New York City doctor and advocate, Dr. Natasha Anushri Anandaraja, MD, MPH, along with fellow healthcare workers and NYC residents, have galvanized to form COVID-19 relief platform Covid Courage. A grassroots volunteer organization, Covid Courage is hard at work using alternative and innovative ways to put Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as N95 masks, surgical masks and face shields in the hands of NYC’s frontline healthcare workers fighting the pandemic, and making cloth masks readily available to all community members. Anandaraja was featured prominently in a recent interview on Samantha Bee “Full Frontal,” where she discusses how federal and local efforts have failed to adequately protect doctors, nurses and NYC residents with supplies of PPE, and the steps community members and people everywhere can take to help.

“Over the last few weeks, we’ve been building the airplane as we’ve been flying it much like a lot of Covid-19 relief organizations have been doing,” said Anandaraja, a New York pediatrician with a background in global health and disaster relief. “We realized very quickly that our existing healthcare resources could not deal with a crisis of this magnitude. Covid Courage was set up so we could take action.” 

Thus far, Covid Courage has sourced, purchased and distributed over 7000 N95s to 13 city hospitals and clinics; partnered with 3D printing groups to produce and distribute over 2300 face shields; and partnered with sewing groups across the city and community-based volunteers to distribute hundreds of cloth masks per week in subways and food pantries. 

Covid Courage took flight after Anandaraja observed firsthand the stress and anxiety doctors and nurses on the frontlines were experiencing because of the lack of PPE brought on by supply and distribution issues, along with the mounting sense of urgency to protect healthcare workers. In early March, Anandaraja phoned her teacher and mentor, School of Humanity and Awareness Founder Apollonia, who inspired and guided her step by step to take action and mobilize Covid Courage. Anandaraja chose to be under the school’s 501c3 nonprofit umbrella and Apollonia mobilized her whole team to get the website up and running 24 hours later, and provided the resources, hope and encouragement needed to spark the movement of people helping people directly.  

“This global pandemic is happening, but this lack of care should not be happening to human beings,” said SoHA Founder, Apollonia. “My response to Anu was to make it right. Get the materials – just do it. Don’t wait, just do it. You love these people, don’t leave them to die if we can help it.” 

“With my background in global health and disaster relief, I’m used to thinking outside the box, having to move quickly to find resources then mobilizing to get them to the places where they’re needed,” Anandaraja said. “It’s usually a low-income country or a place where there’s been a disaster that’s knocked out roads and infrastructure and telecommunications, like an earthquake. It’s really shocked me to come across those circumstances today in New York City.  We were outraged that our leaders and institutions were not responding with the urgency needed. And so we gave ourselves permission to take this on, hoping that others would join us and stand up to protect our healthcare workers and do what was needed. Waiting was going to kill us, literally.” 

As a direct response to the delays in local and national action, a small, nimble collective of volunteers got to work. Covid Courage has sourced supplies such as N95 masks through grassroots channels of community members with existing relationships to Chinese manufacturers and importers. It has enlisted 3D printing groups to produce face shields, and mobilized community members and SoHA Students in New York City to produce the cloth masks which are essential for stopping the spread of coronavirus among residents. (Details on making cloth masks and where to get them are available on the Covid Courage website.) Supplies are being distributed throughout the metro New York area by Covid Courage volunteers and relief groups such as F.E.E.L. (Film & Entertainment Emergency Logistics) which is using its fleet of film production transportation vehicles to help deliver PPE to hospitals. 

Covid Courage is currently working with city agencies, healthcare worker organizations and community partners to plan a transition to re-useable protective equipment for a more sustainable approach to PPE for the upcoming months.

Covid Courage is also supporting initiatives to encourage New York City leaders and residents to be proactive in creating broad access to rapid and efficient Covid-19 testing.  As with the PPE, Covid Courage is determined to find creative ways to source and distribute testing as needed, and hopes that New Yorkers will mobilize to get this done, to ensure that New York can re-open safely. 

COVID Courage was formed by concerned NYC residents and doctors working to find alternate and innovative ways to get the resources that NYC desperately needs – now. The Covid Courage website was created to provide a secure platform for the donation of funds and creation of community. 100% of donations received are being used for the direct purchase of materials and equipment for NYC health facilities and at –risk communities. Dr. Natasha Anushri Anandaraja is coordinating this effort as a physician who has firsthand knowledge of the urgent need for protective equipment.. She can be reached directly at