In December 2019, a new health concern began to spread within the city of Wuhan, China. The coming weeks would see a flu-like infection rippling out from its origin point to sweep through China before crossing borders and oceans onto foreign soil.

Part of the coronavirus family, COVID-19, which stands for coronavirus disease 2019, is caused by a virus named SARS-CoV-2. The disease was officially declared a global health emergency by the World Health Organization (WHO) on Jan. 30, 2020, and later classified as a pandemic on March 11, 2020. As of this posting, COVID-19 has infected 173,051 and killed 6,664, with the United States seeing 3,802 infected and 69 deaths so far. Of the total numbers infected, 77,783 have recovered.

We are still learning about COVID-19. However, the disease seems to spread quickly and be exhibiting “community spread” – meaning that people have been infected in a particular area, but not all of them are sure where or how they became infected. Symptoms may appear two to 14 days after exposure and include fever, coughing and shortness of breath. In serious cases, it can lead to pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and death. Those most at risk are the elderly and those with preexisting conditions.

The nonprofit and private sectors are mobilizing in the face of this threat to global health. Let’s dive into how MAP International, a Global Impact Charity Alliance partner, utilized corporate partnership to bring timely aid in response to COVID-19, what corporations can do to get involved, and how you can help mitigate the effects of the disease at home and in the office.

A MAP International trailer parked in front of a UPS semi-truck.

The nonprofit and private sectors: Working together for emergency relief 
In addition to providing medicines and health supplies to millions around the world, MAP International is known for their emergency response. When disasters strike, they send critical relief supplies to treat injuries and prevent the spread of disease. MAP International often partners with corporations to utilize resources they otherwise wouldn’t be able to access. This strategy positions them to respond quickly with supplies and other critical support where they’re most necessary.

Back in January, when concern over COVID-19 was on the rise, MAP International recognized the need for support and acted.

They collected 1.3 million respirator masks, 280,000 pairs of nitrile gloves and 10,700 protective coveralls. The goal: get them to the hospitals at the center of the outbreak in Wuhan, China. But how do you quickly ship so many supplies to a city on the other side of the world?

The answer: with UPS.

The UPS Foundation and MAP International teamed up in the face of the growing outbreak. UPS, known for package delivery all over the world, had something that would prove key to MAP International’s response efforts – air transportation.

Their joint efforts saw the successful airlifting of all 120 pallets of supplies to the Hubei Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention. From there, the supplies were distributed to hospitals in the Wuhan area to provide crucial protection while hospital staff worked to treat the sick and curb the spread of the disease.

“UPS and The UPS Foundation will provide help with critically needed air transport, and we are honored to provide our support, along with our partners, to this important mission,” said Eduardo Martinez, president of The UPS Foundation and chief diversity and inclusion officer, about the partnership.
Since then, MAP International has continued to send supplies, including an additional 1.6 million masks and 3,750 face shields, through various avenues that have been put to good use by organizations like Project HOPE – another Global Impact Charity Alliance partner and one of the few charities allowed on the ground in Wuhan.

Their successful collaboration serves as an example of what the nonprofit and private sectors can achieve together to make the world a better place and bring help to those in need – especially in the face of global emergencies.

How your corporation can help
MAP International and UPS were able to come together and pool their resources to reach a common goal. They aren’t the only private/nonprofit partnerships working together in this way – meaning you can get involved, too! There are a number of ways you can support emergencies like COVID-19 and other development projects.

  • Resources. Much like MAP International and UPS, if you have a particular resource, connection or skill at your workplace that would be useful in response to an emergency, contact us to get started.
  • Financial assistance. The easiest, and often most needed way to support a charity’s efforts is through charitable donations. In January, we launched our  Coronavirus Outbreak Emergency Relief Fund. Donations through the fund are pooled and distributed to our list of responding charities, and are guaranteed to be used solely toward coronavirus relief and recovery.We also have a Standing Emergency Fund – which collects donations in preparation for future need. When an emergency strikes, the funds will then be allocated to responding partner charities. Both of these funds are available to be used as part of your workplace giving initiatives and employee engagement efforts.
  • Supporting other causes. Your help isn’t just needed for emergency response – there are many important cause areas that charities focus on. You can give financial support but you can also consider skills-based volunteering, where employees donate their time and skills to help charities that are looking to fill a particular need. Contact us to learn more and find out how you can make it work in your office.

