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U of M medical students organize service to help healthcare workers with household tasks

MN CovidSitters is a free service which pairs students who want to help with the healthcare providers who need it.

MINNEAPOLIS — When the University of Minnesota announced all classes would move online due to the new coronavirus, it was a turning point for second year medical student, Sruthi Shankar. 

"This kind of overwhelming sense of, this is real. This is happening," Shankar said. "And more than anything, I think we felt this need to want to help."

Shankar connected with fellow medical student, Sara Lederman, and they came up with a plan. They knew healthcare workers everywhere were facing long hours, and many needed help with childcare and other household tasks.

So they launched MN CovidSitters, a free service which pairs students who want to help with the healthcare providers who need it. 

So far, they have about 140 providers signed up.

"We had about 70 sign up almost overnight when our form went live," said U medical student and MN CovidSitters volunteer, Jade Cohen.

Healthcare providers fill out a form on the website and indicate what they need help with. 

"We also offer pet sitting, including dog walking, house sitting, and errands," Cohen said. "Especially, grocery and pharmacy runs, which are obviously very important right now for healthcare workers."

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MN CovidSitters has now expanded to include students in all healthcare programs, at the U and other Twin Cities universities.

About 70 students help with pet care and errands. While more than 230 are dedicated to help with childcare. 

Cohen says childcare volunteers must pass a background check, have current CPR training, and be up to date on vaccinations. They are then paired with families in what Cohen refers to as "pods" to lessen the risk of exposure.

Shankar says they're providing templates to students in other areas of the country so they can start up similar arrangements. 

More information for providers and students interested in volunteering can be found at MNCovidSitters.org.

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The state of Minnesota has set up a hotline for general questions about coronavirus at 651-201-3920 or 1-800-657-3903, available 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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