By Katie Reilly
January 29, 2018
TIME Health
For more, visit TIME Health.

The American Red Cross is experiencing a “critical need” for blood donations across the country after severe winter weather and a deadly influenza season contributed to thousands of fewer donations than usual.

The “critical” classification is more severe than the “urgent” shortage that the organization announced earlier this month.

“It’s just taking us a bit longer to make up for the shortfall. When we first put out the ‘urgent need’ in early January, we just continued to get hammered with harsh weather,” Kara Lusk Dudley, an American Red Cross spokesperson, said Monday. And then on top of that, the flu has had an impact.”

The American Red Cross said Thursday that more than 550 blood drives had been canceled in January, largely due to “brutal cold and severe winter storms,” resulting in more than 16,000 uncollected blood and platelet donations. That compounded a shortage that began last year, when there were over 28,000 fewer donations in November and December than were needed.

“Right now, donations are being sent to hospitals as fast as they are coming in,” the Red Cross said in a video last week, asking people around the country to make appointments to donate blood.

The Red Cross needs to collect more than 13,000 donations every day to serve patients. “To put that into context, the number of donations we’ve been unable to collect would be like us shutting down operations for more than an entire day,” Dudley said in an email.

In most states, people who are 17 and older, weigh at least 110 pounds and are in good health are eligible to donate blood. Donors can make an appointment at redcrossblood.org or by calling 1-800-RED CROSS.

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