Independence Blue Cross Donates 500,000 Masks to Clinics in Underserved Communities
Independence Blue Cross is making sure that health care workers in minority communities across Philadelphia get the masks they need to protect themselves and their patients.
During the coronavirus pandemic, there has been a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) for health care workers, putting both physicians and their patients at risk and this can be deadly. On November 18, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Pennsylvania reported more than 6,300 new cases of coronavirus and the most deaths in one day since late May. In November, there has been a surge of new patients and over 2,900 hospitalizations.
Many of these cases have been Latinos, who are disproportionately affected by COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). This is primarily due to many working in essential jobs, putting them at a higher risk. It’s also due to lower rates of health insurance among Latinos, says Daniel Lopez-Cevallo, who studies health disparities among Latinos, in an interview with NPR. The lack of health care can contribute to higher rates of diabetes and other pre-existing conditions that can make Latinos more susceptible to COVID-complications.
In response to the ongoing pandemic and lack of PPE, on November 16, Independence Blue Cross announced that they would be distributing 500,000 masks at no cost to healthcare workers in Philadelphia. These personal protection masks will go to physician practices and clinics in underserved and disadvantaged communities across the region.
“Since this pandemic began, Independence has worked to support our region’s health care providers in the fight against COVID-19. We are donating these masks to help protect the committed healthcare workers who are serving on the front lines of the COVID-19 battle,” said Independent Blue Cross President and CEO Daniel J. Hilferty about the masks.
“Because the pandemic has disproportionately affected people of color and those facing economic hardship, we decided to focus specifically on helping practices in minority communities,” he added.
Independence has contacted nearly 3,000 provider offices throughout Philadelphia, beginning with those in medically underserved areas, providing them the opportunity to request masks. Provider groups that have three or fewer providers are able to request a batch of 500 masks. Groups with more than three can request a batch of 1,000. Also, nonprofit clinics supported by the Independence Blue Cross Foundation have been contacted regarding masks.
The batches are on a first-come, first-served basis. They may be used following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Occupational Safety and Health Administration guidelines.
Staff member Jesse Breitbart of Wal lace and Nilan Physical Therapy, one location that received masks, said, “it has been quite a difficult time for all of us and this gift will enable us to have one less thing to worry about. Your act of kindness is being shared at a couple of our sister clinics as well, including one that just ran out of supply of the masks we had in reserve.”