At the time I write this, we are all warily preparing to reopen the economy, and most of us are fearing the rebound surge that may occur in the four to six weeks after the population emerges and encounters interstate travelers and potential homegrown super-spreaders.

We’ve had weeks to prepare, assemble equipment and debate strategy. I think the best strategy we can adopt no matter what other measures are taken is the one that’s being employed in Asian countries that have lived through the SARS epidemic: universal masking. Between this policy (already in effect by state order for businesses), six-foot social distancing and the reduced population density of Pittsburgh, we might have a decent chance of remaining relatively unscathed compared to New York, Chicago and New Orleans until a successful vaccine is widely available.

We are still bracing for the wave. How lucky we would be if the wave never came. The constant dread and anxiety wears on the strongest of us, so let us focus on the positive things. Mr. Rogers’ mother would tell him in a crisis, to “look for the helpers.” There are many kind souls in our area who fit that bill, and I’d like to spotlight some of their efforts for you. If you’re looking for a way to support each other and our communities, here are some sterling opportunities.

ACMS COVID-19 Front Line Relief Fund

  • Funds acquisition of PPE and meals to front line healthcare workers and first responders

First, I’d like to thank our own ACMS CEO Jeremy Bonfini for spearheading the ACMS COVID-19 Front Line Relief Fund effort. Generous donations have enabled ACMS to dispense nearly 10,000 pieces of PPE including Face Shields, N95 masks, other masks and nitrile gloves. More than 70 entities have been helped by ACMS Relief Fund PPE acquisition partnered with distribution services provided by PPE Connect Pittsburgh and Feeding the Frontline Pgh. For more information, please visit: www.acms.org/covid-19-front-line-relief-fund/

Frontline Foods Pittsburgh

  • Supports small restaurants and feeds front line healthcare workers

Frontline Foods Pittsburgh is a volunteer-run local chapter of the national Frontline Foods network. Donations made pay to order food from local restaurants struggling to survive in this economic crisis, and to deliver it to front line healthcare workers. 100% of your donation excluding credit card fees goes to meals. You can donate to support the cause locally or nationally as per your preference. To donate and learn more, visit: www.frontlinefoods.org/pittsburgh

Double Play

  • Supports restaurants and feeds families in need

One of our own, hand/orthopedic surgeon Dr. Mark Baratz, has started Double Play, his own version of this type of program, to support restaurants and feed families in need. Double Play works with two food donation organizations, Casa San Jose and 412 Food Rescue. More than 4,000 meals have already been distributed through this program.

Donations in any amount can be made to Casa San Jose (scroll to the bottom of the website. Click the yellow Donate button. On the donation page type “Double Play” into the second address line) or 412 Food Rescue (donors should put “Double Play” in the “memo” box). Please visit: www.412foodrescue.org and www.casasanjose.org

The Warren Bar and Burrow

  • Supports out-of-work restaurant workers

Spencer Warren, of The Warren Neighborhood Bar and Penn Cove Eatery downtown, has started a program to feed out-of-work restaurant workers and their families. Warren has donated well over 3,500 evening take-out meals as of print. His restaurant also is open for takeout and delivery. To donate any amount to this effort, please visit: www.thewarrenpgh.com

The Pittsburgh Foundation Emergency Action Fund

  • Awards operating grants on a rolling basis to emergency service providers and nonprofit organizations serving on the front lines of recovery

The Pittsburgh Foundation Emergency Action Fund has received pledges of a total of $8.3 million from local foundations, corporations, and individual donors ranging from $1 million grants from the Heinz Endowments, Hillman and Pittsburgh Foundations to $20 donations from ordinary citizens. No donation amount is too small. To donate to this fund, please visit: www.pittsburghfoundation.org

412PPE

  • Mission: mask education and a mask on every face in Pittsburgh to stop the spread of COVID-19

I’m going to add a shameless plug for the all-volunteer organization I started a month ago. Our original plan was to make high-quality fabric masks to sell to civilians and use any profits to donate masks to the vulnerable, but production capability was disrupted. We have pivoted to focusing on two other avenues to achieve our mission of universal mask wear.

First, educating civilians (adults and children) on the importance of wearing a mask properly and consistently in public to reduce the spread of disease. Second, the Rosie the Riveter project: organizing donations of fabric and supplies and getting them to home mask sewers. These Rosie the Riveters in turn donate their handiwork to us in order to fulfill large mask donation requests for vulnerable groups. We have already organized the donation of hundreds of masks to Pittsburgh veterans and Resolve Crisis Center workers. We also aim to serve the homeless, inadequately protected front line workers such as those who work with vulnerable populations, and other groups. Many civilians didn’t know where to get a mask at the time of printing. Our website will feature links to reliable commercial mask makers who have agreed to donate masks to our effort.

We are accepting donations of fabric and supplies, cloth masks for donation, and suggestions for educational resources you would like to see on the website. Please contact me at 412ppe@gmail.com or visit our website at www.412ppe.com.

Thank you and stay safe.

Author profile
Deval (Reshma) Paranjpe, MD, FACS

Dr. Paranjpe is an ophthalmologist and medical editor of the ACMS Bulletin.