Covid-19 Inspiring Stories (Worldwide)

Nurse on The Frontline, Oman

nurse on the frontline Covid-19
Lamees wearing full PPE- World Health Organization, http://www.emro.who.int/images/stories/Patient/oman-nurse.jpg, Accessed 04 Sept 2020

“Our daily routine has changed, and this new routine has quickly become the norm. I realize that treating patients with COVID-19 is very hard, each one with their own unique needs.”- Lamees

Lamees is a nurse in Oman, who has been tasked with managing the operations of a quarantine facility set up by the Ministry of Health. As part of her new role, she is dedicated to training her fellow nurses on the proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE) in order to limit the spread of the virus in their work environment. She also trains the nurses on proper hand washing, disinfection and sterilization of both the workplace and equipment, admitting patients, checking vital signs and managing medical waste.

Since she is a mother of 4 and would never want to put her children or husband in harm’s way, Lamees practices social distancing even with her 4 year-old son. At times when she refused to hug him, he assures his mother that he will hug her “a million times” after Covid-19. Though this is a very hard thing for her to do, she gets immense support from her husband and says that “he fully understands my position and what I have been going through and has been very supportive since the beginning”.

Lamees is dedicated to personally treating patients and offers them reassuring words when they are afraid. She says, “I talk to them, calm them and advise that they should take care of themselves, clear their mind and search for the light amid this darkness.” 

She stresses that, “hand hygiene is a top priority and one of the most effective methods of preventing health care-associated infections, including COVID-19. Such prevention depends on hand hygiene being performed when necessary, and the appropriate cleansing agent and technique being used”. Even though she likes to focus on the positive side of things, she acknowledges that “the virus is here, and during this time we have to endure it by doing all the recommended measures…”.

Protecting the Elderly from Covid-19, Detroit

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EIS Officer Guillermo “Memo” Sanchez wears a protective gown and face shield during an April 2020 visit to a Detroit nursing home. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/images/communication/sanchez-ppe.jpg, Accessed 11 Sept 2020

“It was heartbreaking and inspiring at the same time. Despite losing her mother, despite losing some of her beloved friends, she was back at work and 100% dedicated to protecting her residents.”- Guillermo

Constantly, we are seeing the need to come together and respond with urgency in protecting the most vulnerable in our communities from Covid-19. Most times, however, it is really our frontline workers who have to face this battle everyday. 

Guillermo “Memo” Sanchez is both a marathoner and a disease detective.

Memo is a part of the Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS), whose officers serve on the front lines of public health to investigate disease outbreaks and rapidly put control measures into place. He is normally assigned to the Alabama Department of Public Health, and when the COVID-19 pandemic emerged, he helped trace and monitor those in close contact with people who were infected with COVID-19. He also trained others in Alabama to do the same.

However, when COVID-19 cases surged in the Detroit area in April, Memo was called to assist efforts to prevent COVID-19 from spreading in nursing homes. Before joining the EIS, he worked as an emergency medicine physician assistant at a trauma center in one of Atlanta’s major hospitals, an experience which has made him familiar with infection prevention and control in healthcare settings.

Nursing home residents are at higher risk for severe illness and death from COVID-19. These residents often live together in the same room, are more likely to have chronic health conditions, and use supportive medical services like dialysis more frequently—all factors that can raise the chances of COVID-19 spreading.

The Detroit Health Department (DHD) rapidly increased its local COVID-19 testing capacity and tested every nursing home resident in the city by the end of April. Memo was part of a CDC Field Support Team that worked alongside DHD leaders, local experts in infection prevention, and local healthcare system partners to develop strategies to combat nursing home outbreaks. Repeated test results were used to guide preventive measures to reduce ongoing transmission.

“We built on ongoing efforts to provide infection prevention guidance to nursing home leaders, including information on how to use data to save lives. Facility leaders had to decide where they were going to move residents based on COVID-19 test results,” Memo says. “For example, we would ask, ‘Are you able to place all the people infected with COVID-19 on one floor or one unit, and can you assign designated healthcare providers to work only on those units?’ These were important questions and logistical challenges that each facility had to face.”

Following CDC guidance, one facility transferred residents who tested positive to a nursing home that was owned and operated by the same company and was designated to care only for residents with COVID-19. But when the facility learned that residents were still becoming infected even after those with known COVID-19 infections were transferred, they had to develop a new plan. Eventually, the facility set up a COVID-19 care unit on a separate floor, which allowed residents to remain in a familiar location under care of staff who knew them.

At another facility, one nursing director had endured multiple hardships. Her mother died in March due to suspected COVID-19, she lost several of her residents with whom she had built long-term friendships, and she had also survived the disease herself. Through all of this, once she was able to safely return, she continued to work.

“It was heartbreaking and inspiring at the same time,” Memo says. “Despite losing her mother, despite losing some of her beloved friends, she was back at work and 100% dedicated to protecting her residents.”

The experience was a reminder “that for every data point, there is a human story. And for every story, there are many unsung heroes that we never hear about. I saw scores of volunteers who were EMTs, nurses, firefighters, and many other professions that were putting their health at risk to protect the most vulnerable of people living in Detroit.”

Dedication is a common trait among many of the people who are working to respond to this pandemic, and it can be seen in their personal lives as well. A native of Nevada, Memo started long-distance running while attending college at the University of Nevada, Reno.

