The nine incorporated Coachella Valley cities will duke it out this summer to see which population gives more blood as part of the ninth annual “Nine Cities Blood Drive Challenge” organized by LifeStream Blood Bank, it was announced Thursday.

The competition runs from July 1 to Aug. 31 and comes as the nonprofit continues to contend with a dire shortage of donated blood.

“The community wellness issue of available blood supply facing our communities is the most serious it has been in my 17 years with LifeStream,” LifeStream CEO and President Dr. Rick Axelrod said. “I implore my fellow valley residents to respond during the `challenge’ to give local surgeons the life-giving fuel they need to treat their patients.”

Palm Springs residents donated the most blood during last year’s event based on the city’s participation rate compared to its total population.

People who donate during this time receive a free T-shirt, and the winning city gets bragging rights for a year.

LifeStream announced earlier this month it was facing an “extreme” shortage of donated blood, putting the nonprofit at risk of not having enough supply for area hospitals.

Axlerod said the organization was seeing its lowest supplies of donated blood compared to any previous point during the pandemic, when supplies were also historically low.

According to the nonprofit, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced the cancellation of 850 blood drives, representing an estimated 37,500 pints of lost blood.

The dire blood shortage could affect cancer patients, accident victims and newborn babies in need of crucial surgeries.

Blood collected through donations to LifeStream flows to more than 80 hospitals in Riverside, San Bernardino, Orange, Los Angeles, Ventura and San Diego counties.

Potential donors must wear face coverings and maintain social distance while donating.

Donors must be at least 15 years old, weigh at least 115 pounds, be free from infections or illnesses and not be at risk of having AIDS or hepatitis. Those under 17 years old must bring written consent from a parent.

Appointments are recommended and can be made by calling 800-879-4484 or online at www.lstream.org.

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