Coronavirus is expected to overwhelm our hospitals soon here in the U.S., and the shortage of PPE (personal protective equipment, aka things like masks, gloves, face shields, and gowns that medical professionals use) means we are putting those we trust to care for us when sick at risk with every new case. Not only can you help with the PPE shortage while at home, you can also support our medical professionals in other ways, like picking up their groceries while you’re also getting your own, offering to do errands, even just picking up the phone to bug your reps.
People are getting creative with their generosity. Liquor companies are now making hand sanitizer, designer Christian Siriano is making masks, and two plastic surgeons, Bruce Moskowtiz, MD, and Grigoriy Mashkevich, MD, of Specialty Aesthetic Surgery donated their only anesthesia machine (which goes for around $20,000), since it can act as a ventilator.
You may be stuck at home, but it is still possible to help our frontline medical workers without ever leaving your home (the most important and helpful thing you can do during this pandemic)!
If you have:
If you have any new, unused, unexpired N95 masks sitting at home, you can donate them to local organizations. (Please check! I had some from woodworking projects a few years ago that I totally forgot about!) There are lots of sites popping up that can point you in the right direction. Deaconess, an Indiana-based health care system, was one of the first to ask for DIY masks for themselves, and now has a handy donation-finder on their site where you can try to find a place for your donation locally. There’s also a Google Sheet with info from as many states asking for donations that I could find here. Direct Relief is another organization that is routing PPE to health care workers.
Your local hospital, police department, or fire department may also be able to point you in the right direction.
Even household gloves might be helpful. “If you have household cleaning gloves, donate these to hospitals. If every household donated one pair, it would be significant,” says Niket Sonpal, MD, a NYC board-certified internist.
HOW TO MAIL MASKS AND GLOVES SAFELY TO MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS:
While some of the places collecting donations are doing donation boxes (to check, call and ask what their preferred safe way of donation is—many have rules about IRL donation and rightfully so), it’s probably safer for you and everyone else if you stay home and mail it out. Print out a pre-paid postage label from USPS, Stamps.com, or any other online pre-paid shipping service. It’s also a nice idea to leave a tip for your postal carrier and any other essential workers keeping things running during these times.
It’s also a good idea to leave a tip for your postal carrier and anyone else still working during these times.
If you don’t have any actual, physical products to donate, you can always give money! You don’t even have to open up your computer to do so! Donating money to purchase PPE supplies for smaller clinics and hospitals is also helpful, explains Sonny Patel, a public health expert at Harvard. Start with your local hospitals (a quick Goog will probs be enough) and if you want to give more, there are also crowdfunding projects like A Million Masks, explains Patel.
Call your local reps and ask them to help with the PPE shortage. Call your local and state government and ask them to call on the federal government for help with the shortage at their local hospitals, suggests Simranjit S. Bedi, DO, a gastroenterologist in PA. “The more that the government officials hear it, the more that they will get things done!” he adds.
Call up anyone who might have PPE at home and ask them to donate any supplies. “Dentists, veterinarians, researchers in labs, construction workers, painters, or local home improvement store owners…we need for them to bring in their PPE to help us out!” says Dr. Bedi.
Stuck at home with your parents? Go hunting through the tool shed or junk drawer for anything that might help. Lab goggles from college or high school chemistry class, any masks (new or old), and nitrile gloves, will be welcomed at Dr. Bedi’s hospital if you send to: “Attention Kathy Jaffe, 1200 W Tabor Road, 2nd floor Moss Rehab Building, Philadelphia, PA 19141.”
Note: If you’re donating expired goods, please label them and let people know they are old or expired in a way that makes it easier for volunteers to sift through. “Hospitals will keep old/expired equipment on reserve for when the equipment they have runs out,” adds Dr. Bedi.
Call your old high school or middle school for goggles. School’s out for the year anyway, right? Those lab supplies might as well go to good use.