The American Red Cross has put out a desperate plea for blood donors — and the need is even greater than usual in Utah at this time of year.

“It’s being used much faster in the hospitals than it’s coming in,” said Sheri Van Bibber, a spokeswoman for the Red Cross chapter in Utah. “We’re just not seeing the donors coming in.”

December is always a tough time for blood donations as people get busy with the holidays, she said. But they've already come up against that holiday lull.

“We’ve never hit it this early. We’ve never hit it in November,” Van Bibber said. “This is a first.”

And donations already were down this fall. In September and October, the Red Cross collected more than 21,000 fewer blood and platelet donations than hospitals needed. Hurricanes Michael and Florence caused the cancellation of many blood drives in affected states, making the problem more acute at a time when donations dip, both in Utah and other states.

“Patients across the country cannot survive without your generosity,” said Cliff Numark, senior vice president of Red Cross Biomedical Services, in a news release. “From traumas to ongoing cancer treatments, the need for blood doesn’t stop for the holidays.”

Donors of all blood types — especially type O — as well as platelet donors are urged to make an appointment to donate at RedCrossBlood.org or by calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767). Donors can go to donation centers or join blood drives; dozens are scheduled in Utah between now and Dec. 15 and can be found using a locator tool on the nonprofit’s website.

(Donors who come in over the Thanksgiving holiday — Nov. 21-24 — will receive a long-sleeved Red Cross T-shirt, while supplies last.)

Not only are donors needed, but the Red Cross is asking for volunteer blood-drive hosts to step forward — churches, schools, businesses, civic groups. An additional 245 blood drives are needed in Utah, and 4,300 nationally, in December, January and February.

Those interested in hosting a blood drive can sign up at RedCrossBlood.org/HostADrive.