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As the coronavirus continues to ravage populations around the world, with more than 1.3 million cases confirmed, millions of people are self-quarantining at home in a global effort to check the virus' spread. And still, a rare breed of people selflessly go about their daily lives, offering aid to those infected and helping maintain a sense of order while the rest of us shelter in place.
Google is honoring those heroes this week with a series of appreciation Doodles.
The tech giant frequently livens up its bare-bones search page with artwork that draws attention to notable people, events, holidays and anniversaries. Google often turns its spotlight on heroes of the medical community, including Dr. Virginia Apgar, who developed a quick method for evaluating the health of newborns, as well as Dr. Rene Favalor, a heart surgeon who pioneered coronary artery bypass surgery. With much recent attention on efforts to disrupt the novel coronavirus, which causes the respiratory disease COVID-19, the company last month honored hand-washing pioneer Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis.
Google has also used its Doodles to remind us of lesser-known real-world heroes, ones who've long since left this world and can't hear our thanks anymore. Then there's the people who are out there doing good things right now who we can thank right now.
The series has thanked medical personnel, emergency workers, scientists and custodians. On Friday, Google turned its spotlight to largely unsung heroes who play a vital role in keeping us fed: farmers and farmworkers.
Agricultural workers keep the food flowing to the marketplace, but their work makes them especially vulnerable to the virus. Often immigrants who have spent years evading police, field workers have been deemed by the federal government to be an "essential" part of the country's food supply who have a "special responsibility to maintain [their] normal work schedule."
They continue to work despite conditions that don't allow them to shelter in place or self-quarantine. Their working and living conditions don't allow for much social distancing, and these brave souls often work without the promise of paid sick leave. But still they work, helping put food on our tables.
On Thursday, Google honored America's 4.4 million janitors and domestic workers who scrub down surfaces in hospitals and other medical institutions where pathogens might live because, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes, "current evidence suggests that SARS-CoV-2 may remain viable for hours to days on surfaces made from a variety of materials."
The CDC says the best way to combat this is "cleaning of visibly dirty surfaces followed by disinfection." Accustomed to handling corrosive chemicals and lifting heavy objects, these workers are now potentially coming into contact with the deadly coronavirus. Yet, they continue to do their jobs, despite often lacking training and equipment to adequately protect themselves from the virus.
Wednesday's Doodle honored the firefighters and police officers who go out every day, responding to emergency situations and rendering aid. To do their jobs, officers and firefighters frequently come in very close contact with other people, some of whom might be infected with coronavirus. Yet they still show up for work, day after day.
Even with use of proper equipment and precautions, the risk is great. In New York City, the US epicenter of the outbreak, more than 1,000 police officers and 280 members of the fire department have tested positive.
Tuesday's Doodle in the series honored the doctors, nurses and other medical personnel who are working long hours, under emotionally and physically stressful conditions, and often with inadequate protection. These selfless people have to balance their work with the risk posed to their personal health and to the safety of their loved ones. While many of us shelter in place, they're making a conscious decision to expose themselves to patients suffering from COVID-19.
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They have lives just like everyone else, including family that many now have to avoid for safety's sake, to prevent the possibility of spreading the virus. Doctors who sleep in the garage when their shift is over to avoid contact with spouse and children. Nurses who worry about the care their elderly parents are receiving because they haven't seen them for weeks.
They have lives they're putting at risk to care for the rest of us.
The first Doodle, which arrived with the series' debut on Monday, was dedicated to public health workers and scientific researchers. They're working hard to mitigate extensive transmission in the community.
Developing new vaccines takes time, and the preparations must be rigorously tested and confirmed safe via clinical trials before they can be routinely used in humans. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in the US, has frequently stated that a coronavirus vaccine is at least a year to 18 months away.
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The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.