Los Angeles

Near-Empty Shelves. Blood Shortage Worsened in Pandemic

"As you can see, the shelves are relatively empty right now. We’re collecting enough for us to get by day by day.”

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Along with ICU bed shortages, another problem hospitals are facing in the pandemic -- a problem that already existed pre-pandemic and has since worsened -- is a blood shortage.

NBCLA got an intimate look into the issue affecting hospitals across the country at Los Angeles Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

"Let me turn the phone around to give you an idea. These are blood products," said Armando Romero, associate director of blood donor services at Cedars-Sinai. "As you can see, the shelves are relatively empty right now. We’re collecting enough for us to get by, day by day.”

At Cedars-Sinai, empty shelves are actually not the norm.

"I mean here we’d normally store platelet products here but as you can see we don’t really have much product right now," Romero said.

Nationwide, blood shortages are common after the holidays – it’s part of the reason every January is National Blood Donor month. But this year, it’s particularly severe as we face another COVID-19 surge.

"We’re sending out more plasma for those patients than what we have coming in," said Dr. Ross Herron, chief medical officer, west division of American Red Cross.

Herron said blood types across the board are needed, but plasma from those who have recovered from COVID-19 even more so.

We’re collecting enough for us to get by, day by day.

"We’re about 21,000 units nationwide a month ago. Now we’re down to 3,000 or so," he said.

Coronavirus Hospital Use Projections Across the Country

This interactive chart uses model data provided by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation to predict how the coronavirus will affect health care resources in different states. In states such as Florida and California, hospital bed use is projected to continue to grow into September and October. Most states have enough general hospital and ICU beds to meet demand, according to additional data from The Associated Press.

Sources: State hospital bed capacity data from the Associated Press. Model data provided by IHME. Note: The model assumes mask use continues at currently observed rates and the gradual easing of social distancing mandates continues. It also assumes the mandate would be re-imposed for six weeks if daily deaths reach 8 per million.
Credit: Amy O’Kruk/NBC

A blood drive at John Wayne Airport in Orange County Tuesday was booked solid, but the Red Cross saying the need is so great, they allowed for walk-ins.

For the month of January only, the NFL teamed up with the American Red Cross to offer a raffle to win tickets to next year’s Super Bowl in Los Angeles. Learn more here.

The Beverly Center and Cedars Sinai are also teaming for a three-day Community Blood Drive to address the need. It begins Friday, Jan. 8 through Sunday, Jan. 9 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day at 8500 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90048. Organizers say to park at the La Cienega Boulevard entrance and follow the signs to Cal Mare, located on level 1 at the 3rd Street entrance.

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