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, while the number of cases increase hour-by-hour. 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. The outpouring of generosity from supporters like you has been incredible. Here is what you’ve helped accomplish so far:

  • Personal Protective Equipment — including 2,500 gowns, 28,100 face masks, 20,600 exam gloves and 6,400 safety glasses — were provided to Providence St. Joseph Health for immediate use in hospitals across the Pacific Northwest.
  • When we learned the UW Medicine Emergency Department had depleted their stock of surgical masks, we immediately handed over 500 from storage in our Mobile Dental Vans and the next morning provided another 10,000 masks that had been intended to supply a full year of our Mobile Dental Program.
  • Our Mobile Dental Van is operating as a support center for a COVID-19 screening site in Issaquah, Washington.
  • An emergency dental clinic was held in Burien, Washington for populations experiencing houselessness, in order to provide an essential service and avoid extra burdens on hospital emergency rooms.
  • 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 that are 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.

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:  Will Medical Teams be responding to the COVID-19 pandemic?

 A:  Yes, we are already at work responding. Given the widespread impact of COVID-19 we are currently pivoting our work across the entire organization to prioritize preventing the spread of the disease and to support local health systems in responding to it.

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

A:  As more cases are confirmed in the Pacific Northwest — one of the hardest-hit areas in the United States — hospitals and health facilities are stretched thin. We are deploying resources and providing additional support to local health facilities.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in local hospitals are running dangerously low. On March 19, we packed and shipped PPE supplies to our long-time partner Providence St. Joseph Health for immediate use in hospitals in the Pacific Northwest. Watch below as Medical Teams President & CEO, Martha Holley Newsome, describes the importance of PPE and the shipment going to local hospitals for immediate use:

This shipment of gowns, masks, exam gloves, and safety glasses will help protect local health care workers so they can continue providing life-saving care. 

We are transitioning our fleet of 12 Mobile Dental Vans from providing dental care to providing support services during the COVID-19 outbreak.

We are actively working with trusted partners to explore the best way to repurpose our fleet of Mobile Dental Vans in order to provide immediate support to the COVID-19 response in the Pacific Northwest.

Mobile Dental Van

We also have a roster of pre-vetted and trained disaster volunteers who can be mobilized in the event there are health worker shortages.

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

A:  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 respond.

If COVID-19 reaches 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, and COVID-19 would be no different.

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: How are you keeping personnel safe during the COVID-19 outbreak?

A:  We are taking preventative measures to protect our staff, volunteers and beneficiaries. These preventative measures include:

  • Limiting all non-essential travel
  • Having staff work from home or remotely when they are in heavily-affected areas
  • If staff or volunteers are experiencing cold or flu-like symptoms, even if minor, they are asked to work from home
  • Encouraging the usage of the CDC’s safe health practices – such as washing your hands for at least 20 seconds, covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze, limiting close contact with others as much as possible (6-foot distance), and staying home if you are sick.

Q: What is Medical Teams doing to protect its travelers?

A:  All current Medical Teams staff or volunteer travel for March and April is on hold unless it is deemed essential. “Essential” travel is defined as travel that is time critical and directly supports programmatic delivery. Staff who are traveling to ensure that our life-saving care can continue where it is needed are encouraged to follow all CDC travel safety precautions.

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 exploring opportunities to continue providing emergency dental care in order to care for emergency patients and alleviate the burden that dental emergencies would place on hospital emergency departments.  

Q: What safety measures are Medical Teams Mobile Dental staff and volunteers taking to prevent the potential spread of COVID-19?

A:  For the staff and volunteers who are working on contingency planning, they are taking extra care to follow CDC safety precautions such as:

  • Washing hands for at least 20 seconds
  • Rigorously cleaning and disinfecting the clinics every day, per standard infection control measures, the recommendations of CDC, ADA and our dental advisors
  • Continuing to use proper protective gear and properly dispose of it
  • Requiring people to wash hands with hand sanitizer before boarding the mobile clinic

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 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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