NC Faces ‘Worst Blood Shortage in Over a Decade.’ Here’s How To Help.

Gov. Roy Cooper donated blood last month at an American Red Cross of Eastern North Carolina facility. (Gov. Cooper’s office)

By Michael McElroy

February 1, 2022

Demand is on the rise, but blood donations in North Carolina have been plunging for nearly a year.

North Carolina needs your blood. 

Blood donations have fallen for nearly a year but the demand for blood is back to pre-pandemic levels, NC health officials say. 

It is, the American Red Cross says, “the worst blood shortage in over a decade.”

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The Red Cross and the Blood Connection, two of the major blood providers to North Carolina’s hospitals, have been able to meet demand so far but are not getting enough donations to maintain their week-to-week supplies over the long run.

The Blood Connection, which provides blood to more than 30 hospitals in eastern and central North Carolina, needs 800 units of donated blood daily to maintain its ideal of five to seven days of supply, Ellen Kirtner, a spokesperson for the Blood Connection told Cardinal & Pine on Tuesday. 

They are short of that level now, she said.

“We are in a critical need for all blood types right now,” she told us. 

North Carolina health officials are sounding the alarm and asking the community for help.

Last month Gov. Roy Cooper donated blood at an American Red Cross of Eastern North Carolina site and urged others to do the same. 

“Blood supplies are critically low right now, and donating saves lives,” the governor said on Twitter.

Dr. Lisa Pickett, chief medical officer of Duke University Hospital, told the News & Observer last month that medical staff were having to double check each surgery patient to make sure they had enough blood on hand. 

“This is the worst I’ve ever seen in my 30-year career,” Pickett told the paper.

The shortage has not yet directly affected North Carolina hospitals, but it’s not the kind of problem you wait to solve, hospital officials said. 

“We are fortunate that we have not had to postpone or cancel procedures during the pandemic due to blood availability,” Alan Wolf, a spokesperson for the UNC Health, said. “But the system, he said, has also “been proactive in trying to encourage more donations,” hosting a blood drive last month and scheduling another for March 14.

“We encourage all individuals to donate blood if they’re able,” Wolf said. 

And the blood you donate locally stays local, Kirtner said.

“Your donation will directly affect the community where you live,” she said. 

A few minutes of your day can mean your neighbor’s world.

“The blood supply is only as bad as the community allows it to be,” Kirtner said “We know that blood saves lives and we need the community’s help to solve this problem.”

How to Help

Several hospital systems have their own donation services, and you can call your local hospital to find out more. But the two national groups below provide blood to hospitals in more than 80 counties.

To donate, call the numbers below or make an appointment through the websites. Walk-ins are accepted, the groups said, but appointments are encouraged.

The Blood Connection


Phone: 828-233-5301 

Schedule an appointment here.


Phone: 828-585-8060

Schedule an appointment here.


Phone: 984-222-1101

Schedule an appointment here.

Red Cross
Visit the website here or call 1-800­-RED CROSS (1-800­-733-2767)


  • Michael McElroy

    Michael McElroy is Cardinal & Pine's political correspondent. He is an adjunct instructor at UNC-Chapel Hill's Hussman School of Journalism and Media, and a former editor at The New York Times.

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