San Bernardino blood bank facing 'critical' supply shortage

Officials who work at a San Bernardino blood bank say the supply has never been as low as it is now, several months after the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. (KABC) -- Over the years, the blood supply at LifeStream Blood Bank has endured highs and lows. But officials who work at the facility in San Bernardino say the supply has never been as low as it is now, several months after the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We're at a very, very critical need right now," said Dr. Joe Chaffin, chief medical officer at LifeStream Blood Bank. "It's as critical as I've seen in over 20 years."

Early in the pandemic, blood bank officials enticed potential donors with COVID-19 antibody tests. And because hospitals were delaying non-essential surgeries, the demand for blood was low. But things have changed.

"As hospitals have gone more back to normal, at least in California, and to some extent in the rest of the country, and surgeries are going up, blood use is increasing while at the same time the number of units that we collect is still depressed," Chaffin said.

Chaffin says not only are fewer people coming into the blood bank to donate, perhaps out of COVID-19 fears, but the closure of local schools has limited their ability to hold blood drives.

"Because of not being able to go to colleges, not being able to go to high schools. And corporate blood drives being decreased as well," Chaffin said.

Chaffin is encouraging people to donate blood at LifeStream Blood Bank and help alleviate the shortage.

"Interestingly, the most common blood types are the ones we need the most because they tend to get used the most. In our case, red blood cells, group O donors, O negative and O positive, are by far are greatest need right now," he said.
Copyright © 2020 KABC-TV. All Rights Reserved.