The Grassroots Effort to Protect Health Care Workers Abandoned by the Government
As health care workers run out of protective equipment, private efforts try to fill the gap left by the government
When the Covid-19 crisis exploded three weeks ago, medical students from the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine were told to stay home. There wasn’t enough personal protective equipment (PPE) to go around, the hospital administration informed them; the best way to help was to abandon their rotations and leave the gear for the doctors and nurses.
Judy Lubas, a third-year student, wanted to be of service anyway. She started hearing from her rotation colleagues and loved ones in the health care field that they were getting only one or two masks a day. Across the nation, there’s a shortage of PPE — which includes supplies like masks, goggles, surgical gowns, face shields, and gloves — and it puts health care workers in danger as they fight an influx of novel coronavirus cases.
“We were very concerned for their safety during this pandemic,” Lubas said. As it happened, her landlord knew of a distributor who could procure around 400 N95 masks, but it would cost $1,000. Lubas and her classmate Gabrielle Yankelevich began a fundraiser in their network; within an hour, they raised enough money to buy the masks.
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Simultaneously, another classmate, Briana Krewson, was working to connect with distributors and find out how to obtain PPE that could be donated to medical staff. The three women decided to team up, and Medical Students for Masks was born. As of now, the group has 40 volunteers from medical schools in the Philadelphia area and has raised around $37,000. They’ve connected with distributors and have been able to obtain over 7,100 masks, which are being allocated throughout 24 Philadelphia hospitals.
“Our goal is to get as many masks as possible, as quickly as possible,” Yankelevich said. “We would much rather be in the hospital. We…