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 pivoted our entire organization to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and to support local health systems. 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:

  • COVID-19 testing is crucial. To meet the rapidly growing demand for tests, many communities have set up drive-thru screening sites. We quickly repurposed our fleet of Mobile Dental vans to provide COVID-19 testing in Washington State. These clinics serve vulnerable populations – including unhoused, immigrant and low-income populations – in hotspots around the state.
  • Vulnerable people still have urgent medical needs. Dental pain – like many other urgent health concerns – doesn’t stop just because there is a pandemic happening. Treatment can’t wait until social distancing ends. So we’re providing urgent dental care for at-risk populations – screening them for COVID-19 ahead of their visit – while keeping them from taking up vital space in emergency rooms.
  • There is a need for Personal Protective Equipment. 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.
  • COVID-19 Testing Clinics — Mobile Dental vans in Washington have been repurposed for COVID-19 testing. So far we’ve helped screen 7,772 people for COVID-19 in Washington state.
  • Urgent dental care is ongoing in Oregon and Washington, serving vulnerable populations. Already, over 2,100 patients have received urgently-needed care and have been able to avoid going to an overburdened hospital emergency room.
  • Isolation and Treatment Center — Our teams on the ground in the Rohingya Refugee Camp of Bangladesh are operating a 50-bed COVID-19 isolation and treatment center.  
  • 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.
  • Preventing infections — All field staff are following guidelines from WHO and the CDC in order to prevent infections as they continue to bring life-saving medical care in refugee camps and other remote locations. 

With your help, we will continue to respond.

We are uniquely positioned to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. 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.

Bangladesh, boy getting temperature taken

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.

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. We are equipping the communities we serve by providing important public health messages about COVID-19, how to prevent it and how to stop the spread of the disease. We are also sending Personal Protective Equipment and readying health facilities to treat COVID-19 patients.

Q:  What will your COVID-19 response look like in the U.S.?

A: We transitioned some of our Mobile Dental Vans to support COVID-19 testing. So far we’ve helped provide 150 COVID-19 testing clinics 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

Mobile Dental Clinics in Oregon and Washington are providing urgent dental care. These clinics help keep dental patients out of Emergency Departments so that they are available for those in critical need.

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 – in the refugee camps in Bangladesh, the population density is four times that of New York City – and standards for hygiene are much lower.

Here’s how we’re responding internationally:

  • Treating COVID-19 Patients – In Uganda and Bangladesh, we have set up isolation and treatment centers to treat COVID-19 positive patients.
  • Supporting Local Health Facilities – In Tanzania and Guatemala, we’re sending medical personnel to provide support for overwhelmed facilities and providing safe transfer of COVID-19 symptomatic patients.
  • Providing PPE for Patients and Health Workers
  • Training Community Health Workers and Medical Staff – Our Community Health Workers are on the frontlines, providing COVID-19 awareness and prevention messaging, checking in on affected communities, and helping with tracing and medical referrals. Medical Teams is also partnering with country governments to train and equip local national medical staff on good COVID-19 practices.

We are ensuring our country staff are equipped with everything they need to combat COVID-19 – including information on symptom identification and prevention measures. We are making sure our doctors, nurses and Community Health Workers have access to the PPE they need to provide medical care and share health messaging around the world.

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 canceled or postponed.

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 the spread 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.

Your support is ensuring the people in crisis – people already suffering from a lack of resources – don’t fall through the cracks during this crisis.

Locally, that means things like mobilizing our fleet of Mobile Dental Vans to serve as COVID-19 testing sites, and surge capacity for local hospitals to help ease the burden on their emergency departments. Internationally, you’ll help train Community Health Workers to identify cases in refugee camps and share up-to-date information with vulnerable communities. In some places, your gift will fund emergency field hospitals and keep health care workers safe 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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