SoCal donors needed as coronavirus concern leads to severe blood shortages

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Concerns over the novel coronavirus is far reaching. The American Red Cross is facing a severe blood shortage as nearly 4,000 blood drives nationwide have been canceled.

In a row of empty chairs, Thomas Nahigian of Pasadena sits patiently while a technician prepares to draw his platelets. He didn't want to miss his appointment.

"It's a shame that people are afraid or don't want to go, the Red Cross is so professional," Nahigian said. "You know, people shouldn't be afraid to come in."

"It's pretty scary because I think a lot of people are trying to stay away," said Geri Ostil Hernandez, local market manager for the Southern and Northern California Red Cross region. "It's critical. I think we will in a matter of days be in severe shortages."

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"So we are trying to avoid that and hope that everyone will understand that we definitely need people and donors in here and the only way we can get blood is from human beings like you and me," she added.

In the last week, 160 blood drives were cancelled in Southern California. That means more than 5,500 units of blood were not collected.

Each unit of blood affects up to three lives.

"The patient need is still there," Hernandez said. "So we have our cancer patients that need blood product regularly. And we have to have an immediate blood supply for any emergencies and traumas."

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The Red Cross is taking every precaution to ensure the safety of people donating. They take your temperature at the door. Anyone who is not feeling well is asked to reschedule. And donors are kept far apart from others.

"They're doing more glove changes, hand sanitizing, wiping down and sanitizing all the equipment. Such great measures are being practiced," Hernandez said.

The Red Cross tests donor blood for many things, COVID-19 is not one of them. But, there are no reported cases worldwide of transmissions for any respiratory virus, including this coronavirus.

With each passing day, Hernandez said the need becomes more critical.

"Southern California in and of itself is very challenging to collect blood, so I am seeing that we will probably be the ones needing that blood," Hernandez said.

To make an appointment call the American Red Cross or book an appointment online.
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