Facing one of the worst blood shortages in recent memory, health care leaders are urging people to consider donating.

Already, the shortage has forced some hospitals across the country to delay elective surgeries. The situation is mainly fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic. Fewer people donated blood during the pandemic and there is a backlog of procedures after many were postponed due to COVID-19.

Supply is low for all blood types, even Type O-negative, which is especially concerning because of its universal acceptance; anyone can receive O-negative blood despite their blood type.

While Essentia Health has largely been able to navigate the shortage thus far without significant interruptions, the risk is pronounced.

“Severe shortages of blood components pose significant risk to normal hospital operations and could result in the delay of elective surgeries, thus disrupting crucial patient care,” Dr. Maria Beaver, a pathologist and transfusion services medical director at Essentia Health, said in a news release. “In our experience, summer blood supply tends to be lower on average, and this is further heightened by the COVID pandemic. At the same time, summer months tend to bring a larger number of trauma cases, thus the need for blood increases. A healthy and continuous blood supply is crucial for normal operations and excellent patient care.

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“We strongly encourage healthy people to consider the gift of donation to replenish the blood supply both within and outside our region," Beaver said.

It’s said that every two seconds in the U.S. someone will need blood. And blood from one donation can save up to three lives. Donation opportunities abound.

Visit aabb.org/for-donors-patients/give-blood to find the blood-donation center, as well as upcoming blood drives, nearest you.

To be eligible to donate blood, you must be 17 years old (16 with parental consent), weigh at least 110 pounds and be in good health.