From donating masks to donating meals, here are five easy ways to help healthcare workers right now

Every night at 7 p.m., people from my entire block (and most blocks in New York City, for that matter) open their windows to sing, clap, and cheer for five whole minutes to honor the healthcare workers on the frontlines, battling the rise of coronavirus (COVID-19). It’s a simple—but ultimately incredibly moving—way to say “thanks” to those who are working tirelessly to treat the virus at its epicenter, potentially putting their own health and safety at risk by doing so.

But with cases of the virus still on the rise, and with the battle still not over, healthcare workers—including doctors, nurses, and other health professionals—are having to work harder than ever. And though we can’t stop the stress the virus is placing on medical pros, we can do our part to make the little things in life a bit easier and to show how much we care. From donating masks to donating meals, here are a few small ways we can help healthcare workers right now.

1Make a donation for workers to get proper protective equipment.

We’ve all seen the inspiring stories of regular people and big-name fashion designers alike donating homemade face masks to hospitals and doctors, but what healthcare workers really need is personal protective equipment (PPE).

Though the CDC said that homemade masks may be used under extreme circumstances when face masks aren’t available, and that they can be combined with other protective gear as a preventative measure, those decorative masks aren’t as effective as N95 masks that form an airtight seal over the wearer’s nose and mouth and catch at least 95 percent of particulates.

This equipment is designed to protect the wearer from injury and from the spread of infections or illnesses (like COVID-19); most importantly, it’s supposed to be properly fitted and tested. Right now, the organization Direct Relief is accepting donations to help coordinate with public health authorities to get this equipment to healthcare workers in areas affected by the COVD-19 outbreak.

2Contact your member of Congress to advocate for increased personal protective equipment (PPE) distribution.

Now, more than ever, nurses and doctors are experiencing severe shortages in protective equipment, with some even having to reuse masks for up to a week, even though, normally, doctors and nurses use a new mask for each patient or procedure. This ultimately creates unsafe conditions for both workers and their patients.

The American Nurses Association has made it possible to email your representative in Congress to advocate for increased PPE distribution with just one click, urging them to prioritize equipment for a safe work environment.

3Donate a meal.

Tons of organizations and initiatives are working to get food to healthcare professionals and first responders during their long shifts right now. Off Their Plate is a grassroots organization that was started to deliver nutritious meals to frontline workers during coronavirus; it serves five metropolitan areas that have been hit the hardest. Frontline Foods is another organization where 100% of your donation will go directly to restaurants serving hospital workers. Additionally, you can check out your local restaurants to see which ones are making deliveries to hospitals right now.

4Send some encouragement.

The reality is that a lot of American healthcare workers are feeling both overwhelmed and scared. And just like we need to take care of our mental health while in quarantine in order to stay healthy, so do these medical professionals who are caring for our sick. If you know someone who works in healthcare and is dealing with this right now, let them know you’re here to safely support them. Ask them if there’s anything you can do to ease some of their stress and anxiety, and thank them for their efforts to support the community with their work. A simple “thank you for what you’re doing” can go a long way.

5Stay home.

At the end of the day, the biggest way you can help frontline healthcare workers is to do your part by staying home and practicing social distancing. In doing so, you are helping to prevent new cases of coronavirus and doing your part to keep hospitals from becoming overcrowded and understaffed. Stay home, wash your hands, and support them the best way you can at this time. We’re all in this together.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, HelloGiggles is committed to providing accurate and helpful coverage to our readers. As such, some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, we encourage you to use online resources from CDCWHO, and local public health departments, and visit our coronavirus hub.