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As the coronavirus pandemic moves into a new phase, our planning needs to move on as well. Previous guides have been written to help individuals prepare for a large outbreak, but simply using infection prevention and emergency prep will not be enough. Like it or not the virus is here and currently spreading unchecked. We need to take the time to think about the problems that may come along, now. By putting plans into place now, we can help mitigate a lot of damage later. In this article I will focus on two primary community problems. Healthcare and Childcare.
There is a critical nursing shortage in the US as well as in many other countries. This was a problem before covid-19 and is even more of a problem now. No matter how hard we try to protect our healthcare workers, the reality is that many will still become infected. But there are things our communities can do to take some of the strain off the system. Think about all the lives saved and people helped everyday. Now imagine what will happen to those lives when the current healthcare system is overrun. Covid-19 alone is not the only thing that can kill people in a pandemic. Its mortality rate is just the tip of the iceberg of the lives it can cost.
What we need is a call for volunteers, to give and take classes to gain certification in entry level healthcare skills. We need people trained in taking vital signs, triage, phlebotomy, emergency childbirth and wound care. Some of these require more skill and training than others but most can be learned to the current standard for certification within 8 weeks. We need to start pushing our local and state officials to organize and fund these classes on the community level and call for volunteers to teach and attend them. There are many nursing school teachers that would jump at the chance to directly help fight the coronavirus.
The reason we need to do this is as simple as it is clear; everyday illness and injury will continue to happen regardless of an outbreak. We need to free up as many highly educated and experienced healthcare workers as we can to deal with critical health issues. This has the added benefit of taking some strain off the healthcare system and giving it more resiliency. Just think, if we could free them up from intake, triage, vital signs, minor cuts and burns, blood draw and IV insertion, they could focus on those critically ill and injured far more efficiently.
We also need people in our communities certified in emergency childbirth because just like illness and injuries, babies don't stop being born during a pandemic. We would hope that there would always be a midwife or doctor available for delivery, but practically speaking that may not always be the case. Covid-19 will dominate the time of medical providers and many will become sick and even die. We MUST have a plan in place to cope until the virus is defeated and things go back to normal. Remember that the more we mitigate damage, the less chaos and violence we will see. It will allow us to recover more quickly and more efficiently.
Community centers need to be located and dedicate to helping those with non critical and non coronavirus issues. Our local doctor's offices very well may not be enough. We have seen what happens in Italy and China when healthcare is overrun. A community "Hospital" staffed by RN.'s and volunteers will be able to help free up space in main hospitals, and care for the minor health issues that still need to be addressed.
Childcare is already a major issue with so many schools closed. Poorer families simply cannot afford childcare and frankly there are not enough childcare providers to handle the increased volume. We need our local communities to put out the call for volunteers to care for children while parents work vital jobs. If people can't go to work, how will things like food be made and delivered? How about vital medical supplies and services? If they DO go to work but have to leave their small children home alone, the children are at risk of injury and even death. The implications are truly terrifying.
We need to answer the question not just of 9-5 childcare, but for children of sick or even dead parents. They will need homes to stay in and people to love and care for them while their parents recover or until family members, or the state gives them a permanent home. Currently the Foster Care system is unable to simply absorb these children into the existing system. There are not enough foster homes or administration to handle these children.
We need to get on our local and state officials NOW about creating a plan for these children and everyone who has the ability to help out needs to be ready to step forward. There will be many children left without healthy relatives to care for them and if we don't get this figured out as soon as possible, we run the risk of children "slipping through the cracks" and going without care or supervision.
I know this sounds like a lot. Those of us living in the US are unaccustomed to thinking in terms of the people all around us, and not just our immediate family. But if we are to come out of the pandemic in anyway intact, we need to support every member and aspect of our communities. For thousands of years mankind knew that his greatest strength was not as an individual, but in a tight knit, extended group where the whole was more important than any one person.
Medicines are already running out. Store shelves are already looking bare. This is not a short term situation. This virus and the havoc it creates will be with us for at least 12 months, and most likely more. We can't just stockpile and hide away for a few weeks and come out when it's all over. We need to take this relatively quiet time now to figure out how to solve the increasingly challenging problems that will continue to come along. Our communities are our greatest defense and our greatest weapon in the fight against coronavirus. It's time we remembered how to protect them.
Here is a link to the directory of congress members by state. Contact them and let them know that there are issues to address and that you are ready to answer the call for volunteers.
Some of my favorite emergency preparation tools
I carry each one of these in my bag at all times and have a kit for emergencies in my car as well.