Terrified of COVID-19? Want to do something about it? Come sit by me. March 19, 2020 9:02 AM   Subscribe

Lots of us are terrified without a sense that we can control anything about the COVID-19 pandemic besides staying in our homes. But there are plenty of things we can be doing as citizens to organize and help each other out. Let's create a space to talk about what we are personally doing and why to keep one another safe.

I know that the Worst Year Ever podcast crew have put together a helpful document with resources, suggestions, potential demands for government officials and employers, and lists of existing mutual aid organizations. However, it's still sparser than it could be. Perhaps filling it out might be a decent place to start.

I have called my (GOP) senators and demanded to know whether they are advocating for mortgage/rent relief and guaranteed funded sick leave for American workers. Perhaps it is time to start channeling some of this frustrated energy into harassing our representatives again.

Like many of us, I have been leaning into my social networks to try to pressure friends and loved ones into social distancing. So far, most folks are learning to use Zoom and Discord like champs. I am finding that saying "of course we can do X in-person thing, but later" is a useful tool to help soothe people who are scared and acting out. What strategies are you finding helpful?

My meetup community, having moved onto Discord, is beginning to share requests and needs whenever anyone goes to a grocery store in order to minimize strain on workers and people going out. We are also trying to make sure that people know who has particularly high levels of certain supplies and give folks the ability to self-monitor the amount of information they're taking in while also giving the best guidelines we have right now. How can we best prepare our social circles to weather this storm?

Lastly, what unexpected initiatives do you know about to help folks out that might capitalize on skills that people might not have thought of? I know that PC gamers are being asked to use their idling machines to help power distributed computation networks for coronavirus modeling. I know there have been wistful calls for artists to develop posters to raise morale in a time of social distancing, exhaustingly long hours for IT professionals, and uncertain incomes. The Red Cross is announcing a severe blood shortage and requesting that folks sign up to donate blood. What needs can you think of that might be going unseen as we focus on the transition to social distancing?
posted by sciatrix to MetaFilter-Related at 9:02 AM (35 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite

Now is a great time to check out opportunities for mutual aid in your community. Maybe you can give $100 to help tide over a local family. If you're young and healthy, maybe you can make a run to the grocery store for someone who can't leave the house. In Trump's America mutual aid is more important than ever, even without a global pandemic making everything worse.
posted by zeusianfog at 9:46 AM on March 19, 2020 [6 favorites]

I’m part of my building and my city council member’s calling list for people to courier supplies/groceries/medication to people self-isolating due to age or illness etc in addition the central brooklyn DSA has a master doc of mutual aide stuff
posted by The Whelk at 10:21 AM on March 19, 2020 [5 favorites]

I have a subscription to Boston's Handel and Haydn society. The next few concerts are cancelled; they have asked us to "consider declining a refund," so as to help keep it and other arts organizations afloat. Considered, and done.
posted by Melismata at 12:31 PM on March 19, 2020 [2 favorites]

Hi. A friend of mine whose husband works in a large NYC hospital just asked if anyone can leave N95 or other masks with her doorman so her husband can have one-the hospital is out. I happen to have 2 I dug out of the closet from years ago (for dust allergy while cleaning), but it made me wonder-aren't there independent stores like paint and auto body shops who might have an extra mask? I'm told literally 1 mask makes a huge difference-the person can wear it all day. I've tried calling hardware and paint stores but everyone is all out. There's gotta be randos who have them in a storeroom somehwere?
posted by Kemma80 at 12:42 PM on March 19, 2020 [4 favorites]

Paint stores near me have been out (like, posting notices on the door) of masks for weeks; two days ago, Pence to Construction Companies: Send Hospitals Your N95 Face Masks (NBC News link)
posted by Iris Gambol at 1:41 PM on March 19, 2020 [3 favorites]

For people who live in the NYC area, this service just started for volunteers to bring deliveries to people in need. They're still looking for volunteers, donations, and for people to spread the word to those who might need the help.

Other communities could benefit from this as well, if anyone can set up sister services (and I'm guessing the people behind this site would help).
posted by Mchelly at 1:51 PM on March 19, 2020 [2 favorites]

I have been in self-quarantine since last Friday. My school is on semi-break this week (reading week which under other circumstances some people use as a spring break) so I've temporarily had more free time than usual. As a result, I've organized a mutual aid group for the school community and surrounding neighborhood and set up a private support group for people with underlying conditions and their loved ones--both firmly moderated. I'm also working on a website for consolidating/mapping resources across the county, but trying not to duplicate effort as others are doing similar work. Along with several classmates, I'm streaming regular religious services (mine are Taize style, others are doing small groups or full sermons, and one friend and her wife sing hymns while playing their guitars which is probably the best). We are also starting to organize a virtual talent show to replace the in-person one we had to cancel. Some people on campus are hosting "no-sharing picnics" where everybody sits on the large front lawn a good 15 feet apart and eats their lunch "together". Students who live in housing around a central courtyard are drawing signs to hang in their windows to cheer each other up. My friends with pets are all mvps right now with a continual supply of cute pictures. Both at church (where I'm on council) and at school (student gov officer), I've divided up the membership/student body/staff for volunteers to check in on every single person regularly to make sure they're doing all right and see if they need anything. Each of my friend/school groups has a weekly call scheduled for us to get together virtually, support each other and talk strategy.
posted by notquitemaryann at 1:51 PM on March 19, 2020 [3 favorites]

