During the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, life’s emergencies don’t stop — and neither does the work of the American Red Cross.
Each day, people still rely on us to help prevent and alleviate their suffering, and we’re grateful to our volunteers and employees working tirelessly to support those we serve, as well as to our generous donors who make the Red Cross mission possible.
Because everyone’s wellbeing is our top priority, we continue to work closely with public health officials to deliver our services safely and coordinate our efforts with government agencies and partners. This means that, as the coronavirus evolves and affects communities differently, our services may look different in each area to ensure we are aiding local families where they need us most.
“Being able to volunteer with the Red Cross has helped me overcome this feeling of helplessness that there’s nothing that you can do,” said Red Cross volunteer Phil Cogan, who has been taking emergency calls to help dispatch relief after local disasters. “It has demonstrated to me that even by being at home, I can make a contribution to help others through the Red Cross.”
GIVING COMFORT AND SUPPORT AFTER HOME FIRES As communities follow stay-at-home orders, the risk of home fires hasn’t gone away. Since February, when the coronavirus outbreak began to escalate in our country, Red Cross workers have helped more than 53,000 people recover from more than 13,000 home fires nationwide.
To help keep everyone safe and follow social distancing guidelines, Red Cross volunteers are working with local fire departments to connect with families by phone or video calls, offering a sympathetic ear and linking them to available support, such as providing hotel stays and emergency financial assistance.
With the help of the Red Cross, Jessie Austin and his neighbors are among those who found refuge in a hotel after a fire displaced them from their apartment. Red Cross volunteers have also delivered hot meals and helped them create recovery plans and locate available assistance.
“You can tell that they care,” Austin said of the Red Cross workers helping him. “That’s the main thing. I’m very appreciative of them.”
PROVIDING REFUGE FROM DISASTERS In addition to home fires, Red Cross volunteers are helping people displaced by disasters like recent tornadoes across several states in the U.S. — which has experienced the deadliest tornado season in nearly a decade. As we adapt our physical response due to COVID-19, we’ve provided more than 17,500 overnight stays in emergency hotel lodging since April 16, rather than opening traditional shelters for tornadoes, large home fires affecting multiple families and other crises.
We’re also working with public health officials on our COVID-19 plans to respond as needed to the ongoing threat of spring flooding, severe storms, wildfires and the above-normal hurricane season forecast for this year. We want everyone to receive help as quickly as possible, and that’s why the generosity of donors who provide support before crises happen is critical to ensure we have resources to mobilize at a moment’s notice.
DELIVERING RELIEF WHERE IT’S NEEDED MOST Responding during this public health crisis is a team effort, and the Red Cross is working closely with local partners to address people’s emergency needs — which vary by community, but include:
- Supporting Quarantine Shelters: To the extent our resources allow, and only when our government partners don’t have the capability, we’ve fulfilled more than 200 requests to support local quarantine and isolation facilities with more than 40,000 relief items, such as cots, blankets and hygiene kits, in California, Oregon, Texas, Washington and other areas.
- Distributing Food: To help ensure vulnerable people don’t go hungry during this crisis, we’re working with community partners to provide food where there are government-ordered quarantines or mandatory stay-at-home orders, when we have the resources to do so. We’re following social distancing protocols and setting up food distribution sites where possible. This includes several requests for volunteers to support critical feeding missions for some of the hardest-hit areas, such as Los Angeles and New York City.
- Connecting Families: In places such as Arizona, families are using our Safe and Well system to know when loved ones are transferred from smaller rural hospitals to larger urban ones.
- Providing Health and Mental Health Services: Red Cross volunteers are supporting health and mental health needs in several areas, including Kentucky, where they’re helping to answer questions about COVID-19 as part of a state health department hotline, and in Rhode Island, where friendly volunteers are calling older adults to provide wellness checks and a sense of community for a state government-led effort.
FULFILLING OUR LIFESAVING MISSION Beyond disasters, we’re helping people through other parts of our mission:
- Maintain 40 Percent of the Nation’s Blood Supply: Thanks to the many who gave blood and scheduled upcoming appointments, the Red Cross has been able to meet immediate patient needs. During this uncertain time, we encourage people to keep scheduled appointments and make new ones for the weeks ahead to ensure a stable supply throughout this pandemic for patients relying on lifesaving blood transfusions.
- Train People with Lifesaving Skills: We continue to provide COVID-19 safety tips and online courses, including our new free Mental Health First Aid for COVID-19 course to help you manage stress while caring for yourself and supporting your family and coworkers. In order to support critical health care and essential workforce needs for training in resuscitation, CPR and first aid, courses are offered, where permitted, with social distancing approaches and follow public health guidance. Provisional certification courses are also available. To help those who are currently certified, we are now offering a free online-only 120-day extension course.
- Provide 24/7 Global Support to Military Families and Veterans: Through our network of chapters and Red Cross stations on military bases worldwide, we’re still providing support like sending emergency messages between deployed service members and loved ones at home. Our work also includes supporting military and veteran hospitals, assisting efforts to map and help contain the spread of COVID-19, providing online stress-relieving workshops, working with volunteers to sew face coverings, giving comfort kits with hygiene items to military families sheltering in place, and helping them navigate COVID-19 changes.
- Aid Communities Worldwide: Overseas, Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers are helping communities cope with the virus through a variety of lifesaving actions — from transporting patients to hospitals in Italy to installing more handwashing facilities in Bangladesh’s refugee camps. For its part, the American Red Cross has made a $720,000 contribution to international Red Cross efforts to help mitigate the spread of this virus and has deployed (both physically and virtually) specialists in mental health, communications and data management.
HOW YOU CAN HELP This is the time to take care of one another. Join us:
- Give Blood: Please make an appointment to donate in the weeks ahead, if you are healthy and feeling well, by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).
- Donate: Support all of the urgent humanitarian needs of the American Red Cross by donating to Where It Is Needed Most at redcross.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767). A donation of any size makes a difference.
- Volunteer: Our need for volunteers is constant and continues to evolve as we navigate this health crisis. Visit redcross.org/volunteer for opportunities, including supporting blood donations and providing help from home.