COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) – The American Red Cross sounding the alarm for the first time ever by issuing a National Blood Emergency.

News 3’s Blake Eason spoke with local health officials to understand the reason for it and what’s next.

Kristal Baker System Manager for Transfusion Safety and Quality at Piedmont says the situation is as dire as it sounds, adding there’s just not enough blood to give to those who need it.

“This is a very crucial moment. We are in a position we’ve never been in before,” Baker said.

Baker adds there are several issues leading to this, all by-products of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s a very large cascade of events that’s causing this supply disruption,” Baker said.

From less people giving blood to less health officials available to make it happen.

 “We’ve had a mass exodus as you’re aware in the healthcare industry,” Baker said.

The list goes on, from a shortage of drivers and processors, Baker says this is forcing health officials to make extremely difficult decisions, often times a matter of life or death.

“We’re all already feeling the impact of this and having to make decisions where we normally have alternatives to a last-ditch effort, if you will, to save a patient’s life,” Baker said. “You know, we have patients who need this blood, and it has come to a point now where we have to make decisions about who gets it and who doesn’t. We never want to be in that situation.”

From transplant, cardiac, and oncology patients, to mass transfusions and trauma, and even women’s services, Baker adds this is affecting far more people than one might consider.

“Babies are coming, not going to stop,” Baker said.

The question is: Where do we go from here? Baker says it starts by encouraging folks to check their eligibility status and if eligible, give blood.

Baker shares it’s important to raise awareness of this crisis because a large portion of the population is actually ineligible to give blood for a variety of reasons, based on the criteria that’s governed by the Food and Drug Administration

Johnny Williams Account Manger for the American Red Cross in Columbus says now it’s more important than ever for those to give who are eligible.

“Blood is going out much quicker than it’s coming in right now, so we need people to go out to give blood,” Williams said.

And for those on the fence about giving blood, Williams says it’s important to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. 

“Well, just imagine it may be someone in your own family that needs that blood, or even yourself, if it’s not on the shelfs, it makes a very critical situation or patient  that needs it,” Williams said.

Williams adds while they’ve seen an increase in appointments in Columbus, there’s still a ways to go, saying the American Red Cross needs to collect roughly 14,000 unites nationwide, per day, to meet patient demand.

If you’re interested in giving blood, you can visit RedCrossBlood.org to find local blood drives in your area and to learn if you’re eligible to give.