The American Red Cross is looking for blood drive hosts this fall to help keep blood supplies at healthy levels.

Blood drives have been cancelled at alarming rates due to COVID-19 and because nobody knows when the pandemic will end, the need for blood is greater than ever.

About 80% of blood donations are made at blood drives, said Alana Mauger, a spokeswoman for The American Red Cross Blood Services.

Gov. Phil Murphy has deemed blood donations as an essential service, so blood drives are allowed to take place in New Jersey. The challenge is finding places to host them.

Typically, schools, businesses, churches and other community organizations host local blood drives. But many have been closed during the pandemic and even if places like schools open in the fall, they won't be hosting blood drives, said Mauger. The Red Cross said it's going to need blood drive hosts going forward for quite some time.

She said donors have been very generous during the pandemic. For some, it's a reason to get out of the house. For others, it's mainly because they want to save lives.

Mauger said safety procedures are in place at Red Cross blood drives. All they need are the hosts.

Blood donations are by appointment only: No walk-ins will be accepted. That's because they have to limit the number of people inside a building at any given time.

A donor's temperature will be taken before he or she even walks in the door. Mauger said if the donor has a fever of 99.5 or higher, that person will not be allowed in.

Donors will be provided with hand sanitizer throughout the blood donation process. Donors must wear masks and so must all staff. She also pointed out that the staff will be disinfecting and sanitizing all the public spaces in between each blood donor.

As an incentive during the month of August, all blood donors will be given a $5 electronic card from Amazon. Donors will automatically be entered for a chance to win a trip for four to Cedar Point amusement park in Sandusky, Ohio, or Knott's Berry Farm theme park in California, redeemable for the 2021 season.

In addition, those who come out during August to donate blood, plasma or platelets in South Jersey, will receive a coupon from Dunkin' for a free donut and a free medium iced coffee.

Besides looking for blood drive hosts, Mauger said the American Red Cross is involved in a unique program with the FDA where they are collecting convalescent plasma. That means if someone had COVID-19, had a positive test and fully recovered, that person may be able to donate their platelets, which may have the COVID-19 antibodies. That blood would be given to help someone in need. This type of donation can be done at the blood donation centers in Princeton and Pennsauken.

Mauger said the registration process for this is different. Go to RedCrossBlood.org/plasma4covid. Register on that site to say you're interested and someone will be in touch to qualify you.

Learn more and sign up to sponsor or host a drive by visiting RedCrossBlood.org/HostADrive.

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