A pre-med student in Las Vegas has designed a program to arrange the delivery of supplies and groceries for elderly and vulnerable individuals amid the rapidly escalating coronavirus outbreak in the United States.
The community program, named “Shopping Angels,” was set up by 20-year-old University of Nevada student Jayde Powell last week. It aims to connect volunteers with people who are in need of supplies or groceries, but are unable to purchase them independently.
It describes itself as providing “services” to those “deemed especially at-risk” for contracting COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
Powell told CNN she wanted to do more to help after her mother suggested checking in on their elderly neighbors.
“As a pre-med student, I know that people who are older or people who have heart, lung or immune conditions are especially at risk for contracting the virus,” Powell said.
“Individuals aged 60+ and those with conditions that impair their immune function are specifically vulnerable to contracting this virus,” the group’s Facebook page reads. “To help ease the uncertainty, anxiety, and fear surrounding this pandemic, we are volunteering our time to physically go and pick up groceries or other shopping necessities for those who may prefer to stay within the safety of their own home at no additional cost.
The group’s first 20 volunteers came from her medical fraternity, Phi Delta Epsilon, and further members were enlisted through social media. However, it was when the group gained media attention that individuals across the United States who wanted to help out began to contact her, she said.
“It is really quite astonishing to me,” Powell told CNN. “I woke up this morning to 20 voicemails and 56 emails. And I’ve got people in Connecticut, Long Island, Sacramento, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Arizona that want to volunteer.”
Powell also set up a GoFundMe page for “Shopping Angels,” to raise funds toward purchasing supplies and groceries for those who cannot afford it. Just under $3,000 has been raised in less than 24 hours.
“We don’t want money to be a deterrent,” Powell said. “If you cannot afford toilet paper or something like that, you’re still to reach out to us.”
Powell’s “angels” are required to wear gloves and protective masks while transporting and delivering the items. They also do not enter the homes after delivery—a measure to prevent possible transmission of the virus, Powell explained.
Americans have been emptying store shelves in a panic and President Donald Trump urged Americans on Sunday not to stockpile groceries and other supplies as he assured that grocers would remain open and that the supply chain remained healthy.
“You don’t have to buy so much,” Trump said at a White House briefing. “Take it easy. Just relax.”
Trump acknowledged that the virus was “very contagious” but asserted that his administration had “tremendous control” over the spread of the disease.
As of Monday, more than 4,000 cases had been confirmed across the United States, with the coronavirus death toll rising to at least 83, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
In the coming weeks and months, the United States will see a “spike” in confirmed cases as as the nation ramps up its testing, according to Dr. Deborah Birx, the response coordinator for the White House Coronavirus Task Force.