Medical corps

In a pandemic, who better to step up and volunteer than members of the health care profession? And in Virginia, they have — by the thousands.

Hundreds of applications are rolling in daily to the Virginia Medical Reserve Corps. At one of his daily press conferences last week, Gov. Ralph Northam — a physician — described the corps as “a force of dedicated volunteers who stand ready to support the community in the event of a public health emergency such as this.”

As of Tuesday morning, more than 12,300 volunteers had signed up. Of those, around 8,200 are deployable, meaning they’ve gone through a background check and had their credentials confirmed. Several thousand health care professionals have stepped forward since the coronavirus threat emerged, with 175 alone applying on Monday.

The volunteers are needed to meet the medical and public health surge as a result of the pandemic, working in alternative care sites, health care facilities and health departments. Volunteers span the breadth of medical and public health care professionals, including registered nurses, physicians and even audiologists.

But you don’t necessarily have to work in health care to join. “You just have to be passionate about health and willing to help your community,” said Jennifer Freeland, state volunteer coordinator in the Virginia Department of Health’s Office of Emergency Preparedness.

Virginia’s Medical Reserve Corps operates 27 units across the state. In addition to helping during emergencies, they also respond to ongoing public health initiatives. Corps volunteers have assisted with flu vaccination clinics, and with providing shelters after Hurricane Florence.

The Medical Reserve Corps is part of a national effort that was established in 2002 in the aftermath of 9/11, according to the VDH, when Americans volunteered their skills to help improve the health and safety of their communities. Nationally, the corps involves almost 200,000 volunteers in nearly 1,000 community-based units.

These volunteers are setting an example by freely offering their time and talents to help Virginia fight this public health war. They’re dedicated to helping their communities stay safe and healthy. We can all do our part during this crisis. Stay at home if you can. Wash your hands frequently. Practice social distancing. Be part of the solution.

— Pamela Stallsmith

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