“I trained for my first marathon with my dad and because it was such a positive experience, I was hooked. It’s the one exercise that you can do any time of year, with people or without, and for me, it has really helped me cope with the stress, anxiety, and tragedy of this pandemic.”

The campaign against COVID-19 “is itself a marathon—over 26 miles long, and we’re barely at the 10-mile marker,” Memo says. “We have a long way to go, and we have to find what is going to get us to the finish line.”

Already Prepared to Fight Covid-19, Uganda

ebola treatment

“Investment in response to these outbreaks has enabled us to build strong systems that can prevent, detect and respond to outbreaks. In line with this, we have invested in infrastructure, capacities, institutional relationships, and networks."-Hon Dr Jane Ruth Aceng, Health Minister

Having developed a very robust system in responding to and dealing with the Ebola virus disease, Uganda was already well equipped to deal with Covid-19. This preparedness has led to them having a relatively low number of cases and deaths as of September 11, 2020: 4377 and 49 respectively. The following outlines the measures that they have put in place, in order to achieve this.

  1. A multisectoral and multidisciplinary National Task Force, chaired by Uganda’s president, that relies on science and advice from a scientific advisory committee constituted of renowned local scientists. 
  2. A robust surveillance system to detect diseases quickly. This spans the entire country, from communities to health facilities and border entry points. The system is supported by several online applications: GoData, Open Data Toolkit, mTrack, U-reports and a dashboard that facilitates case investigation, contact follow-up, visualization of transmission chains, data exchange as well as supervision, assessment, and reporting. 
  3. Investing heavily in preparing for potential Ebola virus disease outbreaks- training over 10,000 health workers on infection prevention and control, psychosocial support, surveillance, safe and dignified burials, and other aspects of disease outbreak response. 
  4. Extending Ebola detection training to immigration and port health staff posted at international airports and border entry points. These workers are also equipped with infrared thermometers and thermo-scanners. Training these health workers proved critical because the first confirmed case of Covid-19 was detected by one of them.
  5. Having 5 treatment facilities for Ebola virus. These units were quickly converted into quarantine facilities for persons being monitored for Covid-19. Patients who test positive at these quarantine locations are then transferred to treatment facilties that are equipped to handle outbreaks.
  6. Practicing and promoting good hand hygiene, social distancing and seeking early treatment, from previous experiences with the Ebola virus disease. 
  7. Village Health Teams of almost 100,000 young people, initially established to spread awareness on Ebola virus, share important messages to their community members on how to deal with the coronavirus, from as early as April 2020.
  8. A team of public health experts well versed in the rapid development of messages through already-established channels and networks, COVID-19 prevention information had circulated before the first case was detected.
  9. A very good laboratory testing capacity: so far they have conducted over 250,000 tests for Covid-19. Learning from the Ebola virus, Uganda understands the need for quick diagnosis and as a result requires that samples be delivered for testing in no more than 24 hours after collection. 
  10. With assistance from the World Health Organization, the United States Agency for International Development, the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development and IrishAID, Uganda is supported with personal protective equipment and testing items. Along with WHO, the United Nations Children’s Fund, the World Food Programme and the International Organization for Migration set up a system that ensured the quick delivery of the supplies to the front-line health workers and Village Health Teams.  

Protecting the Vulnerable Communities, Athens

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“These very harsh times have taught us that the best outcome always comes with collaboration and consistent efforts. When city and civil society join efforts, the result is more than fruitful, as together we can open an ever-safer umbrella towards marginalized populations. In this battle against time, no one is to be left behind."- Mayor of Athens, Kostas Bakoyannis

While Greece was quickly making efforts to curb the spread of Covid-19, the city of Athens also focused their efforts ensuring that members of the marginalized communities were also protected. Going under strict lockdown measures meant that the homeless, people using drugs, migrants and sex workers would be at a higher risk of contracting the disease and also being unable to get the nourishment and treatment they need. As a result, Athens city authorities, together with the Hellenic Liver Patients Association “Prometheus”, the Greek Association of People Living with HIV “Positive Voice” and funding from the Partnership for Healthy Cities were able to strengthen support to get essential supplies and health information to these groups during the pandemic.

Through this partnership, trained staff and volunteers were able to distribute nourishment, personal protective equipment and vital information to these vulnerable communities. The city also established temporary housing for  over 400 homeless persons and a specialized support center for people who inject drugs. 

“WHO supports Greece with advocacy and evidence-based policy guidance for COVID-19 and beyond. The ‘whole-of-society’ approach leaves no one behind and amplifies the best of social norms while creating a new positive normal that minimizes stigma and discrimination,” emphasized Marianna Trias, WHO representative for Greece.

Sources:

1. On the front line of COVID-19: inspiring stories of health care workers, WHO Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean, Original Story, Accessed 4 Sept. 2020.

2. A Marathoner’s Take on COVID-19, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Original Story, 01 June 2020. Accessed 11 Sept. 2020.

3.  Ebola response bolsters Uganda’s COVID-19 fight, WHO Africa, Original Story, 10 Sept. 2020, Accessed 11 Sept 2020.

4. Athens protects vulnerable communities during COVID-19, WHO, Original Story,

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