Amid the COVID-19 outbreak, medical safety gear has become scarce. Health care workers and public authorities have requested face masks and other essential products to be donated. Further, anyone who has considered hoarding face masks and other medical gear may want to think again. Our hospitals and local clinics need them more than the general public. Some hospitals are warning they only have one week’s worth left of supplies. On March 20th, New York governor Andrew Cuomo urged non-essential clinical facilities to donate their protective gear. Many health workers are now posting urgent messages on social media using the hashtag #GetMePPE. Officials have dipped into the Strategic National Stockpile, and makers like Honeywell and 3M are doing their part to increase production. Here are some things to know about the medical safety gear shortage:
- WHY the shortage?
The short answer is fear. Doctors and nurses must wear protective masks when working with anyone with respiratory symptoms or a fever. However, the public is now panic-buying N95 masks and other gear that hospitals desperately need. We rely heavily on factories overseas to supply us with medical equipment. Unfortunately, medical gear is in high demand in those countries as well. In order to lessen the need to purchase protective masks, the CDC is urging the public to make their own at home.
- HOW you can help:
You can donate extra supplies from home or work. A recently launched website lists hospitals in at least 40 states that will gladly accept donated medical gear. If the website doesn’t list any clinics or hospitals near you, call them to find out if and how they are accepting donations. There are many social media sites that will inform residents of what their community is doing to help out during the outbreak. It is also a good idea to reach out to your local government’s emergency operating office to see what kinds of donations are needed. Of course, the best thing the public can do is stay home and sanitize properly. This will help keep people out of hospitals and clinics and keep medical staff from being overwhelmed.
- WHAT help has already been put in place?
Humanitarian aid organization Direct Relief has distributed tens of thousands of face masks to health providers, along with other necessary medical equipment. They were funded in part by the Clorox Co. Foundation, as well as Verizon. Australia still had a good supply of masks from the wildfires of 2019. Unfortunately, they are now scrambling to get more. Direct Relief is involved with aiding many countries, including Australia, and is accepting donations to be sent all over the world. IBM, Apple, and Pacific Gas & Electric have all pledged to donate face masks. Further, some dentists who are being forced to close their offices during the crisis are dropping off face masks and gloves.
While it is important to do your part during this epidemic, the Federal Trade Commission warns against making cash donations without knowing the specifics about a crowdfunding source. Watch out for scams and “creators” of funding groups who are only going to keep the money for themselves. You can log on to your charity of choice’s official website or call them directly to find out how to donate to them. Further, maintain a safe distance from people outside of your home. Stop the spread of germs, if you or someone in your home is sick, contact a doctor and practice self-isolation for the proper amount of time. Make your health and well-being your number one priority now and in the future.
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