Public health officials call for blood donations | Five for the Weekend

The Pa. Department of Health is urging Pennsylvanians who are willing and able to donate blood to make an appointment at their local blood bank. 

By: - August 21, 2021 6:30 am

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Happy weekend, all.
Facing a blood supply shortage, the Pennsylvania Department of Health is urging Pennsylvanians who are willing and able to donate blood to make an appointment at their local blood bank.

“There is a critical shortage of blood across Pennsylvania and the nation, as COVID-19 has prevented some donors from giving blood and impacted the scheduling of blood drives,” acting Physician General Dr. Denise Johnson said in a statement on Thursday. “Blood is essential for surgeries, traumatic injuries, cancer treatment and chronic illnesses, which is why it is so important for individuals to go to their local blood bank or find a blood drive near them and donate. An adequate supply of blood is essential to ensure Pennsylvanians have safe, continuous access to the highest quality of health care.”

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the need for more blood donations, the department said.

“Across the U.S., the demand for blood has increased between five percent and 25 percent compared to the same time period in 2019,” Dr. Kip Kuttner, Medical Director for the Miller-Keystone Blood Center in Reading, said. “This reinforces the critical need for increased blood donations now.”

According to a statement from the Department of Health, most individuals are eligible to donate blood in Pennsylvania if they are:

  •       In good health; 
  •       16 years old or older; and 
  •       Weigh a minimum of 120 pounds. 

The department encourages anyone who meets these eligibility requirements to make an appointment with a local blood bank or visit an upcoming blood drive in your community. 

As always, the top 5 stories from this week are below. 

State Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Franklin.

1. Pa. GOP lawmaker says the cause for a forensic election investigation is ‘weakened and diminished’

Saying his cause had “been weakened and diminished,” a Republican state lawmaker behind an Arizona-style investigation of Pennsylvania’s election results has pressed pause on the probe.

The announcement from state Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Franklin, came during a since-deleted Thursday morning Facebook live stream before an audience of more than 1,000 supporters.

Mastriano, a staunch supporter of former President Donald Trump, announced plans to pursue a “forensic investigation” into Pennsylvania’s 2020 general and 2021 primary elections in July. He made a sweeping request for voting equipment and election information from York, Tioga, and Philadelphia counties.

However, the three counties — two of them reliably Republican areas, and one Democratic stronghold — refused to comply, citing the cost of replacing election equipment and a directive from the Department of State prohibiting third-party access to voting machines.

(Old Main at Penn State University. Image via Flickr Commons)

2. Penn State won’t mandate COVID-19 vaccines, prompting questions about priorities

Pennsylvania’s largest university is doubling down on its decision to not enact a COVID-19 vaccine mandate — spurring accusations that its top officials are putting state funding ahead of community safety.

In an open letter released Thursday, Penn State University President Eric Barron said the state-related university’s decisions are driven by “data, science, and advice from medical professionals at a local, state, and national level.”

But he also highlighted the Republican-controlled Legislature’s influence over university decisions.

“Public universities, in particular, have challenges with the mode of response to the pandemic,” Barron wrote. “Regulations across the country clearly reflect state-level political realities.”

He added: “State funding for our university requires a two-thirds vote of the Pennsylvania Legislature, meaning that our funding relies on strong bipartisan support.”

State Sen. Sharif Street, center, and his wife, April, third from left, stand among officials and community activists outside City Hall on Tuesday, 7/6/21 (Image via The Philadelphia Tribune).

3. ‘Some of these killings are for the dumbest reasons’: What’s driving Philly’s bloody summer?

It was all wrong.

It was the Fourth of July and the gun blasts from the four shooters popped like fireworks in West Philadelphia.

But this was no Independence Day for Philadelphia — not from gun violence homicides. In less than two weeks the city would hit 300 gun deaths, the highest number ever reached in the city by this time of year.

While sparklers and firecrackers lit up the night sky, gunfire saluted the darkness below on 60th Street near Walnut. A video clip obtained by police showed the gunmen leap out of a dark sedan and unleash over 100 bullets that sparked through the night air, obliterating the hopes and dreams of two up-and-coming go-getters, while also injuring a 16-year-old girl.

The hail of bullets left behind so many shell casings and ballistic fragments that police ran out of evidence markers to track the killings. Meanwhile, the unforgiving bullets had snatched away two budding Black entrepreneurs who were attempting to carve out a future for themselves and their community amid the city’s unceasing violence. The men were 23-year-old Sircarr Johnson Jr., a new father; and 21-year-old Salahaldin Mahmoud, a young man with “big ideas.”

(Capital-Star photo by Stephen Caruso)

4. Two Pa. lawmakers are working on bipartisan election reform. Here’s what they’ve proposed

Two months after a panel of lawmakers released a report on election integrity, the Republican and Democratic heads of a Senate committee with election oversight are putting its recommendations into action.

Senate State Government Committee Chairman David Argall, R-Schuylkill, and the panel’s ranking Democrat, Sen. Sharif Street, of Philadelphia, began asking for support from both sides of the aisle this week. In a Monday memo to colleagues, the lawmakers said forthcoming legislation addresses pre-canvassing, mail-in ballot tracking and counting procedures, application deadlines, and electoral process surveillance.

In one of his first acts as the upper chamber’s top Republican, Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, R-Centre, convened a panel of lawmakers to review the 2020 election and suggest reforms to the state election code.

After hearing testimony from stakeholders and the public, the nine-member special committee released an 88-page report with recommendations in June.

State population data debuts after months of delays to the Census count (Capital-Star Screenshot).

5. Four take-aways from Pennsylvania’s 2020 U.S. Census data

The U.S. Census Bureau on Thursday released population data relevant to states’ legislative redistricting and reapportionment efforts, days ahead of its Aug. 16 deadline.

The data, which will be used to redraw state legislative boundaries and congressional districts, showed where, and what, has changed in Pennsylvania over the last decade.

Here are a few noteworthy changes from the 2020 Census data as redistricting efforts continue.

And that’s the week. See you back here next weekend. 

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Cassie Miller
Cassie Miller

A native Pennsylvanian, Cassie Miller worked for various publications across the Midstate before joining the team at the Pennsylvania Capital-Star. In her previous roles, she has covered everything from local sports to the financial services industry.