Before the pandemic, whenever blood donations dipped, school blood drives served as a steady supply for the New York Blood Center, accounting for roughly a quarter of the center’s reserves and helping cultivate a lifelong habit of donating blood among teenage participants.

But that source ran dry during the pandemic as schools shuttered and moved to remote learning, and COVID-19 restrictions limited in-person gatherings at schools. The Blood Center went from hosting 61 drives at city high schools between January and March 2019 that yielded more than 3,000 blood donations, to just three school-based drives for a total of 182 donations during the same period last year, according to the organization.

The slowdown of school drives could also have a long-term effect on blood supply, with fewer teens getting the chance to build the habit of giving blood while they’re young, Blood Center staffers say.
Now, as COVID-19 restrictions loosen in city schools, teens, educators and Blood Center staffers are scrambling to bring school-based blood drives back to pre-pandemic levels — working diligently behind the scenes to organize events, mobilizing students and teachers to participate, and trying to spread the word to still-wary kids and adults.
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