Va. Beach Couple Giving Free Rides to Patients and Doctors as Coronavirus Spreads: 'It's What We Do'

Paul and Marigie Walsh have been transporting patients and doctors, as well as creating masks, to help slow the spread of the virus

Paul and Marigie Walsh making medical maskscourtesy Paul and Marigie Walsh

A married couple in Virginia Beach are doing their part to help their community cope with the coronavirus pandemic.

Paul and Marigie Walsh knew they had to jump into action when the coronavirus began to spread rapidly around the country, causing a major shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) and masks.

This was especially concerning to Paul, who owns private transportation company Super Executive Transportation (SET) and has recently been using his services to transport community members who are involved in a study with a local eye doctor.

“One day after work, I tried to order some masks online and the response was, ‘You’ll probably get them the first or second week of May,'” Paul recalls to PEOPLE. “I told Marigie, ‘This is going to be terrible, we can’t get masks.'”

“There was nothing available,” adds Marigie, who works as an OR nurse at a local hospital. “So, I said, ‘We got to do something.'”

Putting their heads together, the couple figured out how they could contribute to their community in a time of need.

Paul and Marigie Walsh making medical maskscourtesy Paul and Marigie Walsh

Along with the study participants, Paul began offering free shuttle rides to hospitals for doctors and patients, while Marigie used her sewing talents to make masks for the passengers to wear, which she crafted after her long shift at the hospital.

“We all need to be healthy. I need to protect him. He needs to protect others,” Marigie explains, referencing her husband. “That’s it. It’s all about not getting sick or not getting infected by this horrible virus.”

To ensure people are staying safe on his shuttles, Paul says they’ve been extra mindful of cleanliness and protection.

“I didn’t want to put our passengers or my chauffeurs at risk for getting the virus,” he says. “We do a very thorough job of keeping the cars sanitized. Everything that’s touched, we wipe down with sanitizer … we try and stay as safe as possible.”

“It’s what we do … I just thought the masks would be an extra step, and if the patients needed them, we’d have them available,” adds Paul, who now wears one of his wife’s creations on the job.

Paul and Marigie Walsh making medical maskscourtesy Paul and Marigie Walsh
Paul and Marigie Walsh making medical maskscourtesy Paul and Marigie Walsh

As for Marigie — who works in surgery and wears masks daily — she says her creations are made with 100 percent cotton so that wearers can wash and reuse them.

“Right now, it’s like the simplest, the best way for you to protect yourself and others,” she explains. “I know it’s not like the N95s, but at least it helps to contain the highly infectious agent.”

After watching his wife jump into action, Paul hopes that others out there may follow suit, especially as the demand for masks continues to grow. (In addition to the shortage of N95 masks, the CDC recommended on Friday that Americans wear non-medical, cloth face masks if they go out in public.)

“Watching my wife do it, of course, I was like, ‘It’s incredible,'” he says. “But if people do have that talent, and they’re sitting around, obviously now with nothing to do, they should help.”

“I think everybody’s begging for masks,” Paul adds. “We’ve never been through this before. It’s really scary.”

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The couple also urges others to stay vigilant about cleanliness and protection until the pandemic has officially passed.

“Think about others. Think about yourself first, but think about others,” Paul says. “People can’t just rush back into business without thinking of all the ramifications of not protecting themselves or other people.”

“It’s very easy to be lazy and not care about what’s going on,” he continues. “I think the importance of taking care of everybody else is pretty big.”

“I am scared, but what can you do?” adds Marigie. “You just have to continue protecting yourself and protect others.”

As of Friday afternoon, there have been at least 272,502 cases and 7,046 deaths attributed to coronavirus in the United States, according to the New York Times. In Virginia, there are at least 2,012 reported cases and 46 deaths, according to the Times.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. To help provide doctors and nurses on the front lines with life-saving medical resources, donate to Direct Relief here.

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