COVID-19 Response & FAQs

We were made for such a time as this. And so were you.

The COVID-19 pandemic is serious and urgent, changing people’s lives day-by-day. With more than 40 years of experience responding to disasters with life-saving medical interventions, we are bringing the best of what we have to fight this deadly outbreak. We are determined in our hope that this crisis can be overcome. That lives can be saved and communities healed.

We know that every crisis is different. Every response is unique. That’s why we’re nimble and agile. We are pivoting our entire organization to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and to support local health systems in responding to it. Every day brings more confirmed cases, new information and changing needs.

We are moving quickly. At this moment, here are some of the biggest challenges we’re helping relieve:

  • Hospitals are stretched thin. To meet the rapidly growing demand for tests, we’ve repurposed our fleet of mobile dental vans to serve as mobile COVID-19 drive-thru testing sites. These testing clinics will serve people that wouldn’t otherwise have access to testing – including unhoused, immigrant, and low-income populations.
  • Vulnerable people still have urgent medical needs. We’re helping keep emergency departments from being over-burdened by managing the COVID-19 crisis alongside other urgent needs. That’s why some of our vans are providing emergency dental care – with special permission from state governors who’ve recognized this as an essential service.
  • Medical staff are running out of supplies. So we’ve shipped out our stock of Personal Protective Equipment to help supply local hospitals and raided our mobile dental vans to hand over masks and gloves to frontline health workers.

The outpouring of generosity from supporters like you has been incredible. Here is some of what you’ve helped accomplish so far:

  • Personal Protective Equipment — thousands of gowns, face masks, exam gloves and safety glasses have been provided across the Pacific Northwest and are being put to use in places like Providence St. Joseph Health, the UW Medicine Emergency Department, Evergreen Hospital in Kirkland, St. Charles Hospital in Bend and Providence Mount St. Vincent in Seattle.
  • Our Mobile Dental van is operating as a support center for a COVID-19 screening site in Issaquah, WA, that has already screened 1,158 people.
  • Emergency Dental Clinics are happening regularly in Oregon and Washington, serving vulnerable populations. Already, 740 patients have received urgently-needed care and have been able to avoid going to an overburdened hospital emergency room.
  • Our teams on the ground are converting one of our clinics in the Rohingya Refugee Camp of Bangladesh into a 50-bed COVID-19 clinic.
  • A shipment of medical supplies was en route to Guatemala for use in our programs before the COVID-19 epidemic reached that country. Now that the borders are closed, those supplies are being repurposed for use in a new 3,000 bed COVID-19 health facility.
  • All field staff are currently being trained on guidelines from WHO and the CDC in order to prevent infections in refugee camps and other remote locations.

We are uniquely positioned to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Our U.S. offices are located in the Pacific Northwest — one of the nation’s hardest-hit areas. We have long-lasting partnerships with the local health care community and a fleet of Mobile Dental vans already at work supporting drive-thru screening sites.

Internationally, we work in places where health care systems are weak due to disaster and conflict. As COVID-19 spreads, it is more evident than ever that there are far too many vulnerable people and too few resources for their communities to handle this crisis.

While the world’s focus is on this current pandemic – we must not forget that deadly diseases like malaria are killing vulnerable people every day. Mothers are still dying in childbirth at alarming rates and babies aren’t making it to their first birthdays. The difference is that many of these urgent health concerns are preventable and treatable.

We know how to respond to outbreaks to save lives. When Ebola ravaged Liberia, we worked with communities to stop the spread and reduce the chances of another catastrophic outbreak. For over a year now, we’ve been on the frontlines in Uganda, monitoring for Ebola as refugees cross the border from the Congo. Every day, our doctors and nurses treat infectious diseases like tuberculosis and hemorrhagic fevers.

Many more activities are in process as the situation changes rapidly, so check back regularly for updates.


Frequently Asked Questions

Q:  Has COVID-19 been identified in areas where Medical Teams works?

A:  Yes. To date, there are confirmed cases in every country where Medical Teams works. Medical Teams is monitoring the situation in all locations and preparing for a global response to the pandemic. We have established and are regularly updating thorough travel and work precautions for all personnel.

Q:  What will your response look like in the U.S.?