Remember your employees and practice safe habits
Depending on your location, COVID-19 might feel far away. However, the disease has already spread worldwide, with major breakouts in South Korea, Iran and Italy. You may even have offices near or in affected areas. So how can you help mitigate this impact?

Here are some ideas on how to lessen the effects of the disease and help your employees feel secure in the face of this outbreak.

Spread the word: Be safe and don’t panic. With a potential health crisis on the rise, it’s hard to quell the spread of panic. However, while COVID-19 is spreading quickly, the majority of the individuals infected will recover. The people most at risk are the elderly and those with preexisting conditions.

We recommend communicating this with your employees, while also encouraging the following practices for both at home and work to help avoid infection and stay healthy:

  • Wash your hands often or sanitize with alcohol-based products, particularly after coming home or while travelling. Stock up on hand sanitizer at the office and use it frequently! Also avoid touching your face and be respectful your coworkers’ desk space.
  • Disinfect surfaces like your kitchen counters often – this includes your phone, as well as your desk, keyboard and mouse at work! Keep disinfectant wipes readily available and use them often.
  • Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing with your elbow or a tissue. If you use a tissue, then dispose of it and sanitize your hands.
  • Avoid travelling if you have a fever or cough, and try to avoid going out in order to reduce the chance of infecting others. If you are healthy but have a trip coming up, watch out for potential travel restrictions, particularly for international flights.
  • Limit conferences and other events that draw large crowds. The Centers for Disease Control has recommended that communities practice social distancing (staying at least six feet away from another person and avoiding large crowds) and cancelling large in-person events for the next eight weeks. If you have a conference scheduled in your office, consider rescheduling it or possibly making it a remote conference. GoToMeeting and other platforms are good to look into for this need. Remember that though you may not necessarily be in the high-risk category, there are likely people around you who are – think about what you can do to avoid spreading the disease to others, including keeping yourself healthy.
  • Carry health kits. Help avoid illness by carrying around a health kit. Kits can include travel-sized hand sanitizer, tissues, medicine and other supplies. Consider providing health kits for your employees!
  • Self-reporting. If you or an immediate family member tests positive for COVID-19, notify your office immediately, and spread the word to your family and friends so they can take precautions.
  • Stock up on groceries and medicine now. There are two reasons for this. 1) Doing it before an outbreak hits your area or a current outbreak worsens decreases the chance that you’ll come in contact with someone carrying the virus in a crowded supermarket. 2) If you do happen to get sick, you’ll already have supplies so you don’t have to leave the house and potentially spread the disease to others.

Work from home policies and flexible work hours. What are your company’s work from home policies? How flexible are your hours? There’s a possibility that employees may need to stay home in order to avoid being infected or spreading the infection themselves. In the case of an outbreak, you may consider closing your office and moving to remote work for an extended period. Flexible work hours can also allow employees to avoid rush hour during their morning commute if they take public transportation, reducing their risk of infection.

Ensure your office is prepared for remote work and flexible work hours, keeping in mind any challenges you might face, and be sure to keep employees informed – put out a communication to let them know you are monitoring the situation, give them tips to stay healthy (as listed above) and keep them informed of any changes to work habits so they can plan ahead. It is also important to consider how you might engage employees remotely, as this kind of quarantine can be extremely isolating. Consider working with Global Impact and our charity alliance members to plan a virtual engagement opportunity.

Employee assistance programs. What situations are your employees currently facing? Or how might they need assistance in the future? Employee assistance programs can help provide support to employees in the face of emergencies or dealing with hardship. A COVID-19 outbreak would not just effect your employees but also their family and loved ones. Elderly are particularly at risk of this deadly virus. What are you doing to support employees who may experience personal hardship because of this growing health epidemic?

Global Impact has worked with many clients to establish a program and manage its implementation – it’s a quick and easy process that can be a major help to employees in need. Learn more about how companies can get involved through our blog post, COVID-19: What can your company do to help?, or contact us for more information on employee assistance programs.

MAP International and our other charity partners are working to respond to the emergency, preparing for potential outbreaks in areas with less developed health care systems and providing other support. Learn more about the outbreak and charity responses, and support efforts to stop the coronavirus through our Coronavirus Outbreak Emergency Relief Fund.