JASPER — The American Red Cross officials report there’s a national blood crisis — the worst blood shortage in more than a decade — posing a concerning risk to patient care.

According to American Red Cross Blood Services, the shortage forces doctors to decide who receives blood transfusions and who will need to wait until more products become available. Blood and platelet donations are critically needed to help prevent further delays in vital medical treatments.

The crisis is attributed to a 10% decline in donations since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, including a 62% drop in college and high school blood drives due to the pandemic. Student donors accounted for about 25% of donors in 2019, but accounted for just 10% during the pandemic.

Ongoing blood drive cancellations due to illness, weather-related closures and staffing limitations also contribute to the shortage, and surges in COVID-19 cases and flu season can compound the problem.

The Red Cross, which supplies 40% of the nation’s blood supply, has had to limit blood product distributions to hospitals as a result of the shortage. Officials report less than a one-day supply of critical blood types in recent weeks.

The O-negative blood type is most compatible with all other blood types, and that supply is critical because it nearly 40% of Americans have it.

According to The American Red Cross, people can still donate blood after receiving a COVID-19 vaccination, but knowing the name of the manufacturer is critical in determining blood donation eligibility.

The Red Cross requires all those at blood drives and blood donation centers to wear face masks regardless of their vaccination status. Valve face masks are not permitted. Face shields can be worn in addition to face masks but not as a substitute.

Upcoming opportunities to give blood in Dubois County include:

• St. Mary Catholic Church,2835 North 500 West, Jasper, from 2-7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 24.

• Winslow Community Blood Drive, 411 East Porter Street, Winslow, from 2-6 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 26. (sponsor code WinslowCommunityCenter).

• Ferdinand Elementary School, 402 East 8th Street, Ferdinand, 1-7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 20 (sponsor code Ferdinand).

Register online at https://www.redcrossblood.org/give