America needs a new kind of Peace Corps to save the overburdened hospitals dealing with coronavirus patients - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

America needs a new kind of Peace Corps to save the overburdened hospitals dealing with coronavirus patients

BALTIMORE – When he was Baltimore County executive from 1974 to 1978 B.C. (Before Coronavirus), Ted Venetoulis brought a Kennedyesque energy and idealism to the job.

Four decades later, in this hour of modern plague, he’s retired but still active in Democratic political circles – and still offering the idealistic spirit of another age. He says America needs a new kind of Peace Corps, a domestic version of the third-world crusade started during the administration of John F. Kennedy.

This time, it’s an effort to help overburdened hospitals deal with the oncoming flood of coronavirus patients.

“They’re telling us every day,” Venetoulis said over the weekend, “that hospitals need help. They need masks, they need ventilators. But they also need staff, especially as the virus takes a heavier toll. We’ve got untold thousands of young people – college students, many of whom are taking paramedical courses – and many who would like to help out in a time of such great need.

“They wouldn’t replace doctors and nurses. Some would do minor things, even if it’s cleaning up. But we’ve got all these young people who have a desire to make a contribution. We ought to encourage that.”

Some states are asking retired health care workers to volunteer at hospitals. Some medical students are volunteering assistance. There are reports they’re taking notes, managing materials. But, if cases continue to rise, graduating medical students could start seeing patients even before their residences begin.

But Venetoulis’s idea goes deeper. He wants to reach into undergrad paramedical classes for students. It’s an entirely untapped army.

“Younger people,” said Venetoulis, “would work with the professionals to do everything positive to keep them from infection. And this wouldn’t be strictly volunteer. They could get school credit, like internships. And maybe the lending institutions could discount student loans.”

Venetoulis has seen the same videos the rest of us have seen of young people cavorting on beaches, risking contagion, seemingly oblivious to the dangers all around them. But he thinks there’s an idealism waiting to be tapped.

“If you look back, study World War II,” he said. “There were young people just like now who actually lied about their age to get into the military. The only beach they went to was Normandy. I have a feeling a lot of young people out there want to help. Any governor, any mayor, could call on these institutions, these colleges all across the country, who know how to contact these kids.

“Think of the staggering number of young people. Think of the flood of people who joined the Peace Corps when Kennedy called. There’s still a Peace Corps mentality in a lot of our young people today.”

Like millions of people, Venetoulis has spent hours watching news coverage, including some “breath-taking” remarks by President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly twisted facts, denied personal responsibility, taken political shots, and gone after reporters who have asked perfectly reasonable questions.

“Let us remember,” said Venetoulis, “that this draft dodger who proclaims he’s now a ‘wartime president’ once confessed he didn’t know what Pearl Harbor was all about. He probably thinks Omaha Beach is a resort in Nebraska.

Feature image Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay





About the author

Michael Olesker

Michael Olesker, columnist for the News American, Baltimore Sun, and Baltimore Examiner has spent a quarter of a century writing about the city he loves.He is the author of five previous books, including Michael Olesker's Baltimore: If You Live Here, You're Home, Journeys to the Heart of Baltimore, and The Colts' Baltimore: A City and Its Love Affair in the 1950s, all published by Johns Hopkins Press. Contact the author.
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  1. Vito Simone says:

    You have made a good and valuable point in recognizing that there is much good in young people. We certainly need to engage them, encourage them to step up and support them when they do – highlight them as examples for others to emulate. This gives hope and positive ideas for people to discuss amongst themselves during times of crisis – all excellent ways to communicate with the public.

    I think it is also truly unfortunate that you end your piece with obvious partisan political statements about Donald Trump. It almost negates the value of the point you are trying to make about the value of our young people and the spirit we need to unlock and unleash on society.

    Surely we can find ways of making this crisis something that we can learn from, teach people by example that we need to rally together and in so doing, we can improve the way we all live together and respect our differences. Now is the time we all need move to the center and huddle together in thought and prayer – even though we are asked to shelter in place and stay apart. Ironic isn’t it

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