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How To Help Families Impacted By The Coronavirus Pandemic

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As the number of confirmed coronavirus cases continues to rise both in the United States and across the globe, the World Health Organization officially declared the spread of COVID-19 a global pandemic. So far, the respiratory illness has caused disruptions to daily life, leaving many feeling anxious and out of sorts. But while feelings of concern and helplessness are natural in stressful times, there are a few ways to help families in communities impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

There are more than 1,300 confirmed coronavirus cases reported in the United States and more than 127,000 cases worldwide, according to the John Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. On Wednesday, President Donald Trump instituted a 30-day ban on foreign nationals from the European Union's Schengen Area as the NBA suspended its current season, hundreds of schools closed across the country, and actor Tom Hanks announced he had tested positive for coronavirus.

While public health experts are encouraging social distancing in light of the coronavirus outbreak, perhaps it's more important than ever that we come together (metaphorically speaking) as communities to help those in need. So here's how you can help children, families, and communities impacted by the current global coronavirus pandemic:

Give To Your Local Food Bank

As the number of confirmed coronavirus cases rises, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continues to urge anyone feeling sick to stay home. While some families may find self-quarantine to be inconvenient but not impossible, others may find the cost of stocking enough shelf-stable food and household supplies for a two-week quarantine to be financially unobtainable. As a result, they may turn to community food banks for help, making donations more vital than ever.

Reach out to your local food bank or pantry (You can easily find those working within your community by Googling "food bank near me" or "food bank" and your zip code or city) to see what items they need most. For example, the San Antonio Food Bank says giving $5 to its Coronavirus Preparedness & Prevention Campaign can help "fill an entire box with food and necessary cleaning supplies for a family."

Consider donating money, food, and other needed supplies in an effort to help out other families in your community prepare for a potential coronavirus outbreak.

Help Erase Medical Debt

For those without insurance or whose plans don't cover much, the threat of expensive medical bills can be a deterrent to seeking care. Donations to RIP Medical Debt, a nonprofit that has so far abolished more than $1 billion in medical debt, can help the organization "buy" up people's medical debt at a steep discount, freeing them of heavy financial burdens.

While you can't donate specifically to coronavirus-related medical debt, fundraisers and donations to RIP Medical Debt can go a long way in helping those struggling to cover the high cost of medical care.

Donate Blood

Amid concerns the coronavirus outbreak could lead to a significant drop in blood donations, the Red Cross is urging healthy individuals to give blood or platelets in an effort to thwart a potential shortage.

"We're asking the American people to help keep the blood supply stable during this challenging time," Chris Hrouda, president of Red Cross Blood Services, said in a statement. "As communities across the country prepare for this public health emergency, it’s critical that plans include a readily available blood supply for hospital patients.” According to the Red Cross, Type O and platelet donations are especially needed at the moment.

Prospective donors can learn more about the eligibility requirements for giving blood on the Red Cross' website. Appointments for donation can be made via the Red cross Blood Donor App or online at RedCrossBlood.org. Prospective donors can also call 1-800-RED-CROSS to make an appointment.

Help Children Stay Healthy & Safe In Impacted-Communities

Save the Children has launched a Coronavirus Response Fund to raise money for their efforts to protect the health and safety of children and families living in impacted communities. "As with all disease outbreaks, children and families who have limited access to healthcare or clean water are the most vulnerable," the organization said. "These vulnerable families face threats that extend beyond health, including risks to their livelihoods, education and protection."

Donations to its Coronavirus Response Fund helps Save the Children provide training to health teams across the world and supply them with personal protective equipment and other necessary supplies.

Safely Check On Elderly Neighbors

The World Health Organization has warned that "older people, and people with pre-existing medical conditions, such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease appear to be more vulnerable to becoming severely ill with the virus." As a result, many older people are practicing social distancing and choosing to stay home as much as possible, especially in areas where cases of coronavirus have been confirmed.

As The New York Times has recommended, consider reaching out to older neighbors via social media, a telephone call, text message, or even by speaking with them through a closed door. Extend an offer of help. If you're planning to do some grocery shopping, offer to pick up any items they might need or nab their prescription refill from the local pharmacy for them if needed. Let them know, they're not alone and have your support.

Protect Yourself & Your Family

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Taking steps to protect yourself and your family from coronavirus can also help limit the spread of the virus. Along with avoiding anyone who is sick, the CDC recommends all adults and children wash their hands often with soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds. Hand washing is especially recommended after blowing your nose, helping your child blow their nose, coughing, sneezing, or conducting activities in a public place. For tips on proper hand washing, visit the CDC's official website. People are also advised to avoid touching their eyes, nose, and mouths with unwashed hands. If soap and water are not readily available, the CDC recommends the use of a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.

The CDC also recommends cleaning and disinfecting any surfaces that are frequently touched by you and your family, including doorknobs, cabinet pulls, refrigerator handles, light switches, countertops, tabletops, phones, keys, toilets, and faucets. You can view the Environmental Protection Agency's list of registered antimicrobial products for use against the novel coronavirus here. Eating healthy, nourishing foods, staying hydrated, and taking steps to limit or combat stress are also recommended steps for keeping up immune health.

If you think you’re showing symptoms of coronavirus, which include fever, shortness of breath, and cough, call your doctor before going to get tested. If you’re anxious about the virus’s spread in your community, visit the CDC for up-to-date information and resources, or seek out mental health support. You can find all of Romper’s parents + coronavirus coverage here, and Bustle’s constantly updated, general “what to know about coronavirus” here.