Betina Reynolds, a phlebotomist with the Red Cross, prepares the arm of Ben Phebus, center, of Evansville to donate blood at Zion Missionary Baptist Church in Evansville Thursday morning, Sept. 30, 2021. Phlebotomist David Deitz, left, is also pictured. The Tri-State is in the middle of a blood shortage with only a half-day supply on-hand when they normally try to keep a five-day supply. DENNY SIMMONS / COURIER & PRESS
Betina Reynolds, a phlebotomist with the Red Cross, prepares the arm of Ben Phebus, center, of Evansville to donate blood at Zion Missionary Baptist Church in Evansville Thursday morning, Sept. 30, 2021. Phlebotomist David Deitz, left, is also pictured. The Tri-State is in the middle of a blood shortage with only a half-day supply on-hand when they normally try to keep a five-day supply. DENNY SIMMONS / COURIER & PRESS
EVANSVILLE — Along with much of the rest of the country, the Tri-State is facing a severe shortage of blood and platelets needed for transfusions.

This is the most critical blood shortage since 2015, according to Theo Boots, executive director for the Southwest Chapter of Indiana Red Cross. The Southwest Chapter also covers Henderson and parts of Western Kentucky. Local and regional Red Cross officials are urging people to make an appointment to donate.

"We know the need has increased and the participation has decreased," she said. "So we're hoping to get that turned around."

Boots said that ideally, there is a five-day supply of blood on hand. Currently there is only a half-day's worth locally.

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Several factors have contributed to the blood shortage, the latest spike in COVID cases among them. With many people choosing to stay at home, the general trend of blood donations ebbing during the summer months has continued into early fall.

"Typically blood donor turnout is the lowest during summer and around the holidays," Boots said. "That's usually when people are on vacation and school is out.

"But with COVID, people are still not coming as we typically see this time of year, so supplies are getting low."

While all blood types are needed, Boots said, types O-positive and O-negative are especially crucial. Type O-positive is the most common blood type, with roughly 37% of Americans having O-positive blood.

Meanwhile, O-negative is the "universal" blood type that is most compatible with all other blood types, especially important in emergencies.

"This is what emergency personnel reach for when there's no time to determine a patient's blood type," Boots explained. "So it's obviously important that we have a good supply of that on hand."

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Blood platelets are also at a critical low. Platelets, which help control the clotting action of blood, are an important tool in treating cancer and  immunocompromised patients.

Platelets only have a shelf life of five days once donated, so it is important to keep a consistent stream of platelet donors. Blood has a shelf life of about 42 days. An individual can donate about every 56 days.

"Blood is not something we can manufacture," Boots said. "It's critical that people come out and donate so we can maintain supply. People all across this country depend on the generosity of blood donors."

The Evansville Blood Donation Center at 29 S. Stockwell Road is open every day except for Sundays and Thursdays. But Boots said that if you want to give blood, the best way to line up an appointment is by visiting redcrossblood.org to find the closest location or event to you.

"Because of COVID, we want people to go online and make an appointment," she said. "We don't want to have a bunch of people in a line waiting around. If people make an appointment we can get them in and out more efficiently."

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