Now that the holidays are behind everyone, New Jersey blood banks desperately need donations, especially since so many blood drives were cancelled in 2020.

Rosie Taravella, regional CEO at The American Red Cross New Jersey, said blood banks have enough supply but that could change any day.

In the fall, the American Red Cross typically relies on schools and corporate offices to hold blood drives. But that did not happen in 2020. She is encouraging new hosts to hold community blood drives in 2021 and thanks those who have held them.

The pandemic has affected elective surgeries and everyday trauma. Fewer cars on the road means fewer accidents and less need for blood transfusions. But Taravella said one snowstorm can cancel many drives and then they're behind again.

Blood banks need to collect more than 600 units of blood a day in New Jersey just to meet hospital demand. There was a point earlier in the pandemic where the Red Cross was collecting just 70% of that need. This puts hospitals in a tough bind and what winds up happening is a public health emergency within a public health emergency, said Taravella.

The Red Cross has been successful in encouraging people who don't normally donate blood to either visit the website at www.redcrossblood.org or download the Red Cross donor app. But Taravella said she's concerned with winter, the ever-changing weather  and people getting out of their routines because of the holidays.

All blood types are needed, especially O-negative because that's the universal blood type.

Taravella said the Red Cross is also testing all blood donations for COVID-19 antibodies. So a donor can be informed if they have the antibodies. That unit of blood can be used to draw plasma because COVID convalescent plasma is still being used to treat COVID patients.

"This is a way that we're contributing to fight the illness," said Taravella.

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It also gives a donor peace of mind and he or she is, in turn, contributing to something important.

Anyone who has been tested for COVID-19, has experienced or survived COVID, probably has the antibodies, according to Taravella. The Red Bank encourages these people to donate plasma. If someone gives plasma and has the COVID antibodies, that will create up to four units that can be used in hospitals for treatment.

Taravella said to find a blood drive location or to make an appointment to donate blood, one can either download the Red Cross donor app, call 1-800-REDCROSS or visit www.redcrossblood.org. The app tells donors where their blood donation is going, which hospital in New Jersey is using it and has all the information about the antibody testing.

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