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A health care worker taking a donor's blood at a drive hosted by the New York Blood Center in New York City on June 14. Photo: Michael Nagle/Xinhua via Getty Images

The American Red Cross asked the public this week to help replenish the United States' depleted blood inventory amid a "severe" national shortage.

Why it matters: The non-profit said the shortage is likely driven by a recent surge in trauma cases and emergency room visits, as well as advanced disease progression from patients deferring care throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

  • Because coronavirus vaccinations have steadily increased in the U.S. and new cases have dropped to their lowest level since the start of the pandemic, the Red Cross has relaxed its restrictions on giving blood.
  • Fully vaccinated blood donors will no longer need to wear a mask or socially distance at drives.

What they're saying: “Some hospitals are being forced to slow the pace of elective surgeries until the blood supply stabilizes, delaying crucial patient care," Chris Hrouda, president of Red Cross Biomedical Services, said in a statement.

  • "As we return to pre-pandemic activities and resume travel to visit loved ones, we want people to remember the needs of patients this summer and the power so many of us have to help save lives," Hrouda added.

By the numbers: Hospitals around the country are currently responding to an abnormally high number of trauma events and emergency room visits.

  • The Red Cross said blood demand from hospitals with trauma centers has increased by 10% in 2021 compared to 2019 levels.

The big picture: Blood centers in central Iowa, Rhode Island, western South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Ohio and many other states have sent out urgent calls for donations.

  • The Red Cross said there was a specific demand for platelets, which quickly expire, and type O blood, since it can be used in transfusions for almost all other blood types.
  • Red Cross donors will receive a $5 Amazon gift card if they give by June 30.

Go deeper: HHS to invest $3 billion for antiviral pills against COVID-19

Go deeper

Jun 17, 2021 - Health

U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan on lockdown amid surge in COVID-19 cases

Medical staff members prepare to assist a suspected COVID-19 coronavirus patient in Kabul. Photo: Wakil Kohsar/AFP via Getty Images.

More than 100 people at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul have been diagnosed with COVID-19, at least one person has died and several others have been medically evacuated out of the country, CNN reports.

State of play: Effective immediately, all embassy personnel will be placed on lockdown and only permitted to leave their quarters to get food or to exercise outdoors, according to CNBC.

1 hour ago - World

Biden: U.S. combat mission in Iraq will end this year

Biden returning to the White House on July 25. Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images

The United States' combat mission against the Islamic State in Iraq will be completed "by the end of the year," President Biden said Monday prior to a meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi.

Why it matters: Biden is close to shifting the U.S. military mission in Iraq to a fully advisory role more than 18 years after combat troops were sent to the country under the former President George W. Bush.

How extreme weather feeds inflation

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

This summer's extreme weather is having ripple effects that could raise food prices in the U.S. and disrupt diets around the world.

Why it matters: Climate scientists and food supply experts, like those at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Rome, have long warned about the impact of human-caused global warming on prices, food shortages and hunger.