A:  We transitioned our fleet of 12 Mobile Dental Vans from providing dental care to providing support services during the COVID-19 outbreak. Some of these Mobile Dental Vans have been repurposed to serve as drive-thru COVID-19 testing sites in the Greater Seattle Area.

“As members of Medical Teams International, we are used to working in areas hard hit by crisis, illness, and social upheaval. We have learned to provide medical care and compassion to those in need while working with scarce resources and in environments charged with fear and uncertainty. We have learned to do so despite the recognition that we cannot do this work and remain completely free from danger.  These skills are now vital resources we can use to provide care here at home to join the fight against this terrible pandemic.” – David Roesel, M.D., M.P.H., Swedish Medical Center and consulting physician to Medical Teams

We also have a roster of pre-vetted and trained disaster volunteers who are being mobilized to help.

Q:  What will your response look like in other countries?

A: In many areas where we work – such as refugee camps – the spread of COVID-19 would be devastating. Many refugees have underlying conditions like malnutrition, malaria or respiratory infections, which make them more susceptible to COVID-19. Our teams must be vigilant with COVID-19, while continuing their daily work of saving lives from preventable causes.

COVID-19 has reached some of the vulnerable communities in the countries where we work. It has the potential to become very deadly, very quickly. In crowded refugee camps, disease can spread like wildfire.

Every challenge we face in the United States in the fight against COVID-19 is multiplied for people living in refugee camps. To put into context the density of refugee camps and the potential for a massive outbreak, we can compare to the outbreak that happened aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship. The transmission rate aboard the cruise ship was four times higher than during the peak of transmission in Wuhan, China. In the refugee camps in Bangladesh, the population density is nearly twice that of the cruise ship – and standards for hygiene are much lower.

hand washing
Community Health Workers will continue to promote hygiene and sanitation as the first line of defense against the spread of COVID-19 in refugee camps.

We are working with our country offices to ensure they have a preparedness plan in place and a sufficient stock of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in the case that COVID-19 is identified among the people they serve. We are ensuring staff have information on how to identify potential symptoms, promote good hygiene and prevent the spread of the disease. Country offices are sending weekly updates to headquarters to monitor the situation in our international locations.

Q: Is Medical Teams sending volunteers internationally right now?

A:  No. As of March 22, 2020, all volunteers have safely returned home from their volunteer posts due to closing of international borders. We have determined that any further travel for volunteers for current programming is non-essential travel and have either been cancelled or postponed.

Q: Will Medical Teams still host Mobile Dental Clinics?

A: In order for dentistry to do its part to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, the American Dental Association (ADA) on March 17 recommended that dentists nationwide postpone elective procedures for the next three weeks. Medical Teams will comply with this recommendation and cancel our Mobile Dental Clinics until further notice.

We are currently providing Emergency Dental Clinics in order to care for urgent dental needs and alleviate the burden that dental emergencies would place on hospital emergency departments. See the Emergency Dental Clinic schedule for more info.

Q: Is the Real Life Exhibit open?

A:  As of March 13, 2020, the Real Life Exhibit in Tigard, Oregon is closed until further notice due to health safety concerns surrounding COVID-19. The Real Life Exhibit will plan to reopen when schools reopen. As this situation continues to evolve, we will provide updates. We look forward to hosting you for a tour as soon as possible. Please contact us at exhibit@medicalteams.org with any questions.

Q: Is Medical Teams currently raising money for COVID-19?

A:  Yes. Since all our work is impacted by threat of COVID-19, we are bringing the best of what we have to fight this deadly outbreak. We are uniquely positioned to respond at such a time as this — both in the Pacific Northwest and around the world. Your donation will go to work immediately to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Locally, that means things like mobilizing our fleet of Mobile Dental Vans to serve as command centers at COVID-19 testing sites, and surge capacity for local hospitals to help ease the burden on their emergency departments. Internationally, you’ll help train medical staff and community health workers so that they have the the knowledge and tools to fight the spread of this outbreak. In some places, your gift will fund emergency field hospitals and equip medical professionals with protective gear and other life-saving supplies to meet the growing threat of COVID-19.

With your help, we will continue to work tirelessly in the fight against COVID-19.

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