American Red Cross Blood Drive

Steve Coiner, of Ephrata, has his blood drawn, during a blood drive sponsored by the American Red Cross at Grace Point Church of Nazarene in Ephrata Friday March 20, 2020. The American Red Cross now faces a severe blood shortage due to an unprecedented number of blood drive cancellations in response to the coronavirus outbreak. Healthy individuals are needed now to donate to help patients counting on lifesaving blood.

THE ISSUE

U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams is urging healthy Americans to donate blood as supplies dwindle across the nation during the COVID-19 pandemic. The biggest concern, The Associated Press reports, is that blood has a short shelf life. A steady stream of donations is necessary to keep up stocks as they expire. As of March 19, more than 12,000 national blood drives had been canceled as a result of the outbreak, the AP noted.

A single blood donation can potentially save up to three lives.

Someone needs blood every two seconds in the United States, according to the Red Cross.

In the best of times, we can lose sight of those important facts.

These are not the best of times.

The pandemic tearing across our nation has upended our ability to collect sufficient blood donations — a crucial part of our ability to provide health care.

So, let’s address the big question up front: No, the new coronavirus can't be spread through blood, either getting or giving it.

Repeat: There is no COVID-19 danger in the act of donating blood.

Furthermore, donation centers and drives have been made even safer than they already were with procedures that take the novel coronavirus and its ability to spread into account.

Donors are now spaced at least 6 feet apart, the AP reports. Workers who draw blood have their temperatures checked regularly. All donation areas receive extra disinfection. And mobile donation centers allow fewer donors inside at a time.

“A blood center environment is going to be safer than another more public area like a grocery store,” Dr. Suchi Pandey, chief medical officer of Stanford University’s blood center, told the AP.

It’s crucial that we maintain our local blood supplies, and to do so we are sounding the call to new and younger donors.

As the AP noted, retirees are among the most reliable blood donors, but they are staying home in droves, heeding warnings from medical experts. That makes sense, given that COVID-19 seems to have more serious outcomes for older adults.

Other reliable sources of blood donations have also been cut off. College campuses are closed and corporate blood drives have been postponed as employees have been asked to work from home.

So we need others to step up and fill the void.

“Right now, eligible and healthy donors are strongly urged to make an appointment to provide lifesaving blood products to patients,” the Red Cross notes on its website. “Please give now.”

If you’ve never donated before, here’s what you can expect, according to the Red Cross:

— You’ll sign in, show identification and be asked to read some required information.

— You’ll answer some questions, either online or in private, about your health history.

— You'll get a general health check.

— Your actual donation will come while you’re seated comfortably. A pint of blood will be drawn, and it will take eight to 10 minutes.

— After donating, you’ll receive a snack and drink and rest for 10-15 minutes before resuming your day. In all, the process takes an hour or less.

Trauma and emergency surgeries are not decreasing as we deal with COVID-19. Those patients need donated blood to help save their lives.

Having a reliable blood supply is vital, which is why it is incumbent on those who can donate to do so.

The Central Pennsylvania Blood Bank has donor centers in Lancaster and Ephrata. It recently expanded its hours to 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week. It is now requesting that donors call 800-771-0059 to schedule an appointment at a donation center or blood drive. The call ahead helps the blood bank to ensure that social distancing requirements are maintained.

For so long, we have relied on our older generations to keep the blood banks full. Now it's time for younger, healthy Americans to do their part.

It’s an easy way to be a hero.

Commonsense note on disinfecting wipes

Changing gears, here’s something we wish we didn’t have to emphasize: Don’t flush disinfecting wipes down the toilet.

We understand the urgency to keep everything clean and disinfected as we battle the invisible novel coronavirus.

But most wipes are not meant to be flushed. And even the ones labeled “flushable” can create serious issues within public sewer systems, experts say.

“When a product is labeled ‘flushable’ it generally means that it will clear your toilet bowl,” the New York City Department of Environmental Protection states on its website. “It does not mean it will definitely clear your pipes or break down in the sewer system or at a wastewater treatment plant.”

When flushed wipes glom together within a sewer system, they can create something called a “fatberg.” It’s too horrible to describe and — trust us — you don’t even want to Google it. Suffice to say they can be costly nightmares for sanitation systems and even interrupt residential sewer service.

So toss your used wipes into the trash. All of them.

Don’t flush paper towels, either.

We truly do not need serious sewer problems in our communities while we’re dealing with this pandemic.