RICHMOND, Va. -- Since the beginning of the pandemic, volunteers with the Virginia Medical Reserve Corps have dedicated more than 100,000 hours to helping mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
In addition to her job as primary care physician with Bon Secours, Dr. Sonia Shah-Pandya has been among those dedicating extra hours of her time at testing sites across the region.
"I knew how hard the health department was working,” Shah-Pandya said. “I knew how hard each hospital system was working taking care of all the COVID patients."
Now the call for help is even greater as health departments across Virginia begin the task of administering the COVID-19 vaccine.
Earlier this month, Shah-Pandya began working with healthcare workers, not affiliated with large hospital systems, to help them find a pharmacy distributing the vaccine.
Now as Central Virginia begins to move into the next phase of the vaccination process, administering the vaccine to essential workers and those 65 and older, Shah-Panyha plans to volunteer wherever she is needed.
“There are providers in our community, primary care providers, who are available to help vaccinate our community,” Shah-Pandya explained. “Our only way out of this pandemic is if we get the vaccine in the arms of the people who need it, the most vulnerable."
The desire to help is close to the physician's heart even if it means long and stressful hours
"We are in a race against this virus," she said. “We have so many of our colleagues who are working incredibly hard in the hospital and our hospitals are filled with patients and they're working day and night."
Shah-Pandya urged other medical professionals to volunteer.
"Pick a Saturday or Sunday,” she said. “You don't have to work every weekend, but if we can come together and do that, it will pull us out of this [pandemic] a lot quicker."
Even if you are retired or currently not working, if your medical license is still in good standing, click here for more info about how you can apply to volunteer with the Virginia Medical Reserve Corps.
Most patients with COVID-19 have mild to moderate symptoms. However, in a small proportion of patients, COVID-19 can lead to more severe illness, including death, particularly among those who are older or those who have chronic medical conditions.
COVID-19 spreads primarily through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
Symptoms include fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. Symptoms appear within 14 days of being exposed to an infectious person.
Virginia health officials urged the following precautions:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer only if soap and water are not available.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Avoid contact with sick people.
- Avoid non-essential travel.