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8 Ways You Can Help Workers On The Coronavirus Frontlines Right Now

Because they need and deserve so much more than just our gratitude.

During this outbreak, we are all facing extraordinary circumstances — and nobody knows that better than our health care and essential workers who put themselves at risk every day on the frontlines to keep us and our communities going.

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Healthcare professionals are fighting for us and our loved ones in hospitals and medical centers, while essential workers — like delivery drivers, warehouse workers, grocery store and pharmacy employees, and couriers — are fighting on the roads, in facilities, and in local stores.

So how can we support them as they support us? Well, there are the bare minimum basics: be kind to them, have patience with them, and express gratitude toward them.

Frontline workers are pulling long, exhausting shifts and dealing with tons of stressed out people. So don't be rude to them or impatient — that applies to your doctor and your grocery store worker. (In fact, here are 19 things you absolutely shouldn't do to grocery store employees.) But beyond these basics, here are some more direct and active ways to help frontline workers.

1. Follow official guidelines and advice.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention / Via

One of the best things to do to help frontline workers is follow official guidelines and advice to protect yourself and your community. Remember to wash your hands often and social distance to flatten the curve.

The CDC warns that "large events and mass gatherings can contribute to the spread of COVID-19 in the United States via travelers who attend these events and introduce the virus to new communities." At least 32 states so far have urged their residents to stay at home unless leaving for necessities, health care, or fresh air. People have already been in charged in New Jersey and in Florida for violating state emergency orders.

By staying home and taking precautions, you are helping keep essential frontline workers safe by reducing the spread of the disease, which means hospitals and health care professionals are less likely to be overwhelmed.

2. Donate to hospitals.

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Hospitals are facing a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE). A physician at Elmhurst Hospital Center previously told BuzzFeed News, "You’re supposed to wear an N95 mask with a face shield down, gloves, and when you’re done, you’re supposed to throw everything out. Now, there’s a shortage. And the hospital has so much infection ... People are very scared so they’re wearing one N95 all day, which — I don’t know how legitimate that is."

Some health care professionals have created a petition to raise awareness of the PPE shortage and how hospital systems have lowered their PPE standards as a result. As one nurse practitioner said, "We want to protect public health, and, if we are sick, there isn't going to be anyone to treat these patients."

To help health care professionals caring for our communities during this crisis, you can donate to hospitals. There are hospitals accepting monetary donations (like Holy Name Medical Center), hospitals accepting disinfectants such as wipes, hand sanitizers, and bleach (like Penn Medicine), and hospitals accepting PPE donations (like Johns Hopkins Medicine). Different hospitals are accepting different types of donations, so double check with each hospital's donation guidelines.

3. Make supplies to donate.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention / Via

While homemade masks are not as effective as N95 respirators and surgical masks, the CDC's crisis capacity strategies list homemade masks as a last resort when no other face masks are available. Given the shortage of PPE, many hospitals and medical facilities are at the point of accepting homemade masks — or anticipating needing them soon.

If you want to make and donate supplies but don't know how, the Internet has got you covered. You can check out a video on Goodful as a former Project Runway winner shows you how it's done. Or, you can take a look at these step-by-step instructions from the New York Times. And, if you need, you can get some new, quality cotton fabric from Michaels.

You can then donate homemade masks directly to hospitals accepting homemade supplies — such as UChicago Medicine, Atlantic Health System, or Vanderbilt University Medical Center (which has their own set of instructions on how to make a mask and requires the fabric to have been newly purchased within the past year and never used) — to help protect health care professionals on the frontlines.

4. Donate blood.

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The coronavirus outbreak has led to many cancelled blood drives and a blood shortage nationwide. The Red Cross reports that these cancellations have led to around 86,000 fewer blood donations, and that more than 80% of the blood they collect comes from these drives. Because of this, they encourage individual donors to keep their donation appointments or reschedule them as necessary.

If you are healthy and eligible, you can help health care professionals maintain a sufficient blood supply by donating blood, platelets, or AB Elite plasma to the Red Cross, or find a blood bank near you.

5. Offer support and assistance.

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You don't have to personally know someone on the frontlines to send them things like food or a care package. Good-will missions like Fuel the Frontline allow you to send meals, gift cards, or care packages to frontline workers ($30-$55). Other projects like Pizza vs. Pandemic — a partnership between Slice, Slice Out Hunger, and Pizza to Polls — accept pay-what-you-wish donations to send pizza to healthcare workers and first responders across the country. (You can even suggest a care center.)

If you do personally know someone on the frontlines, and you're in a position to do so, there are a number of ways you can directly support them. Things that seem simple — like checking in with them, preparing them a meal, or doing some housework for them — can go a long way in helping frontline workers maintain a sense of normalcy and manage stress. Beyond that, if you're comfortable and capable, offering to help frontline workers with childcare can be a huge relief. Many schools and daycares are closed, but those on the frontlines are working long hours to keep our communities going.

Also important, do not make frontline workers you know your personal source of information. Keep in mind that they are most likely exhausted and need to relax, recover, and decompress when they're not working. At the end of the day, make sure you're supporting and caring for them — as they do for us — through these difficult times.

(And if you are a health care professional or first responder, here are some places showing their gratitude with free food!)

6. (Over)tip your drivers.

Ryan Christopher Jones for BuzzFeed News / Via

Whether you're ordering take-out and groceries (or even avoiding public transportation), overtipping your drivers is a great way to support these essential workers on the frontlines. They are putting themselves at risk every time they make a delivery. And with everyone staying in, the demand for their service is surging.

But most delivery drivers make less than minimum wage and don't get health care, paid time off, or sick leave. Some companies, like Uber Eats and Instacart, require delivery workers to provide proof — by either testing positive for COVID-19 or bringing a doctor's note — to receive financial support.

Normally, tipping ride-share and food delivery drivers 15% to 20% of the bill is customary. Instacart suggests a 5% tip by default at checkout. However, it's right to tip these drivers at least 5% more than you usually would — if not much more — to recognize their service during this pandemic. And when you do tip, tip in-app if you can, because it's safer and cleaner than cash.

7. Support workers' rights.

Bloomberg / Getty Images

To help us maintain our sense of normalcy and get us all of our essentials, warehouse workers, delivery drivers, grocery store and pharmacy employees, and couriers are constantly on the frontlines. Grocery stores have been busier than ever. Amazon warehouse workers must now work mandatory overtime, though they feel unsafe with limited cleaning supplies. And Amazon drivers deliver at least 250 packages a day each without adequate cleaning supplies.

As postal, UPS, FedEx, Amazon, and Costco employees begin to test positive for COVID-19, workers are demanding better protections. Amazon employees have staged protests and walkouts after Amazon refused to shut down and disinfect a building where a worker tested positive for COVID-19. Whole Foods workers organized a sick-out. Instacart employees have gone on strike. Even senators are calling for better protections for workers.

So, what can you do to support them? It's simple. There are petitions that anyone, including you, can sign to help fight for workers' rights. For example, this petition calls for USPS to ensure rights and safety for employees and customers. Or this Bernie Sanders petition calls for Amazon to protect their workers from coronavirus. Mind you, some of these workers are only making minimum wage — if that.

You can also help by contacting your representatives or senator. If you're not sure what to say, here are some scripts and talking points on a variety issues that you could potentially modify for this. By speaking up and signing petitions, you can support and fight for workers' rights, wages, safety, and protection — especially during a time that highlights how much we truly rely on them.

8. Donate to the COVID-19 Response Fund.

World Health Organization / Via

The World Health Organization is working hard to respond globally to the COVID-19 pandemic. To do so, they have created the Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan, which outlines a $675 million funding need for critical response efforts through April 2020.

The response plan has multiple objectives, including the buying and shipping of essential supplies for frontline workers — such as masks, gloves, and protective wear. To support WHO and fund the response plan, you can donate directly to the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund. You can also donate through their Facebook Fundraiser or Google.

Even though many of us are stuck at home, there are still ways we can help the health care and essential workers who are on the frontlines. At the end of the day, be kind and be supportive — and we'll make it through this together.

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