(WWTI) — The dire blood shortage is continuing across the country as the Omicron COVID-19 variant continues to surge.

On Tuesday, January 11, the American Red Cross officially declared the country’s first-ever blood crisis. According to the organization, which supplies 40% of the nation’s blood, this is the worst blood shortage it has seen in over a decade, which poses risks to patient care.

The Red Cross said that amid this crisis, doctors nationwide have been forced to delay blood transfusions for patients. Stating that many have had to make decisions on who receives blood transfusions and who will need to wait until more products become available.

“While some types of medical care can wait, others can’t,” Red Cross Chief Medical Officer Dr. Pampee said in a press release. “Hospitals are still seeing accident victims, cancer patients, those with blood disorders like sickle cell disease, and individuals who are seriously ill who all need blood transfusions to live even as Omicron cases surge across the country.”

The national blood shortage has been in part brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. The organization said that blood donations have declined by 10% since the beginning of the pandemic, but recently has experienced an event lower donor turnout since the delta variant was first confirmed.

The Red Cross is also continuing to confront additional issues brought on by the pandemic, including blood drive cancellations, staffing shortages and the ongoing surge of COVID-19 cases.

To address these shortages, the Red Cross is urging people to donate blood or platelets as soon as possible. All types are currently needed, especially O-positive and O-negative.

“We’re doing everything we can to increase blood donations to ensure every patient can receive medical treatments without delay, but we cannot do it without more donors,” Dr. Pampee added. “We need the help of the American people.”

Appointments to donate blood or platelets can be made by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, on the Red Cross website or by calling 1-800-733-2767.

The Red Cross is also seeking volunteers for blood drives across the country. Volunteers can register on the Red Cross website.