CHATTANOOGA, Tenn – Blood Assurance is urging all eligible donors to make an appointment to give blood this week to help patients in Chattanooga hospitals.

Blood donation numbers have drastically dropped during the pandemic, and with hospital usage increasing, the blood supply is at critically low levels. Blood banks across the country are experiencing shortages and are counting on their communities to give.

Blood Assurance is the sole supplier to the Chattanooga area and provides all blood products used at local hospitals.

“The need for blood never stops and it takes several hundred donors every day to maintain a safe and adequate blood supply for our area hospitals,” said Dr. Elizabeth Culler, medical director at Blood Assurance. “Blood donors are essential to our hospital infrastructure just like masks, gloves and medical equipment. Without blood on the shelf, patients cannot be cared for.”

During this pandemic, donating blood is completely safe and essential. Blood Assurance is asking everyone who can donate blood to please do so during this time of critical need. Donors will be tested for COVID-19 antibodies when they donate now through October 5. After October 5, Blood Assurance will pause testing and prepare to bring it in house at a future date.

Blood Assurance is continuing to take extra precautions at this time to ensure the safety of donors and staff. Staff and donors are required to wear masks and staff are frequently disinfecting all items and surfaces used by donors. They are also accepting donors by appointment only and these appointments are being spaced apart to ensure adequate distance.

Blood donation is essential to the infrastructure of healthcare and the only way to ensure patients have the blood they need is for people to donate. Blood cannot be manufactured and all blood used in community hospitals is from volunteer donors.

To be eligible to donate blood, you must be at least 17 years old (16 years old with parental consent), weigh 110 pounds or more and be in good health. Donors are asked to drink plenty of fluids — avoiding caffeine — and eat a meal that is rich in iron prior to donating.