Blood donations decline, pandemic cited as obstacle 

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MERIDEN — The Red Cross is raising awareness of the immediate need for blood donations during the holiday season, citing the pandemic as the major obstacle. 

According to the Red Cross website, the organization is heading into the holidays with the “lowest blood supply in more than a decade.” In an attempt to encourage donors, those who give blood until Dec. 16 will receive a $10 gift card and are entered for the chance to win a private screening of “The Matrix Resurrection.” 

On Saturday, the Red Cross held a blood drive at Maloney High School from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“We need to collect here in Connecticut, about 500 pints a day to keep our 31 hospitals and care centers stocked with blood,” said Pat Pattonelli, the state’s collection team supervisor. “Typically most of our blood drives are about this size, six bags and about 50 appointments.”

The Red Cross statewide hosts about 14 to 18 drives per weekday, about six on Saturdays and at least one on Sundays. At the start of the pandemic, donations actually went up, but have since tapered off.  

“The pandemic had unique effects on blood banking operations,” Pattonelli said. “Demand for products went up, but also supply went up. Now, it’s tapered off a little bit, but the demand is still very high so we are a little bit behind...” 

Christine Hicinbothem, who was donating on Saturday, said she tries to give blood four times a year because she was once a recipient. 

“This is something that I can do to give back and repay what someone else gave to me,” Hicinbothem said. “Being fortunate to be healthy and give blood when there are so many that aren’t right now, I think is a good thing to do.” 

Because of the pandemic, fewer blood drives are being held at schools, contributing to a 34 percent drop in new donors statewide, compared to 2020, the Red Cross reported. Surgeries and other treatments postponed during the height of the pandemic have now resumed, fueling a rise in demand for blood.

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