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Do You Want to Help With the COVID-19 Crisis? Here Are 5 Requests From Doctors

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Arefa Cassoobhoy, MD, MPH - Blogs
By Arefa Cassoobhoy, MD, MPHBoard-certified internistApril 01, 2020
From the WebMD Archives

Multiple people have asked me how they can help with the COVID-19 crisis. And I’m impressed by how determined and creative they can be given the limitations of our new physical distancing norms.

To find out what other doctors were telling their friends and family I asked for feedback on two physician Facebook groups. Here is what they told me:  

“Donate blood. Severe shortage right now because of canceled blood drives, etc.”

The American Red Cross collects 80% of their blood donations from local blood drives across the country. Due to the COVID-19 crisis, thousands of these events have been cancelled and may continue to be cancelled. The severe shortage of blood could be harmful for people who need surgery, have cancer, are in car accidents, or experience other emergencies

If you are an adult in good health, donating blood is one the best ways you can help. The Red Cross has enhanced their already strict safety protocol to protect everyone. Employees and donors are screened for fever before entering, physical distancing measures are in place, and the blood collection is done with sterile technique.

To donate blood, you can find a location and make an appointment by contacting the American Red Cross. Community centers, places of worship, and schools closed for regular services are opening to host blood drives. You can reach them online at RedCrossBlood.org, use the Red Cross Blood Donor App, or call 1-800-RED-CROSS.

“Stay home, encourage others to stay home, stay home, did I mention STAY HOME!”

Stay home was the most common advice given by my colleagues – with the caveat “except to donate blood.” By staying home and honoring physical distancing measures, you are saving lives. Slowing the numbers of sick people overwhelming our hospitals will allow everyone to get the care they need.

It is critical we no longer have super spreader events like the funeral in Georgia or the choir practice in Washington State that have been in the news. At these social gatherings, individuals who were infectious but not yet in the sick phase unknowingly spread the virus, leading to multiple hospitalizations and deaths of attendees.

Work, shop, and socialize online and leave your home for essential errands only. If you have to go out, follow physical distancing rules to stay safe and protect all those around you.

“I usually say ‘stay home’ but if anyone has community contacts that can provide needed goods/services to hospitals and front line staff, that would also be amazing.”

I love the idea of creative fundraising of needed resources. Is there a gap you or your organization can fill? Can you create a bridge to connect services and goods with hospitals and clinics that need them?

One doctor suggested, “Organize groups to pay local restaurants to make meals to feed those working in hospitals. [It] keeps your local small businesses in business and provides food to those who barely have time to eat while treating patients.” One high school student in my area has a website that works with restaurants to gain the approval needed to deliver food to their local hospital. All the rest of us have to do is send in the money. Others are dropping off prepackaged snacks and drinks.

Many hospitals are adding drop off donation sites with online lists of supplies needed including gloves, wipes, hand sanitizer, liquid soap, digital thermometers, and safety goggles. These are items that maybe in your home right now. Nail salons, construction companies, research labs are all donating as well.

And, of course, the DIY experts are ramping up production of masks, hats, and face shields. If you are not so talented, contact your local tailor and pay them to sew masks and hats. People with access to 3D printers could create the face shields. Be sure to check your hospital system’s website to see what patterns and materials are approved to use to create items they can accept for use.

“Check in often on your older family and friends, and family and friends who live alone. Isolation can be hard.”

Our usual connections with people are gone. No more office lunches, meet ups at the gym, or dinners with friends. Thankfully, video chat makes it easier to try and get that social fix we all need as human beings. I’m so glad one of the doctors emphasized the importance of reaching out and making the connection. Others suggested helping our neighbors who must stay home with pet walking, grocery shopping and meal delivery.

“Call your representatives, demand PPE, and shutting the areas down!”

There was a resounding echo from the doctors that if you want to save lives, activism is a valuable tool to tell your political leaders what you need. It’s heartbreaking watching people die because they were exposed needlessly. Nonessential gatherings need to stop. Our healthcare workers need enough effective protective equipment. Contact your political leaders to make your voice heard. 

If you need more ideas of how you can help during this crisis, search online for coronavirus volunteer opportunities in your area. Good luck, stay safe, and thank you for all your support.

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About the Author
Arefa Cassoobhoy, MD, MPH

Arefa Cassoobhoy, MD, MPH is a board-certified internal medicine doctor and a WebMD Medical Editor. She is on the team that makes sure all WebMD content is medically correct, current and understandable. She sees patients at the Women’s Wellness Clinic at the Atlanta Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

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