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COVID-19 Crisis: Blood Donations Urgently Needed

Experts Encourage Blood Donation for Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service

Cedars-Sinai is one of many Los Angeles area hospitals experiencing blood product shortages this month, and experts are encouraging prospective donors to roll up their sleeves and give in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Armando Romero, associate director of Blood Donor Services, said while demand for blood varies from day to day, the supply has remained consistently low throughout the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, creating extreme shortages.

"Community blood drives in places like high schools, colleges and churches are traditionally our biggest source for blood donations," Romero said. "With these venues closed and no longer hosting events like blood drives, we're struggling to keep up with demand."

Romero said that when the hospital can't supply the necessary blood from its own blood collection activities, it turns to outside sources like the American Red Cross. But increased demand for blood products from hospitals throughout the country has caused even those sources to run low on supply.

"What ends up happening is that we have to piece together blood deliveries from different sources," Romero said. "If, for example, we need 50 units of Type O blood, one source might be able to give us 20, another might be able to send us 25. We assess the situation daily to make sure we have enough to keep up with the next few days' demands."

Martin Luther King Jr. Day, often described as "a day on, not a day off," presents the perfect opportunity to give, Romero said.

"What better way to serve your fellow human beings, than giving of yourself on this national day of service," he said. "Especially now, when blood supplies are so low, your blood will likely be put to use within just a few days, helping a patient safely undergo a surgery they need or receive lifesaving medical treatment."

Cedars-Sinai is taking every precaution to keep donors safe and prevent the spread of the coronavirus, he said. Online appointment booking spaces the appointments out so there are fewer donors in the donation center at any given time, and donation beds are set up to create physical distancing. Donors must wear masks at all times when donating blood and are prescreened for COVID-19 symptoms before entering the donation center. And there's a bonus: Each donor receives a free COVID-19 antibody test with their donation. This test can determine whether the donor has ever been exposed to the virus, although it does not determine immunity.

Read more on the Cedars-Sinai Blog: A Positive Outcome: Donating Plasma After COVID-19