THE CITY THAT NEVER SLEEPS, NEVER GIVES IN: NYC’S COVID COURAGE SPRINGS TO ACTION DELIVERING PPE TO FRONTLINES
By thelaegotist / /
New York City advertising industry advocates are rolling up their sleeves and tapping into their networks to support relief platform Covid Courage. Formed by Dr. Natasha Anushri Anandaraja, MD, MPH, along with fellow healthcare workers and New York City residents, Covid Courage is in response to the reality that every healthcare worker who gets sick means one less person available to care for the thousands of Covid-19 patients hospitals expect to admit over coming months, and the glaring issue that federal and local efforts were failing to adequately protect doctors, nurses and NYC residents.
Working with 501c3 nonprofit School of Humanity and Awareness, Covid Courage is using alternative and innovative ways to put Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as N95 masks, surgical masks and face shields in the hands of New York City’s frontline healthcare workers, and helping to make cloth masks readily available to all community members. The initiative began with a call to action for New York-area 3D printing groups to make face shields, and with critical and ongoing fundraising efforts via secure website www.covidcourage.is.
“Over the last few weeks, we’ve been building the airplane as we’ve been flying it much like a lot of Covid-19 relief organizations have been doing,” said Anandaraja, a New York pediatrician with a background in global health and disaster relief. “We realized very quickly that our existing healthcare resources could not deal with a crisis of this magnitude. Covid Courage was set up so we could take action.”
Covid Courage took flight after Anandaraja observed firsthand the stress and anxiety doctors and nurses on the frontlines were experiencing because of the lack of PPE brought on by supply and distribution issues, along with the mounting sense of urgency to protect healthcare workers. In early March, Anandaraja phoned her teacher and mentor, School of Humanity and Awareness Founder Apollonia, who inspired and guided her step by step to take action and mobilize Covid Courage. Anandaraja chose to be under the school’s nonprofit umbrella and Apollonia mobilized her whole team to get the website up and running 24 hours later, and provided the resources, hope and encouragement needed to spark the movement of people helping people directly.
“This global pandemic is happening, but this lack of care should not be happening to human beings,” said SoHA Founder, Apollonia. “My response to Anu was to make it right. Get the materials – just do it. Don’t wait, just do it. You love these people, don’t leave them to die if we can help it.”
“With my background in global health and disaster relief, I’m used to thinking outside the box, having to move quickly to find resources then mobilizing to get them to the places where they’re needed,” Anandaraja said. “It’s usually a low-income country or a place where there’s been a disaster that’s knocked out roads and infrastructure and telecommunications, like an earthquake. It’s really shocked me to come across those circumstances today in New York City. We were outraged that our leaders and institutions were not responding with the urgency needed. And so we gave ourselves permission to take this on, hoping that others would join us and stand up to protect our healthcare workers and do what was needed. Waiting was going to kill us, literally.”
As a direct response to the delays in local and national action, a small, nimble collective of volunteers got to work. Covid Courage has sourced supplies such as N95 masks through grassroots channels of community members with existing relationships to Chinese manufacturers and importers. It has enlisted 3D printing groups to produce face shields, and mobilized community members and SoHA Students in New York City to produce the cloth masks which are essential for stopping the spread of coronavirus among residents. (Details on making cloth masks and where to get them are available on the Covid Courage website.) Supplies are being distributed throughout the metro New York area by Covid Courage volunteers and relief groups such as F.E.E.L. (Film & Entertainment Emergency Logistics) which is using its fleet of film production transportation vehicles to help deliver PPE to hospitals.
Next, Covid Courage is supporting initiatives to encourage New York City leaders and residents to be proactive in creating broad access to rapid and efficient Covid-19 testing. As with the PPE, Covid Courage is determined to find creative ways to source and distribute testing as needed, and hopes that New Yorkers will mobilize to get this done, to ensure that New York can re-open safely.
* All photos by Alexander Hankoff.