Veronica Garcia Davalos. Courtesy photo.

People Post is a space for opinion pieces, letters to the editor and guest submissions from members of the Long Beach community. The following is an op-ed submitted by Veronica Garcia Davalos, executive director of the American Red Cross serving Greater Long Beach, South Bay, Metro, and Southeast Los Angeles, and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Long Beach Post.

One day we are prepping for a large meeting and a CPR first aid training workshop, and the next day we were remote and finding creative ways to continue to provide support.

I have not seen volunteers or my co-workers in several days, and it has been tough. We are working on a pandemic outbreak, all from the seclusion of our home. And that’s how the American Red Cross works—we never stop. In times of emergency, whether local or global, the Red Cross stands ready to alleviate human suffering by mobilizing the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors.

As we experience the spread of coronavirus, the Red Cross serving Greater Long Beach, South Bay, Metro and Southeast Los Angeles is actively monitoring the evolving outbreak. We stand ready to respond where needed. Many area residents are asking the question: What can I do? There are three areas in which everyone can engage: preparedness, prevention and responding to the call to serve.

Preparedness: We urge individuals to get prepared for all disasters, large and small, and especially now. Make sure you have basic emergency supplies that will help you shelter in place, if needed, including a supply of food and any medications you may need. Being prepared also helps to minimize fear and panic. You can learn more about emergency preparedness on our website. Many of us have the false assumption that when faced with a disaster, first-responders will be there to help. However, the truth is the first person we need to rely on is ourselves. The simple thing I do to be prepared is have sneakers in my car and by my bedside. That is how quickly you can prepare.

Prevention: We encourage everyone to stay informed and continue basic hygiene practices to protect yourself, your loved ones and your community. This includes avoiding close contact with people who are sick; washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or, if soap is not available, use hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol; avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth; staying home when you are sick; and covering your cough or sneeze with your elbow. Learn more about steps you can take to try to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Response: The Red Cross motto is “Sleeves Up. Hearts Open. All In.” However, it is far more than a slogan; it is the heart and soul of what it means to be a humanitarian. Everyone can rise to the call of service during this unprecedented time. We are currently facing a massive shortage of blood as more and more people are staying home. However, if you are healthy and can give blood—schedule a donation today. Donating blood is safe, and there is no evidence that coronavirus can be transmitted by blood transfusion. We need to make sure blood supplies stay replenished because there are many people who are facing other illnesses and still need assistance.

Red Cross volunteers carry out 90% of our humanitarian work. If you are not a Red Cross volunteer, we need you now more than ever. Starting Wednesday, March 18 until March 31 (or as needed), the Red Cross Los Angeles Region will begin serving shelf-stable meals to thousands of children at 60 meal distribution centers in partnership with the Los Angeles Unified School District. Eighty percent of LAUSD children receive free or reduced-cost lunches, and school closures have the potential for creating extreme food insecurity for many of these children. It is the right thing to do, and we are asking the public to sign up and lend a hand. Thousands of volunteers are needed.

I have seen our community come together during the past few weeks as this public health crisis has grown. Individuals are offering to take care of children whose parents cannot afford to stay home from work, offering to purchase food and supplies for those who are unable to shop, sharing books and board games, and more. We will get through this by preparing ourselves and stepping up to support each other and our community. We can all practice “Sleeves Up. Hearts Open. All In.” I urge you to join us in this effort.

Here are some links to help you to help others and yourselves.

How to prepare for emergencies

How to donate blood

Coping with the coronavirus

How to give financial support

Centers for Disease Control

California Department of Public Health

Los Angeles County Department of Public Health

Long Beach Department of Health