As pandemic restrictions ease in Saskatchewan and across the country leading into the long weekend, blood donor clinics are seeing rising demand and fewer donors.
Canadian Blood Services lost about 20 per cent of its usual monthly donations at the beginning of the pandemic, according to a report from the blood service's medical officer Dr. Aditi Khandelwal.
The number of donors and blood collections returned to normal by December, but the summer months generally see fewer donations, even in normal years.
With COVID-19 restrictions easing, hospitals are catching up on backlogged medical procedures, increasing the demand for blood.
"We are asking people to step up and donate blood, to book an appointment, preferably before you head off for the long weekend," said Lisa Beechinor, territory manager of donor relations in Saskatoon.
Blood Services said that many blood donors haven't been booking appointments, or have missed them entirely, so supply is dwindling.
Beechinor said that July and August are the quietest months because summer vacations are front of mind. Summer fever is especially potent this year, with restrictions loosening to allow more travel and recreation.
There are more than 260 open appointments from June 25 to July 4 at the Saskatoon donor centre, along with more than 150 in Regina's clinic.
While Blood Services is urging everyone to offer up their arms, it's especially seeking donors with O-negative blood — the universal blood type that everyone can receive.
"People go, 'Well, oh, there will always be enough,' but there isn't always going to be enough. If people don't help maintain it, and if people don't make it front of mind, then there's always that need there," Beechinor said.
COVID-19 protocols limit blood donations to appointment only. More information on booking a donation can be found on the organization's website, app or by calling 1-888-236-6283.