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How to Help Frontline Workers During the Coronavirus Crisis

Photo: Josep Lago/AFP via Getty Images

While lots of us are able to hunker down at home during the coronavirus outbreak, those with jobs deemed essential — like grocery clerks, subway conductors, and, of course, health-care workers — aren’t so fortunate. Instead of simply wondering what we can do to support these people who put themselves at risk for our benefit, we decided to ask. We talked to local hospitals and aid organizations, along with some regular people with very creative ideas, about what these workers need at this time and how the rest of us can help (other than tipping very, very generously, when appropriate — so maybe not your ER doctor — and if it’s financially feasible for you). Below are some of the best ways to contribute, whether it’s by donating money, protective equipment, food, toiletries, and beauty products, or even just your time.

How to help doctors, nurses, and other health-care professionals

How to give money

Since the biggest needs — personal protective equipment (PPE) like N95 respirator masks, face shields, gloves, and isolation gowns — are mostly sold out or unavailable to the general public, the best way to help hospitals acquire them is by giving money so they can purchase directly from their suppliers. “Cash donations allow us to assess and fund our most critical needs in real time,” says Rob Magyar, assistant director of media relations for NYU Langone, which accepts donations on its website. Similarly, the NYC Health + Hospitals system, which includes hard-hit hospitals like Elmhurst and Bellevue, is also accepting financial donations here, as is Northwell Health (hospitals in the Northwell system include Lenox Hill Hospital and Long Island Jewish Medical Center). For other cities and states, contact your local hospital to find out the best way to make a donation.

How to give PPE

If you happen to have PPE (like gloves or masks from old home-renovation projects), there are several organizations that will accept donations and distribute them to hospitals. Direct Relief, an international humanitarian aid organization, will take unexpired PPE in its original packaging. (Find more information here.) The New York–based Afya Foundation collects all types of medical supplies to donate to hospitals and clinics (everything must be unused and no more than two years past the expiration date, but it can be out of the box), and also offers instructions on putting together and sending your own Hero Box filled with unused gloves, masks, cleaning supplies, and other necessities. In addition to standard PPE, MedSupplyDrive, an organization founded by Georgetown medical students, will accept unused rain ponchos, goggles, and bandannas for health-care workers who are making do without the highest level of protection. To donate PPE directly to your local hospital, check the map on GetUsPPE to see what individual hospitals need and information on how to get it to them.

How to give food

Long hospital shifts mean doctors and nurses have little time to prepare, let alone eat, healthy meals. NYU Langone is accepting food donations via delivery from local restaurants. Fill out this form or email covid19relief@nyulangone.org if you’d like to donate.

You can also contribute to the efforts of locals like Michael Zorek from the Upper West Side, whose kids Jeremy and Diana have been delivering pizzas to Mount Sinai West, or Tribeca’s Marlowe Sidney Bamberger, who’s raised almost $20,000 to send restaurant-cooked meals to staff at Weill Cornell Medicine, New York–Presbyterian Lower Manhattan Hospital, and Lenox Hill. Meanwhile nonprofits such as Slice Out Hunger have pivoted to asking for donations to feed those on the front lines, and Just Salad lets you donate a meal to a health-care worker through its site.

No matter what, before sending food to your local hospital, be sure to check with them first (ask for the public-affairs department when you call), as some have different policies. At SUNY Downstate in Brooklyn, for example, the hospital is providing workers with meals. “Since we are a COVID-19-only facility, it would not be safe for anyone to deliver meals to Downstate,” says John Gillespie, director of media and public relations at the hospital.

How to give toiletries or beauty products

With health-care workers spending days at a time at the hospital and sometimes living away from home — either to isolate from their families or because they’ve traveled to a high-need area — there’s a rising demand for basic essentials like toothbrushes, toothpaste, shampoo, and bodywash. Donate Beauty, an organization founded by four beauty editors (including the Cut’s Kathleen Hou), has been connecting brands and individuals to hospital workers in need. “Hand creams are, by far, the most requested product because hands are extremely dry, cracked, and worn from constant washing and sanitizing,” says Kristina Rodulfo, beauty director at Women’s Health and a Donate Beauty co-founder. “Anything moisturizing has been a big request — so face moisturizers, body lotions, and lip balms — because all the protective gear they have to wear for 12-plus-hour shifts at a time can cause chafing, redness, and bruises in the skin.” Email hospitalbeautydonations@gmail.com with a list of products you’re able to donate (there’s no minimum) and they’ll match you up with a hospital in need.

And a few ways that New Yorkers have been showing their gratitude to delivery people, mail carriers, doormen, grocery-store clerks, and more

Sew for them

Debbi Hobson of Washington Heights has been making reusable cotton masks and handing them out to immunocompromised friends — and anyone else who wants them. “People are so relieved to receive them,” she says. She’s also joined the Broadway Relief Project to make medical-grade gowns for hospital and medical staff through the Skilled Laborers Brigade.

Give them your unused subway cards

Buses may be free, but anyone riding the subway still needs to pay for it. Those who don’t plan on taking mass transit anytime soon can donate MetroCards to people who are still commuting. Allison Considine of Greenpoint, Brooklyn, discovered one of her neighbors was using a Google doc to connect essential workers with MetroCards. “I had just swiped a new unlimited monthly the night before my office made the call to work remotely — I was like, ‘Damn it!’ I’m so glad that it’s being put to use.” Elizabeth Barr in South Street Seaport decided to give four MetroCards to her building’s staff to “thank them for continuing to take care of us.”

Offer them a place to sleep

Admittedly, not every building is throwing open its doors for the medical professionals coming from all over the country to help NYC during this crisis. But multiple families who left the city have been offering up their apartments on busy neighborhood Facebook groups such as UES Mommas, and intrepid New Yorkers are finding places to house these heroes, often through putting out calls on social media. Kathleen Warnock of Queens says her sister Barbara in Brooklyn found a vacant studio for their cousin, a nurse who’s arriving this week. “Barbara is putting together a list of things we can all send to make the place comfortable.”

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How to Help Frontline Workers During the Coronavirus Crisis