Child care volunteers step up to ease the burden of health care workers fighting coronavirus

Volunteers offer child care for medical staff

"CBS This Morning's" A More Perfect Union series aims to show that what unites us as Americans is far greater than what divides us.    

When Minnesota announced statewide school closures, surgical resident Dr. Ariella Altman and many other medical professionals felt panicked about what they was going to do with their kids. Minnesota COVID Sitters, a group founded by volunteer medical students to relieve doctors and nurses on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic, popped up to answer the growing call for support. 

"Within 24 hours, someone sent around on Facebook, the link for MN COVID Babysitters, and I filled out the form right away, and within another 24 to 48 hours they said they had matched us with these medical students," Altman said. 

Organizers of the community group work remotely, grouping hundreds of volunteers into pods to minimize the risk of exposure, according to CBS News' Errol Barnett. They then assign each pod to a single health care worker, covering everyone from physicians to hospital cafeteria workers. 

"It's incredibly important to me to give back to the people that teach us every single day as students," organizer Londyn Robinson said. "Our attending physicians are being strapped at their highest capacity today… yet, they don't have childcare for their children."

She explained that any university student that has had a background check, immunizations and CPR/first aid training was welcome to apply, stressing that the need for sitters was "instantaneous" and "overwhelming."

One study estimates that more than two million children of healthcare workers may need care as the pandemic worsens.

Sisters Rio and Hannah Pittock also stepped up to fill medical professionals' urgent need for support, launching Step Up to SIT after Hannah's senior year of college was cut short. Their program pairs home-bound students with stressed parents. 

"We've had people say, you know, they're working, you know, alternating shifts with their spouse each 12 hours and they, you know, really need someone," Hannah said. "Our primary goal is to keep healthcare workers up and running."

Their secondary goal, she said, was to give their generation a platform to step up. 

"Please tell everyone that it's very easy to set up, and it will make a difference in people's communities. We made it so that it's an easy platform to replicate for anywhere in the country," Rio said.