A Nationwide Blood Shortage Is Affecting New York City’s Blood Supply

January is National Blood Donor Month. However, a perfect storm of conditions has created an emergency blood shortage affecting doctors and patients at Weill Cornell Medicine along with millions of residents in the New York Metropolitan Area.

The New York Blood Center also has reported an urgent need for donated blood. Consider donating to a New York Blood Center site or mobile unit today, tomorrow or as soon as you can. Find a site close to where you live or work by entering your zip code here.

Through the small yet heroic act of giving blood, you can save a life.

What is causing the emergency shortage?

Winter is the most difficult time to maintain a sufficient blood supply. Blood donations tend to drop off during and shortly after the winter holidays. Inclement weather disrupts blood drives, and more people come down with colds, the flu, respiratory syncitial virus (RSV) or COVID-19. Respiratory viruses have been surging in the city since mid-November, setting the stage for the shortage.

Why do we celebrate National Blood Donor Month?

Across the country and in our own city, we celebrate National Blood Donor Month to honor the lifesaving impact of blood and platelet donors and to encourage more people to donate. Just think: You can save the life of someone who has been in a car accident, needs emergency surgery or has suffered complications during childbirth.

Can I donate blood if I’ve been exposed to COVID-19?

Neither fear of catching or transmitting COVID-19 should stop you from giving blood or plasma. If you were exposed to the virus, you can still donate, as long as you do so 14 days after your date of exposure. And even if you’ve recently had COVID, you can still give blood, but no fewer than 28 days after recovering from it. However, you shouldn’t donate blood or plasma if you’re quarantining due to recent travel.

In light of the recent uptick in cases and hospitalizations, the New York Blood Center requires everyone at blood drives and donation centers to wear a mask, regardless of vaccination status.

What are the criteria for becoming a blood donor?

  • Be in good health and feeling well.
  • Be at least 16 years old.
  • Weigh at least 110 pounds.

For detailed information about your eligibility, and all of the possible issues that may make you ineligible to give blood, visit the New York Blood Center’s website here.

Check with your doctor to make sure you’re eligible to donate.

What if I’m sick on the day I’m scheduled to donate blood?

If you aren’t feeling well that day, please reschedule your appointment.

A few additional facts about blood donation:

  • You can donate blood every 56 days, or 6 times a year.
  • Some donors feel a slight pinch when the needle is inserted, yet it’s otherwise a pain-free process.
  • Most medications don’t disqualify you from donating blood.
  • Each blood donation helps 2 or more people.

You can donate blood at Cornell’s Olin Hall Gymnasium, located on the Lower Level at 445 East 69th Street, on Monday, January 29 between noon and 6:00 p.m. If you can’t make it on the 29th, visit NewYorkPresbyterian Hospital’s blood drive page for more information here.

If you have questions about your eligibility for donating blood, please confer with your care team.