said Concannon.

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