With blood supplies at the lowest levels in a decade, the American Red Cross is urging people to sign up to give blood. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Photo

BIDDEFORD — The American Red Cross is asking people to give blood amid what it is calling the first-ever Red Cross blood crisis.

Jennifer Costa said the Red Cross strives to assure hospitals have a five-day supply of critical blood types.

“We’re now at half a day’s supply,” said Costa, the Red Cross spokeswoman for Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont, from her Scarborough base on Thursday, Jan. 27.

Officials at Southern Maine Health Care in Biddeford are keeping their eyes on the supply and are urging people to give blood.

“Like all Maine hospitals, SMHC is closely monitoring its blood supply on a daily basis to ensure that blood is available in emergency situations,” said SMHC spokeswoman Allison Kenty. “We’ve already postponed many non-urgent surgeries due to the need to shift staffing to care of COVID patients, but have not had to delay surgeries solely due to blood supply issues. We would encourage anyone who is able to help by participating in American Red Cross Blood drives.”

Maine needs 152 pints of whole blood a day to meet the demand, said Costa.


“That means 1,064 Mainers need to roll up their sleeves each week to donate blood,” she said, noting that the same pool of donors cannot give again for eight weeks.

Whole blood has a shelf life of 42 days; platelets, five days.

She attributed the current shortage to a combination of factors — fewer donors, staffing challenges due to COVID-19, and winter weather that causes blood drive cancellations.

Although people have stepped up once the word went out about the dire need for blood across the nation, Costa said, more donors are needed in the weeks ahead to recover from the Red Cross’s worst blood shortage in a decade.

“We’re asking people to not only consider blood donation, but regular blood donation,” said Costa. “If more people are in the habit of regular donation, it will go a long way to stabilizing the peaks and valleys.”

“Blood donation is one of those things people don’t think about until it collides with their life,” Costa said in a telephone interview. “I don’t think people wonder if the blood will be there if they are in a car accident — it is a given that it is there — but if not for people volunteering, it won’t be there. We can’t stockpile it and we cannot manufacture it.”


People can go to: redcrossblood.org and type in their zip code to get a list of upcoming blood donor clinics and to make their appointment.

Here is a list of currently scheduled upcoming area clinics; appointments for these clinics may be made online or by calling 1-800-RED CROSS.

• Feb. 10, Saco Grange 153, 168 North St., 9 a.m. to 2.m.

• Feb. 11, Old Orchard Beach Town Hall, 1 Portland Ave. 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

• Feb. 15, St. Martha Church, 34 Portland Road, Kennebunk, Noon to 5:30 p.m.

• Feb. 21, Biddeford Eagles, 57 Birch St., 1 to 6 p.m.

• Feb. 22, Kennebunkport American Legion, 102 Main St., 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

• March 1, Kennebunk Masons, 159 Alfred Road, noon to 5 p.m.

• March 1, Saint Maximilian Church, 150 Black Point Road, Scarborough, 1 to 6 p.m.

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