How You Can Help During the Coronavirus Pandemic
If You're Looking for Ways to Pitch in, We've Got Some Ideas
As the days march on and the only thing that feels certain is devastating uncertainty, my colleagues and I consider it both our mission and privilege to help keep readers’ spirits up and do whatever we can to see them through to the other side of this. There always seems to be pressure on us to make something of “free time” and the paradox of our current moment is that we have a lot of it and can’t really do anything with it but wait.
If you do need a distraction we have some ideas for you, and they’ll keep coming. But there are also a few ways you can help try to fight back against the crisis, if you are able. Of course, following the CDC’s protocols to prevent the spread of the virus, including social distancing, handwashing, and face-covering, are still the most essential ways we all can help. But if you are looking to do something more hands-on, and is a bit more civically-focused, we’ve rounded up the following. (This post will be updated as we learn of more things we can do to help.)
Because many college campuses and other locations that normally host blood drives are closed, blood donation has decreased, and we are facing a grave nation-wide blood shortage. If you are eligible to donate blood, check out your local blood center. You can check in with the American Red Cross, or find a local organization in your state here.
Making calls to homebound or elderly people
This is a lonely and scary time for all of us, but decreased mass socialization can have an even greater impact on elderly or disabled individuals who live alone.
Check out DOROT and other local organizations and register to call an elderly or homebound person, to check in and let them know that they matter. It will help combat their isolation, and yours.
Also severely impacted by the reduction in social programs, events, and opportunities are adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Sign up with an organization like Best Buddies (which provides meaningful jobs, safe housing, and socialization opportunities) to help combat loneliness, boredom, and isolation.
Making and delivering supplies for healthcare workers
If you have access to a 3D printer or a car, you might be eligible to make or shuttle personal protective equipment to hospital workers in need. Columbia Librarian Madiha Choski, a 3-D printing specialist who has been 3-D printing face-shields for hospital workers, has partnered with printing firm Tangible Creative to mass-produce these items. If you have a 3-D printer or a car, check out www.covidmakerresponse.com to register to help. And they are doing this all for free, so please consider donating to their efforts.
Los Angeles has begun an initiative to solicit manufacturers to make equipment. You can register your business at https://laprotects.org/.
Companies that have already signed up to do this are also taking donations to pay their workers and buy supplies. The West Coast clothing company Marine Layer will make 10 reusable masks for every $25 they recieve (without profiting).
Wear masks when you go outside, and make them for yourself and others
Here is a handy guide, put together by Wired, about mask protocol. Included in this guide is the CDC’s own tutorial about how to make a CDC-approved facemask.
Participating in open source attempts to make prototypes
Various medical researchers have crowdsourced assistance or started hackathons to find ways to build ventilators. If you have these skills, check out:
Project Open Air, from Portugal
Emergency Ventilator Project (E-Vent), from MIT
Open Source Ventilator, from Ireland
Code Life Ventilator Challenge, from Canada (DEADLINE 3/31)
Supporting small businesses
If you’ve been reading Lit Hub lately, you’re familiar with this one already. So many small businesses have had to temporarily shut down and have been placed under serious economic strain during this time. If you have the means, please buy gift cards to your favorite restaurants and stores (including bookstores and movie theaters) to help support them until they can open their doors again.
Staying on the right side of picket lines
Be aware of companies that are treating their workers unfairly. Workers at Amazon and Instacart have organized strikes to protest the poor labor conditions during the pandemic, including the absence of worker protections against the virus, and a reluctance to consider hazard pay. Amazon has since fired a worker involved in organizing, who led a walkout due to the lack of basic COVID-19 protections at the Staten Island warehouse. Many of us depend on delivery during this time, but we should not be protected at the expense of others—try to find alternatives to these services until the companies agree to appropriately protect and compensate their workers.
Participating in sterilizing shared spaces
If you live in a space with someone (including an apartment building where there are residents in other units) consider sterilizing things you all have to touch, such as doorhandles, railings, and elevator buttons. A superintendent or building staff member should already be doing this daily, but additional help means reducing the amount of chances to encounter a compromised surface. Bring a can of Lysol with you and blast any communal touchpoints. It will make spaces cleaner for you, and those you live with/near.
Thanking essential workers (and tipping them if you can!)
Hospital staff members, building workers, mail carriers, cleaning and custodial workers, grocery store and drugstore workers, and city employees are among the many people who are required to remain working, often in ways that expose them to the virus, during this time.
In New York City, every day at 7 pm, residents have been opening up their windows to cheer together for essential workers. Please participate in and organize such rallies if you can, or (bare minimum) thank essential workers you encounter individually for their service.
But, of course, clapping and cheering can’t really do much in the long run. Therefore, try to organize a collection of people in your home/floor/apartment/neighborhood (if possible) to thank service workers who work in your building, deliver the mail, work at the stores you frequent for supplies, etc. They are literally risking their lives to do this, and often for pay which is paltry recompense for the brave and monumental work they are doing. And if you can’t get a bunch of people to join you, do it yourself!
Also, if you order takeout or delivery, tip your delivery person or the restaurant tip jar at least 20%. At least 20%! It should be 30% or 40%, because these are extenuating circumstances.
Fostering or adopting an animal
With everyone encouraged to stay at home as much as possible, volunteership at animal shelters has been negatively impacted, which means there are fewer chances for dogs and cats to receive the attention and stimulation they need. You now know better than ever how terrible it is to spend all day in a box by yourself, so consider opening up your home to a shelter animal. If adoption feels like a harder commitment, fostering is a shorter-term solution to provide a home for an animal until they can find a family. (Just make sure you account for what having a pet in your life means when you do end up going back to work… don’t bring home an animal now only to return them later.)
Check out your local municipal shelters and ASPCA chapters, as well as the Best Friends Animal Society local rescue groups, which can be looked up on Petfinder.
For NYC organizations, check out:
New York City Animal Care and Control (kill shelter)
Rescue Dogs Rock
Second Chance Rescue
Muddy Paws Rescue (on hold))
There are many organizations that can use donations now more than ever. (Some of this information was pasted from a list organized by the Mailman School of Public Health.)
For New Yorkers:
Robin Hood Relief Fund
The United Way of NYC COVID 19 Community Fund
NYC COVID-19 Response and Impact Fund (New York)
For Individuals across the US:
Meals on Wheels (National, and has an emergency COVID-19 response fund)
Feeding America (National)
Rethink Food NYC (emergency food donations from restaurants to families)
Food Hub NYC (emergency supply donations from restaurants to food banks)
Big Table (Seattle, Spokane, and San Diego)
Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington Educated Eats / Hook Hall Helps (D.C.)
Southern Smoke Emergency Relief Program (Houston)
The Giving Kitchen (Georgia)
The LEE Initiative (Louisville)
To feed hospital workers:
Slice Out Hunger (National)
866 Delivery Workers (New York)
Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund (National)
One Fair Wage (California, Colorado, D.C., Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, and Pennsylvania)
Unite Here Education and Support Fund (US and Canada)
Restaurant Opportunities Centers United Relief Fund (National)
Grubhub Community Relief Fund (National)
Dining Bond Initiative (National)