COPING WITH COVID-19: HOW FILIPINO NURSES AND THEIR COMMUNITIES SUPPORT FRONTLINE HEALTHCARE WORKERS

CASEY MCGANNON WRITES — Many immigrants have similar motivations for leaving their home countries. They may seek opportunities that simply don’t exist where they’re from, or wish to escape persecution or, like many Filipino nurses, they seek better pay. The average salary for a registered nurse (RN) in the Philippines is 193.36 USD a month. When you compare that to the average salary for an RN in American hospitals, 73,550 USD annually, it makes sense that they would want to come to the United States. No other country in the world exports as many frontline healthcare workers as does the Philippines.

Since the rise of COVID-19, there seems to be a new level of appreciation for healthcare workers and a recognition that minorities in America are being disproportionately affected by the virus. Why, then, do we hear so little about minority healthcare workers?

The state of California is home to the largest number of Filipinos and Filipino-Americans in the entire country. Twenty percent of all RN’s in the state of California are Filipino. And they are feeling the impact. Like all healthcare workers across the country, Filipinos have cited shortages of personal protective equipment, or PPE, as one of the main routes for contracting of the virus. Many healthcare workers are too nervous to complain as they fear they could be punished, by being given longer shifts which would increase their risk of exposure.

Yet there is a silver lining to this sad situation: It has presented an opportunity for communities to come together in support of one another. Kultivate Labs, a non-profit located in the San Francisco Bay Area, in collaboration with eleven Filipino American-owned restaurants have together raised $100,000 to provide 10,000 meals to frontline workers and members of the community. Meals were distributed to community centers and healthcare workers at facilities such as Seton Medical Center, which has a 60% Filipino nursing staff. This coordinated effort, called Filipinos Feed the Frontlines, has not only met its funding goal but has expanded its campaign nationally in an attempt to provide 100,000 meals by the end of the year.

As cases of COVID-19 continue to spike, it is more important than ever that all of us reflect deeply on the consequences of our actions, which affect more than just ourselves and those in our immediate surroundings. So, on behalf of Filipino workers — and all of us fighting the virus — stay home. Wear a mask. And the next time you’re tempted to ignore health and safety guidelines, remember the healthcare workers who put their lives on the line so that we don’t have to.

To donate to Filipinos Feed the Frontlines visit filipinosfeedthefrontlines.org.

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