6 ways to help health care workers during coronavirus pandemic

From donating to help hospitals get much-needed supplies to simply expressing gratitude, here are some ways to help health care workers during the coronavirus crisis.
/ Source: TODAY
By Scott Stump

Sometimes the helpers need help, too.

As doctors, nurses and other health care personnel work tirelessly across the country during the coronavirus pandemic, there are ways for everyone to show support for all their hard work.

With the number of cases crossing 200,000 worldwide on Wednesday and hospitals in places like Italy stretched to the brink, health care workers have been on the front lines treating coronavirus patients and promoting ways to help slow the spread of the illness.

Here are some things you can do to show appreciation for their efforts and help ease some of the burden that health care professionals have shouldered.

1. Make sure they get some free food.

Uber and Sweetgreen have both announced plans to offer free meals to health care workers and first responders in the coming days.

Sweetgreen, a salad-based fast-casual chain, also provided a way for people to make sure their local hospital becomes part of the program to receive some healthy meals when they get a break.

People who may be friends or family with health care workers could also have a free meal delivered to them by using UberEats, Postmates or another delivery service.

2. Continue to donate blood.

The American Red Cross announced it's experiencing a "severe blood shortage" because many blood donation drives have been cancelled or postponed due to the coronavirus.

Dr. Jerome Adams, the U.S. Surgeon General, emphasized on TODAY Wednesday that people can still take time out to donate blood while maintaining self-quarantine.

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"Another important point, you can still go out and give blood," James said. "We're worried about potential blood shortages in the future. Social distancing does not have to mean social disengagement."

3. Donate to charities that support hospitals.

You can donate to your local hospital or to organizations like the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, which has created a COVID-19 Response Fund to support those affected by coronavirus as well as first responders.

If you are looking to help hospitals with supplies, Direct Relief is helping to provide essential medical items and protective equipment to health care workers responding to the coronavirus.

4. Follow the advice of health care workers.

Adams also noted on TODAY that Americans simply following the advice of health care experts can have the biggest impact of all.

"What the American people can do is really drive down that demand by staying at home, washing your hands, social distancing,'' Adams said.

Getting your information from credible sources like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization also can help stop the spread of rumors and myths about the illness.

If you think you may have coronavirus, these are the important steps you should take, including calling your medical provider first before going to a doctor's office or hospital for treatment.

Here are some additional tips on how to protect yourself and your family, properly clean your home and shop for groceries while staying safe.

5. A simple thanks can go a long way.

NBC News investigative and consumer correspondent Vicky Nguyen, whose husband is a front line health care worker, summed it up on TODAY Wednesday.

"They are public servants in the highest sense and we can't show them enough of our gratitude," she said.

"I feel like there's no better time to shout out these health care workers than in this moment,'' Hoda Kotb added.

Citizens of the Italian city of Milan even came together to shower health care workers with applause and a serenade this week in honor of their work.

Health care workers with spouses and children are risking their own health to treat others, even if it means being isolated from their own families. Nguyen said her husband has a room designated in their home for isolation if he gets sick, and spouses of health care workers have shared the impact fighting the virus has had on their own families.

6. Don't buy up unnecessary supplies.

The hashtag #GetMePPE trended on Twitter as nurses, doctors and other health care workers begged to get more personal protective equipment like N95 masks, respirators and goggles after experiencing shortages of vital items.

Panic buying by the public has had some hospitals scrambling to find crucial supplies.

"This is what we were warning people about for weeks,'' Nguyen said on TODAY. "Please don't go run out and buy the N95 mask. Unless you're on the front lines you don't really need that."

And it potentially could get worse.

"If our curve goes the way of Italy, then there is every chance that we could run out of devices," Adams said on TODAY.