The American Red Cross is experiencing an emergency blood and platelet shortage and must collect 10,000 additional blood products each week over the next month for the blood supply to recover inventory and meet patient and hospital needs.

The national Red Cross blood inventory has dropped to its lowest post-summer levels since 2015 with less than a day's supply of certain blood types in recent weeks, said Rosie Taravella, regional CEO of The American Red Cross New Jersey.

There are fewer people going to work due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In years past, people would normally donate blood at their company blood drives. Schools are not holding blood drives as they have in years past, either.

There's also some concern among people being out in public because of the delta variant of the virus.

Elective surgeries are also back at hospitals after being put on the back burner for quite some time due to the pandemic.

Hospitals and patients in need are depending on the generosity of others. Make an appointment by using the Red Cross Blood Donor app, visiting RedCrossBlood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767). All blood drives happening across New Jersey through October 15 can be found on the website.

"We are hoping that we can get to a place where we collect about 600 units a day in our blood region. That's an average but that is typical because that meets hospital demands," Taravella said.

The supply of types O positive and O negative, the most needed blood types by hospitals, has also dropped to less than a half-day supply at times over the past month. Taravella said that's well below the ideal five-day supply. These blood types can be used in emergency situations because anyone can receive O-negative blood despite their blood type.

Taravella said for those who are still leery about coming out and giving blood, rest assure that the process is safe. All COVID safety protocols are being followed including cleaning, sanitizing and social distancing.

As a thank-you, anyone who donates blood on Thursday, September 30, will receive a limited-edition football-inspired T-shirt while supplies last, plus a coupon for a free haircut via email from Sports Clips Haircuts.

All those who come to donate in October will receive a link by email to claim a free Zaxby's Signature Sandwich reward or get a $5 e-gift card to a merchant of their choice.

The best outdoor beer gardens at NJ breweries

There are more options than ever for enjoying a Garden State crafted beer in an outdoor setting.

New Jersey tied for first place (with Kentucky) with 43% growth in the craft beer scene from 2015 to 2019, according to C+R Research.

The following is a roundup of breweries around the state with scenic, dedicated outdoor seating as weather allows.