Red Cross declares national blood crisis amid Omicron surge

Blood and platelet donations are critically needed to help prevent further delays in vital medical treatments.

Denise Dador Image
Wednesday, January 12, 2022
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The American Red Cross is facing a national blood crisis - its worst blood shortage in over a decade, posing a concerning risk to patient care.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- The American Red Cross is facing a national blood crisis - its worst blood shortage in over a decade, posing a concerning risk to patient care.

Amid this crisis, doctors have been forced to make difficult decisions about who receives blood transfusions and who will need to wait until more products become available. Blood and platelet donations are critically needed to help prevent further delays in vital medical treatments.

"Nationally, we like to be at a five-day supply, and currently, we are at a one-day supply, and that is what has put us in critical need," said Luis Ramirez, a district manager with American Red Cross Biomedical Services.

Officials say 25% of the Red Cross' blood supply comes from high school students. Due to the massive increase in COVID-19 infections, those donations have dropped 62%.

At Children's Hospital Los Angeles, sickle cell patients rely on regular blood donations containing specific antigens.

"We have special needs patients that require special units of blood, and we need to get those from the Red Cross," said Vaanush Nazaryan, the interim CHLA Transfusion Medicine Manager.

While all donors are needed, the Red Cross has been forced to ration deliveries of Type O and A blood.

All of this comes as January marks National Blood Donor Month, a time to raise awareness about the need for blood donations when regular seasonal illnesses like colds and the flu, as well as winter weather often leads to a decline in donations.

"Blood donation is one of those things that we only get from donors. It's not something that can be manufactured. It's really the gift of life," said Ramirez.

A dedicated pool of donors has kept CHLA afloat, but Nazaryan said mobile drives at select Los Angeles Kings games have been a lifeline during the pandemic.

"Our recent joint blood mobile drives during the games have been extremely successful, and we are so grateful for the support," Nazaryan said.

CHLA will be at the Kings games on Thursday, Jan. 13 and Thursday, Jan. 20.

To get people in the spirit of giving, those who donate will get two tickets to that night's game and two tickets to a future game.

You can make appointments here.

If you donate to the Red Cross between now and Jan. 31, you'll be entered in a giveaway to win Super Bowl tickets or a home theater package.

You can find a donation location on the American Red Cross website. Individuals who have received a COVID vaccine are still eligible to donate blood and platelets. Knowing the name of the manufacturer of the vaccine they receive is important in determining blood donation eligibility.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.