Volunteers continue to provide Red Cross disaster health services during coronavirus outbreak

By Renee Palagyi, Senior Disaster Program Manager

It seems that all we hear of late is “COVID-19,” and many wonder if it has taken the place of our normal American Red Cross activities. It has NOT! Residents experiencing fires continue to be assisted both on scene and in follow-up casework.

I am taking a moment today to emphasize the work being done by our incredible Disaster Health Services team. This group of volunteer nurses—most of whom are still employed full-time in roles ranging from pediatrics to geriatric nurse practitioner—continue to help our disaster clients who have lost medications, durable medical equipment, glasses, etc. We have new graduates, retirees and everyone in between, each bringing his or her personal gift of nursing knowledge and caring to bear through remote client contact.

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Renee Palagyi

Beginning March 14, several members of the team took on an additional task of “Disaster Action Team (DAT) Responder Screening.” Each responder in the Northeast Ohio region was called and asked a series of questions, provided guidelines on increased virus risk based on certain medical conditions and asked if they were still willing to continue to respond to clients in need. The professional approach of our nurses helped allay fears while providing solid information based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

Not surprising, but certainly incredibly gratifying, was the response we received from those volunteers screened. Overwhelmingly, in fact, approximately 90% stated their willingness to continue as DAT responders in the face of this pandemic. The majority of those not able to respond during this crisis were screened out by our nurses for medical reasons, not by their fears of becoming ill. They noted they felt reassured by the client screening process we have in place and the knowledge that Red Cross has at heart the well-being of our strongest asset, our volunteers.

We are all in this for the long haul, and I am pleased to lead this team of dedicated nurses who continue to give their time despite their own increased work and personal demands.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer