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American Red Cross declares national blood shortage. Here are the contributing factors.

American Red Cross experiencing emergency blood shortage. Here's are the contributing factors
American Red Cross experiencing emergency blood shortage. Here are the contributing factors 03:35

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - The American Red Cross declaring an emergency blood shortage is an "interesting perfect storm," which has led to the nation's blood supply falling to critically low levels with the number of people donating at its lowest in 20 years, the CEO of the American Red Cross of Southeastern Pennsylvania said.

Jennifer Graham on Tuesday told CBS News Philadelphia the nation's blood supply has decreased by about 40% over the past 20 years. According to the Red Cross, it has lost 300,000 donors since the COVID-19 pandemic alone.

Graham said the Red Cross normally sees a downswing in donations in January, but it's seeing fewer than anticipated. Locally, Graham said the Red Cross saw about 500 fewer blood donations in southeastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware during the holiday season - it was around 7,000 fewer nationwide, Graham added.

Another factor, according to Graham, is cold and flu season with people who want to donate having to cancel appointments due to illness.

"We want them to do that, to wait until they're feeling better," Graham said.

Weather is also a factor, Graham said. For example, she said Tuesday's anticipated weather in the area could have an impact on local blood drives, with some having to cancel for storm preparation.

Graham said the Red Cross's blood donations are going to hospitals faster than they're coming in. She claimed that can have an impact down the road in terms of ensuring the nonprofit has a stable blood supply across its system.

"Right now, we're working so closely with our hospitals in our area and across the country to make sure that we're getting them the products that they need," Graham said. "To make sure that we're supporting those patients who are coming in that need a blood transfusion, but if this continues to go on, we may have to make different decisions."

Graham pleaded for people to consider donating blood, saying there are three ways to donate: calling 1-800-RED-CROSS, donating the Red Cross blood donor app or by visiting

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