Healthcare and First Responder Groups – Heroes of the Coronavirus Epidemic

Over the past few weeks, ID.me has received dozens of inquiries from businesses wanting to learn how they can offer discounts, freebies, and priority services to the nurses, doctors, and healthcare workers on the frontlines of the war against the Coronavirus. The level of generosity and support we are witnessing from Corporate America is truly inspiring.

It’s important we reward not just the healthcare professionals, but all of the frontline heroes putting themselves in harm’s way to respond to the pandemic. Tens of thousands of EMTs, paramedics, police officers, National Guard, military personnel and others are helping to deliver care, build hospitals, and keep the public safe. Below are some additional details about the various groups providing public service during this time of unprecedented challenges for the nation.

Nurses, Doctors and Healthcare Workers

Emergency rooms and intensive care units are being flooded with patients seeking tests and medical care. Doctors and nurses across the country are facing wartime conditions.  With masks, gowns, and gloves in short supply, healthcare professionals are being forced to re-use personal protective equipment often for days at a time. Their heroic efforts are being honored by thousands of people who unite at shift changes to cheer them from balconies and rooftops. However, healthcare professionals are increasingly becoming patients themselves as they are constantly exposed to the virus day after day.  Those that are not sick yet are terrified of bringing the virus home to family members. Many doctors and nurses are choosing to self-isolate by sleeping in their garage, basement, or in some cases boarding at hotels.

EMTs and Paramedics

In addition to responding to the usual emergency calls for injuries, accidents, and heart attacks, the nation’s 911 systems are being flooded with calls for respiratory distress or fever. In New York City the call volumes have reached 9/11 levels. Many first responders are operating without the appropriate personal protective equipment and sadly are paying the price. Hundreds of EMTs, paramedics, and firefighters are now infected.  In some cases, EMTs and paramedics have brought the virus home to family members. With more first responders getting sick and the volume of calls increasing, some EMTs and paramedics are being forced to make life or death decisions about who receives care and who does not.

Police Officers

In addition to responding to burglaries and violent crime, police departments across the country are busy helping other first responders with the pandemic. To minimize the risk of infection, additional precautionary measures are being taken such as wearing personal protective equipment and deep cleansing of patrol cars.  Nonetheless, more and more police officers are testing positive, taking them off duty and into quarantine. In New York City, more than 10% of the force have called in sick and the head of counter-terrorism was hospitalized.  As infection rates grow, officers are being asked to work double shifts and trade assignments.

National Guard

National Guard members have been called up to help in all fifty states with the total force now numbering over 10,000. One of the first major appearances was in early March to manage the containment zone in New Rochelle. Governors can use the Guard to support a wide variety of public health and safety functions. As a result, Guard members are performing different roles in different states. Some are delivering personal protective equipment to hospital staff. Others are bringing food and medical supplies to containment zones for those sheltered-in-place. Increasingly, Guard members are providing frontline medical tasks such as taking temperatures and swabbing noses, exposing them to the same risks as healthcare professionals and EMTs.

Military

Hundreds of US Army soldiers are transforming the Jacob Javits Center in New York City into a 3,000 bed hospital to provide relief to the overloaded hospitals in the city. Additional soldiers are being deployed in Seattle to evaluate building a hospital there. More than 1,000 US Navy medical personnel have been deployed aboard two US hospital ships docked in Los Angeles and New York City.  As more cases surge in more cities across the nation and the need for care exceeds hospital capacity, there are likely to be more deployments of military-led facilities. To backfill the Army and Navy personnel who have been deployed to the frontlines, thousands of retirees and students from the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences have been called up to fill critical roles

It is hard to not be depressed after reading the challenges our frontline workers are experiencing. But there are ways we can help – businesses around the country are donating/manufacturing personal protective gear, making charitable contributions, and offering special discounts to frontline workers.

At ID.me we are continuing to explore ways to help. We recently launched an online collaborative workspace for healthcare providers to share questions and answers about COVID-19.