The American Red Cross is in the midst of "an emergency need" for blood donations.
The typically slow summer, preceded by a slower-than-normal May and June in terms of donations, led to the shortage.
Nationally, the Red Cross started July with 61,000 fewer donations than anticipated. In Massachusetts, Kelly Isenor, the Red Cross's external communications manager, said the organization was down 1,600 donations at the start of the month.
Summer is not a busy time for blood donations, Isenor said. People are generally consumed with vacations and other summer activities. And places that usually host blood drives, like schools or colleges, are either closed or low-staffed.
"We know it's going to be an extra challenging time in July, but we were not where we needed to be in May or June either," Isenor said.
The Red Cross had also experienced a blood shortage in January, but had since brought its donation numbers back to a normal level, she said. The holidays are typically a slow time for donations, as well.
Right now, the organization is below its benchmark of having a five-day supply of blood on hand, according to a news release. Isenor noted that red blood cells can be kept on hand for 45 days while plasma has about a yearlong shelf life. Platelets, on the other hand, only last about a week.
The Red Cross is urging those with type O blood, both positive and negative, to donate. Type O negative can be given to anyone regardless of blood type, while O positive can be given to anyone with a positive blood type, according to the organization.
"The need is here, even when we know we face these hard times," Isenor said. "We can't stockpile blood."
Those who donate between July 30 and Aug. 30 will receive a $5 Amazon gift card as an incentive.
"We don't pay for blood," Isenor said. "It's just something we can do as a special thank you."
According to the Red Cross website, there is a blood drive at the Andover/North Andover YMCA, 165 Haverhill St., Aug. 5, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.; also, a blood drive is being held at Temple Emanuel, 7 Haggetts Pond Road, Tuesday, Aug. 7, from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m.
--Arianna MacNeill, Salem Evening News