POMONA, Calif. (KABC) -- The American Red Cross is appealing nationwide for donations to fill a critical shortage, and the organization hopes new changes in federal eligibility criteria will increase the donor pool.
One of the largest blood processing centers in the nation is in Pomona. Recently, a rededication ceremony was held to honor the launch of the Tiffany Circle Los Angeles Donor Room, just as officials work to get more people to donate.
Blood supply has fallen to critically low levels, much of it due to back-to-back climate disasters, such as hurricanes, fires and the changing workplace.
"We're still feeling the impact of so many individuals working hybrid or from home, so we don't have those large corporate blood drives anymore," said Joanne Nowlin, the CEO of the American Red Cross - Los Angeles region.
Eyewitness News got a rare behind-the-scenes look at the blood-processing hub in Pomona, which showed workers handling blood donations from all over California and Arizona. Shipments were being prepared to be sent out to hundreds of hospitals. Last month, supplies were down 25%.
"Nationwide, we need to collect about 10,000 more every week for the next several months just to catch up," Nowlin said.
From the donor's arm to the patient's arm in three days; the goal is to make donated blood available within 72 hours, which means blood products have to be processed as quickly as possible.
"If everyone who was a one-time donor donated twice, that absolutely would help us in a time of crisis," said Louis Ramirez, District Manager for the American Red Cross Inland Empire and San Gabriel Valley.
Nowlin said the organization sees over a million blood products go through the Pomona facility every year.
Old Food and Drug Administration protocols restricting gay or bisexual men from giving blood have been eliminated. All donors, regardless of sexual orientation, will be assessed based on individual risk.
"We want to create a donation system that is inclusive and open to as many people as possible," said Nowlin.
Anyone who wants to donate should visit RedCross.org. One donation can save up to three lives.
"Give blood. It's simple, it's easy, and it's vitally necessary," said Liz Giordano with Tiffany Circle Los Angeles.