Jerry Hall was the first reported patient to contract COVID-19 in Fresno, and is the first to donate plasma for a possible treatment for other patients. April 2020 file photo
Written by Breanna Hardy
The Central California Blood Center (CCBC) is calling on Central Valley residents to donate blood to get local supplies back up.
“We unfortunately are in the midst of one of the most serious blood shortages we’ve ever seen, right here in California as well as across the country,” said Christopher Staub, president and CEO of Central California Blood Center (CCBC) in Fresno.
CCBC would like to help Texas after being hit with winter storm Uri, but the Central Valley is fighting to keep its own supply stable since Covid-19 hit.
The American Association of Blood Banks, America’s Blood Centers and the American Red Cross have cited already-strained blood supply due to Covid-19.
He said the CCBC is in critical need of donors of all blood types, especially the O type, which is a universal blood type.
“The pandemic had already taken quite a lot of blood donations out of the system, so to speak,” Staub said.
Blood drives were canceled because of the shutdown of schools and businesses alike.
“Blood drives around the nation relied on schools, like high schools and universities, for about 20% of the national blood supply,” he said. “That automatically took away a huge chunk of blood donations.”
The CCBC mitigated the loss by having healthy individuals come directly to the blood center, but people are less likely to drive out of the way to give blood when it’s not at a blood drive site in their community.
By September and October 2020, there was a surge in the use of blood too.
“While we were struggling to collect enough blood, there was also a surge in demand for blood beginning around September 2020 and carrying through until January,” Staub said.
There was a 20% increase in demand for blood in local hospitals year-over-year in September, though Staub said there was no direct cause.
With the crisis in Texas, there were a couple days when the major blood centers there couldn’t collect blood.
“That’s thousands and thousands of units that did not get collected,” he said.
“We would like to help the folks in Texas and other states that need blood, but first we’ve got to make sure we have our hospitals up to their par levels, and that’s what we’ve been working on since last Friday,” Staub said.
The Central Valley is not out of the woods, though the CCBC has seen progress since Friday. It still has less than a one-day supply of blood on hand, which is critically low.
“We feel comfortable with five plus days of blood supply on hand,” Staub said.
This is equivalent to about 350 type-O blood units on their shelves.
Though it is in dire need of all blood types, O blood can be given to people in critical need of blood in emergency situations where the blood type is not known at the time of care.
“It’s just a never-ending need for people to donate blood,” Staub said.