Recognizing the heroes of the COVID-19 pandemic

First responders to the COVID-19 outbreak are fighting a war that nobody could have forecasted.

Working under stressful and dangerous conditions, healthcare workers and first responders to the global pandemic in the United States should be relieved of student loan debt.
When pursuing their career, these first responders made a personal decision and investment in their education. America now depends on that personal decision and investment for the good of public wellbeing more than ever before. As a nation, we look to these workers to fight the battle against COVID-19.
First responders and healthcare workers are making sacrifices beyond staying at home. They are exposed to COVID-19 and underprotected. Many first responders are unable to return to their families who could then be exposed to the virus. These first responders continue to put themselves in harm’s way to protect America, and in this broad sense they are soldiers.
The emotional toll that arises from working under these circumstances cannot be overlooked either. The stressful conditions that healthcare workers are working under and the tremendous loss of life that some are observing is not unlike soldiers in combat. The New York Times reports that Dr. Lorna M. Breen, E.R. doctor at NewYork-Presbyterian Allen Hospital, died of suicide after witnessing the mass carnage by the coronavirus and recovering from contracting the virus herself. According to the New York Times, Breen’s father stated, “she was truly in the trenches of the front line.” After her death, Breen’s family started a fund in her honor to aid in providing mental health support for health care workers. First responders should have access to counseling services and other supports to adjust to life after their intensive work responding to COVID-19. As it is, before COVID-19, physicians were at a higher risk for mental health issues and suicide related to their job. According to, male physicians had a suicide risk 40% higher than the general population and female physicians had a suicide risk 130% higher than the general population. This will only be exacerbated by the impacts of COVID-19.
Similarly to the support of the G.I. Bill, first responders should be assisted in their readjustment back into establishing normalcy in their lives. These first responders should be shown the support and gratitude of the nation for their service. For first responders, student loan debt relief, or at least 0% interest rates on their loans, would be beneficial. According to, in 2016 more than 76% of medical school graduates alone carried student loan debt that averaged $189,000. Even the institution first responders are working for can help in this.
Special support groups, counseling, and services should be provided to the heroes of COVID-19, that are the first responders. This support can be accomplished both federally and privately in assisting first responders who are working in areas impacted by the virus.