HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. — With national blood reserves still low, Huntington Beach hopes a series of blood drives will help bring the supply back to where it needs to be.

Unlike other blood drives, Saturday's event, which will be held at Huntington Beach City Hall, was started after the city council became concerned over the dire warnings of low blood supplies in January.

What You Need To Know

  • Huntington Beach is hosting a blood drive Saturday at City Hall from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

  • Roughly 70 people have signed up for the appointment only event

  • The American Red Cross issued an emergency earlier this year as blood supplies reached dangerously low levels

  • Huntington Beach wants to continue doing blood drives to establish a regular culture of donations, not just a rush of them when crises hits

Those concerns have been allayed, somewhat, as social distancing, coronavirus case rates, and awareness over the blood supply have improved.

“I feel there’s a social element, and it’s more of a walk in type of business,” said Dr. Minh-Ha Tran, a specialist in blood banking and transfusion. “There’s a social aspect to it that is probably impacted by social distancing and the inability of people to show up with their buddies.”

The American Red Cross had announced a national emergency, pushing the city council to look for ways to support. The event, at 2000 Main Street in Surf City on Saturday, goes from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Because of COVID-19, the event will take donations by appointment only.

The supply was so low earlier in the year that Tran said the hospital had received just 50% of its type-O supply.

Blood supply has dropped for other reasons too, Tran said. Medical professionals largely agree that efficiencies in the blood transfusion process mean fewer blood purchases. This saves hospitals money, and patients can take solace that each donation comes from fewer people.

All factors combined, it was a recipe for disaster. But once the Red Cross put out the word looking for donors, Tran said blood flowed.

“This was not unique to any one supplier,” he said. “It happened to everyone.”

As efficiencies have been built into the transfusion process, donations have decreased, Tran said. That worked fine before the pandemic, but supplies dwindled. Donations typically drop after Thanksgiving as people take holidays and spend time with family. By January, the supply is it at its lowest. That depression in the supply was exacerbated by the pandemic, Tran said. 

Type O has been the most requested, but blood reserves need fresh supplies of all types. The Red Cross reports that, on average, 29,000 units of red blood cells, 5,000 units of platelets, and 6,500 units of plasma are needed every day. 

Huntington Beach has secured 70 appointment for its event, which will be facilitated by the UCI blood mobile, which accepts a maximum of five donations at a time.

Huntington Beach Councilmember Natalie Moser, a driver of the city council’s efforts, said locally driven blood drives are key. In the past, the Red Cross has reached out to organize events, usually with the fire department. This one, and future efforts, are being pushed by the City Council, which directed staff to reach out to UCI, a partner for the Saturday drive. That way, locals can regularly be reminded that blood drives are consistently important.

“We need to let people know about donating. Not just when it’s a crisis, but really educate our community that this is always something we should be doing,” Moser said.