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Frontline providers can’t strike, so here is how you can help them shut down COVID-19

April 7, 2020 Category: FeaturedMediumPurpose


This guest column was written by Marion Leary, MSN MPH RN, a nurse activist, innovator, and researcher.
As the old activism chant goes:

What do we want?


When do we want it?


What do we want?


When do we want it?


If we don’t get it?

Shut it down.

If we don’t get it?

Shut it down.



Unfortunately our frontline healthcare providers can’t shut it down.

Unlike Amazon or Instacart workers, they can’t strike over the lack of protection they are being provided by their employers during this coronavirus pandemic.

It has been reported over and over again in the news and on social media, nurses, doctors, respiratory therapists, first responders and others are being expected to work without the proper personal protective equipment (PPE) that can drastically reduce transmission of the coronavirus. Hospitals are firing providers for wearing their own masks, and reprimanding them for wearing any masks at all, or speaking up about the shortage; nurses and doctors are now quitting because they are fearful for their own health and the health of their families and communities; an unacceptable consequence to unacceptable conditions.

From our Partners

I consider myself an activist first, and everything else — including a nurse — second. If this was any other time, I would be in the streets, protesting the manner in which our federal government has failed this country, and how the health system as a whole is failing our healthcare providers, and in turn all of us.

But we can’t take to the streets right now due to the need to social distance, just like our frontline providers can’t go on strike due to the fact that they took an oath (and feel an obligation) to care of those in need. But just how far does that oath and obligation go? How much risk are we expecting of our frontline providers?

Do we expect them to risk their lives, and the lives of their families, because that is what is happening. We know there are thousands of healthcare workers who have been infected, and we are starting to see the news of nurses and doctors dying.

So what can we do?

I encourage everyone who is as frustrated, disheartened, enraged, and scared as I am to take action, not by taking to the streets, but by taking to the computer or phone. Call and email your representatives and sign petitions, tell them to protect our frontline providers and workers — all of them, healthcare providers, first responders, delivery workers, letter carriers, anyone risking their health and safety to take care of, and protect ours — by providing them the PPE supplies they need.

For individuals and businesses, I have been saying this for weeks now, but I urge you, if you have any of the much needed protective equipment and supplies, please donate them to your local hospital: gloves, masks, goggles, N95 masks etc. There are a number of groups collecting these items locally including the Office of Emergency Management and the Philadelphia Mask Brigade , as well as nationally, including the group #GetUsPPE.

If you don’t have PPE to donate, please consider donating money to reputable organizations collecting funds and shipping supplies to hotspot hospitals, as well as by donating to local food banks such as Philabundance.

If you are a maker, there are a number of groups locally who can use your help 3d printing face shields, sewing face masks, or one of your many other maker-skills.

Finally, if you have been infected and are recovering, and are able to help, the American Red Cross and local health systems are collecting plasma; and of course, the Red Cross always needs blood donations from individuals, but especially right now.

The moral distress and despair are real, and rightfully so, but we the people can help lessen the burden placed on our healthcare system and those who make up that system.

We have all been playing the “anxiety vs coronavirus” game, now imagine how our frontline providers feel everyday, knowing they are being exposed, knowing they do not have the PPE they need to lessen the risk.

We are all in this together, even when we are staying home alone, so let’s do the best we can to help shut the coronavirus down, together.


Office of Emergency Management

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