With summer fast approaching, the Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center (MVRBC) reminds Eastern Iowans that it is already the generally slowest time for blood donations for its facility and elsewhere across the state and country. The pandemic has only made the need more critical.

Canceled blood drives and fewer available donors are causing concern for blood centers and health care organizations. They report to the Cedar Rapids Gazette that they currently only have a one-day supply of Type-O blood, which is the first priority used by hospitals in traumas and emergency medical care. Other blood types at their lowest since the pandemic include B-negative and O-positive.

The need isn't just here

The Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center serves about 120 hospitals across Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, and Wisconsin that require about 3,600 red cell donations each week to meet patient needs. They say there's an urgent need across the country, as many of these facilities share resources.

Just how big is the need?

Over the past year, blood collection is operating at 10 to 20 percent below pre-pandemic levels. MVRBC director of donor relations Andrea Hess says the blood center has collected only between 3,200 and 3,300 donations per week on average.

Is it safe to donate blood with the COVID-19 pandemic in progress?

Hess says yes. You can donate blood if you have received any of the currently administered COVID-19 vaccines and should bring your vaccine card with you. The MVRBC is requiring masks in their facility and social distancing between donors at all collection sites.

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How can I donate?

Contact the Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center to schedule an appointment online at bloodcenter.org or by calling 1-800-747-5401.

New name, same great work

On another note, the MVRBC will announce Monday a "rebranding" with a new name. While they represent the states previously mentioned, they are referred to as something different in each of them. This rebranding will solidify them as a single, collective entity.

LOOK: Answers to 30 common COVID-19 vaccine questions

While much is still unknown about the coronavirus and the future, what is known is that the currently available vaccines have gone through all three trial phases and are safe and effective. It will be necessary for as many Americans as possible to be vaccinated in order to finally return to some level of pre-pandemic normalcy, and hopefully these 30 answers provided here will help readers get vaccinated as soon they are able.