Steve Eighinger

Pandemic heroes come in all sizes and from all backgrounds

By Herald-Whig
Posted: May. 21, 2020 12:01 am Updated: May. 21, 2020 12:12 am

Since the outbreak of the pandemic, we have foregone our longstanding "Morons of the Month" feature, instead focusing on positive contributions in battling COVID-19.

This month is the third installment of "Heroes of the Month":

Gold medal

Newsweek magazine profiled a group of Santa Clarita high school students in Southern California — 37 to be exact — who have teamed up to get groceries and supplies for community members who were fearful to venture out due to the virus. Some of those who were intimidated by the current situation were the elderly, and some had medical conditions.

The teenagers' service is simple: Users provide their name, address, phone number, list of needed items and approximate budget online.

The high school shoppers text or email an image of the receipt and leave the goods at the front door of the person they are helping, then back away to maintain distance.

Similarly, the user leaves the cash outside the door in an envelope. Some also email the bills and use electronic payments.

And no tipping is allowed.

Silver medal

Dr. Brian Pettiford is the head of the general thoracic surgery unit at the Ochsner Medical Center in New Orleans, one of the hardest-hit U.S. regions of the pandemic.

On top of his surgical duties, Pettiford has been working three-day stints of 12-hour shifts in the COVID-19 intensive care unit. He says the pandemic has provided much-needed insight regarding how "dedicated and compassionate" American health care workers are.

Pettiford has been campaigning for post-pandemic assistance for many of the health care workers, especially those who have found themselves on the front lines. He says many health care workers in the hardest-hit areas will need some form of emotional/mental support once the worst has passed. He feels those same workers should also have a voice in the future decisions made by hospital administrators and health insurers.

Pettiford, who was profiled by the University of Pittsburgh, reminds that health care workers have placed their lives on the line, and in many cases, put their families at risk. Some did so with limited personal protective equipment. Others even saw their salaries reduced during the current economic meltdown.

Why did they continue to provide patient care? Because, Pettiford said, it's "who they are and what they do."

Bronze medal

Jose Andres is a Spanish-American chef and founder of World Central Kitchen, a nonprofit devoted to providing meals in the wake of natural disasters.

During the pandemic, Andres has been devoted to providing nourishment to those affected by the crisis. He has coordinated forklifting food onto quarantined cruise ships and serving nearly 100,000 meals a day to health care workers and others in hotspots — all while providing much-needed jobs for restaurant employees.

Andres also coordinated turning the Washington Nationals' baseball stadium into a massive community kitchen to serve D.C. residents in need.