In response to the outbreak of COVID-19 in the United States, we are working with local authorities and partner organisations in key locations around the United States to improve the response for vulnerable people groups—those who are normally excluded from healthcare, or who are likely to be overlooked during the current pandemic.
In New York City, our focus is improving infection prevention and control (IPC) measures for vulnerable populations. We have opened temporary shower trailers in Manhattan for those who are homeless or housing insecure; we have now provided more than 2000 showers, along with toiletries, clean socks and underwear. We have also donated over 160 handwashing stations to soup kitchens and supportive housing facilities for example, and we continue to distribute 1,000 mobile phones to vulnerable New Yorkers who lack the essential technology needed to contact emergency, tele-health and other support services. We are also supporting the NYC Department of Homeless Services in developing a webinar training on COVID-19 and infection control and prevention practices (IPC).
In the state of Michigan, there have been 66,000 confirmed cases and more than 6,000 deaths. Nursing homes are of particular concern, as 7,100 residents and more than 3,100 staff have contracted COVID-19. MSF is coordinating with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and the Detroit Health Department to quickly identify which nursing homes are in need of IPC measures. Our teams are providing assessments and general guidance to improve IPC practices, technical on-site support and training, and mental health workshops.
In Immokalee, Florida, where 15,000-20,0000 migrant farmworkers have continued to work despite minimal access to healthcare and testing, we are working closely with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, the Department of Health, and the local Health Care Network. MSF has been running a public health education campaign and mobile ‘virtual’ clinics, which provide COVID-19 testing and remote medical consultations for COVID-19 and other health issues. As of late June, we have begun handing over our testing clinics to the Department of Health, who will continue this work.
In the southwest, an MSF team is working with local officials, healthcare providers and organisations that are directly addressing needs related to COVID-19 in Native American communities. We are supporting local and federal agencies and medical professionals by providing IPC training and guidance, first in community facilities in Pueblos, and now in correctional facilities, nursing homes, and emergency services spaces in the Navajo Nation. We are also working with local authorities to expand public health information and education about COVID-19 and to institute contact tracing. Our team has delivered six ‘Training the Teachers’ workshops to more than 700 employees of the Social Services Department, and is working with local organisations to expand public health information and education about COVID-19 at the community level.
On the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico, MSF is providing support to healthcare workers and organisations with an emphasis on vulnerable sections of the community including people who are experiencing homelessness, the elderly, people with substance abuse disorders and those affected by recent earthquakes. We are offering medical consultations in remote locations where access to care is being limited by the pandemic. We continue to distribute essential supplies like medical masks, face shields and hygiene kits, and conducting IPC training to help essential workers, patients and others stay safe. So far we have provided more than 2,700 hygiene kits to vulnerable groups, more than 20,000 items of PPE to 21 health care facilities across the island, and conducted 11 IPC training sessions to essential workers and patients.
Completed COVID-19 projects in the USA
Between the end of May to 31 July, MSF staff provided support to 55 long-term care facilities in Michigan, including nursing homes and adult foster care homes. With extremely high numbers of COVID-19 cases appearing in nursing home residents and staff in Michigan, MSF launched a response to provide direct, in-person support to nursing home staff to improve infection prevention measures. Our staff provided assessments and general guidance on infection prevention and control, technical on-site support and training, and mental health workshops. Following the closure of this project in July, MSF has provided a toolkit for nursing schools to incorporate into their public health program, with the hope that the program piloted in Michigan can be adopted by schools of nursing nationwide.