Opinion: The Importance of Community During COVID-19

Updated: Oct 18, 2021

Community may not be the first thing you think of when hearing the word “quarantine.” It is easy to feel isolated and cut off from the world when cooped up for long periods of time. However, after reaching out to the family members of healthcare workers and our medical professionals themselves, I have found that community may be the glue holding our society together during this fragile time.

Across the globe, healthcare workers are risking their lives on a daily basis. There are over 18 million Americans employed in healthcare, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, who wrote that healthcare is currently the fastest-growing sector of the U.S. economy.

However, many workers are now providing care in less than suitable conditions, lacking the proper protective gear which they need to maintain their own health. Hospitals in the U.S. and around the world have been struggling to keep up with the heavy flow of patients, as they go without enough beds, workers, and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

To try and understand the complexity of the situation, I sat down with a Minnesotan nurse to talk about her unique view and experience during the pandemic.  This particular nurse works in the Intensive Care Unit where she said that  “the sickest of the sick come.”

When asked to describe the resources that are available to her, she said, “We all have to wear one surgical mask, in and out of the hospital, all day long. Usually one a day, to preserve the supply we have. When we go into COVID-19 rooms, we have to wear an N95 mask. An N95 is the mask that protects you from me, and me from you. We wear a face shield over our N95 to protect our eyes, a gown, a head covering, and gloves.”

After posing the question of how she protects her family and herself from contamination, she said, “When I come home now, I go through a different door, so I don’t enter where everyone else comes in. I wipe off my phone and keys with some sort of sanitizer, walk on one part of the floor, put all of my clothes in a garbage bag, shower, put my work clothes in hot water, and wash them right away. Then I will go back where I walked and clean anything I might have touched. It’s a bigger routine now.”

This experience is not unique to one healthcare worker. Medical professionals and caregivers across the world are learning how to keep themselves safe, and their families are witnessing their devotion to help those in need each time they walk out the door.

One prime example of this is Alexis G, a 15 year-old high school student and the daughter of a nurse. She recently won the pageant title Princess of America Teen Miss Great Lake, and agreed to sit down with me to discuss her volunteer efforts, her family’s experience, and what it is like to watch a loved one risk their life for the well-being of others.

She said, “[Her mother] has to get tested every day before work. On her badge, she has a pile of stickers that say the day of the week and that she has been tested for COVID-19. Sometimes she has to come home and strip right away, throw her scrubs in the washer, and hop in the shower before she can do anything else.”

However, our teen refuses to simply sit idly by. While her Mom and Dad work, she helps to baby-sit her two younger siblings, reading them books, and helping them with online school. During the school year she would get her work done early in the morning, then teach and watch her siblings for a large portion of the day.

She has also been hard at work to help the medical world, cutting out, assembling, and sewing over 100 masks with the help of her grandmother, which they later donated to their local hospital. This work doesn’t go unappreciated; the interviewed nurse even mentioned her community conducting similar efforts.

The nurse in Minnesota said in reference to PPE supplies, “What we want and what we have are two different things. We get that there isn’t enough supply, but we are still here to help our patients and their families through this pandemic. Before COVID-19, when we needed to wear an N95 mask into a room, we would wear a new one each time we went in. We now have to wear one N95 mask for up to 48-60 hours or until it’s soiled, to get a new one. Our sewing community here was really great about providing us with homemade scrub caps to cover our hair.”

The teen ended our conversation with the following statement, “I want to see the community step up and help in any way they can. Whether it is small monetary donations, whether they are making masks and donating them, or just the community banding together, and actually following the guidelines and rules. We need to try and make sure that everyone stays safe and healthy.”

As a society, now is the time, more than ever before, to pitch in. Donating any extra supplies you may have, helping to produce gear for our healthcare workers, and even chipping in a few spare dollars can make all the difference. When our community comes together and stands strong, following the proper guidelines, wearing masks, and socially distancing, we can protect our healthcare workers and their family members.