Also, my friend who is a social work intern at our local hospital system is recruiting childcare workers with clearances and certifications to work for hospital staff, as many of these people are opting to separate themselves from their families so as not to spread infection at home.
posted by notquitemaryann at 1:59 PM on March 19, 2020 [1 favorite]

This world map is a good reference, out of Bing. It is the Microsoft info collector about numbers. On a hopeful note, and maybe I chose the wrong horse infowise here, China has, (according to,) 7, 263 active cases, 70,420 recovered cases, and
3,245 fatalities. The big map is updated daily, easy to use, and breaks apart to individual US states. I find information interesting, and comforting.
posted by Oyéah at 3:24 PM on March 19, 2020

Could you provide links for the Taize streaming you're listening to? I could use some soothing centering right now. Thanks, notquitemaryann.

My local neighborhood Nextdoor has started an Emergency emergency preparedness group, passing on licalibfo and contact info for people willing to run errands/shop for those of us who are self-isolating.

An aside: in an effort to improve my mood, earlier today I washed my hands to "Happy Day Are Here Again." Next up on my playlist: "Don't Worry; Be Happy." Hivemind, any other suggestions?
posted by LeftMyHeartInSanFrancisco at 3:43 PM on March 19, 2020

Something that is a little more abstract but which I do not see being talked about often: When discussing the pandemic on social media (including mefi), being mindful of people with mental illness (in particular anxiety disorders, especially those centered around guilt and responsibility) and the language we use for talking about those things is an important form of harm reduction everyone can practice. That can save actual lives as much as anything for physical health, and we can all strive for it.
posted by colorblock sock at 4:56 PM on March 19, 2020 [14 favorites]

So I posted to Next Door about the blood shortage this morning. This evening, someone else posted that people have stepped up, that they need appointments to give, and that a friend of hers just got an appointment for April 1! No idea if my post helped, but I was certainly pleased. It can’t hurt to get the word out, and many MeFites are doing just that.

(I posted this on the fucking fuck thread, but it seemed appropriate to also put it here.)
posted by FencingGal at 5:08 PM on March 19, 2020 [7 favorites]

Something very specific and small: my office is going remote for an undetermined time, 75% due to COVID 19, 25% due to our lease situation. One of the people in the office is using the Nutrisystem plan and had about 20+ meals in the freezer and another 10 that are shelf-stable. They were delivered less than a week ago, but she didn't want to have to carry them home on public transportation. So I gave the shelf-stable ones that didn't require prep to a homeless person outside the office who wanted them, along with a liter of bottled water that we found. I think a lot of the organizations that usually feed the homeless have been shut down.

The freezer meals and the shelf-stable ones that did need prep went to a lady working in the restaurant business who got laid off on Monday -- I asked around our neighborhood, but nobody wanted them, so I posted on reddit and got a taker in about an hour. We dropped them off at her door this afternoon, and as thanks, she sent me some pictures and stories of her eight (!) delightful kitties because I mentioned that the lady who the meals came from was a cat lady herself, with three rescue kitties.
posted by joyceanmachine at 7:55 PM on March 19, 2020 [7 favorites]

We have had Little Free Pantries in my town for a while-like Little Free Libraries, but for good and hygiene supplies. We have donated intermittently to the one nearby, but are being much more focused about it now-and it’s cleared out quickly.

I manage in an essential industry-child protection-but man, we are doing our damnedest to get creative about keeping folks safe while also getting the job done. It’s so hard-for instance, this week our state cancelled all visits between parents and kids over six. My heart breaks. But we are doing what we can and my staff are rallying to an amazing degree. We are letting people work from home at every chance, as long as they can go out in the field when we need them. And we are using our technology in much moore creative ways than we ever have-that’ll serve us well in the future.

We have a fabulous neighborhood and people are doing a nice job checking with each other for assistance and before grocery store runs. A friend found a precious pound of instant yeast for me, and we dropped off a wide mouth quart jar for her. My kids are climbing the walls, but also rearranging their rooms and trying to make bricks in the backyard and...
posted by purenitrous at 8:50 PM on March 19, 2020 [7 favorites]

I’m a hobby potter. It occurred to me tonight that a lot of people with this hobby probably have appropriate masks lying around that hospitals need more than we do. Also woodworkers (which the friend whose comment brought this to mind is). So I’m wondering how to get the word out to arts people - I’m going to send a note to the director of the studio where I take classes, too.

The teachers at the neighborhood elementary school are giving out box lunches and bags of groceries to students and their families, and I’ve committed to contributing food weekly. I’m going to donate a chunk of the money I’m saving by not parking at work to the food bank.

And I’ve made an agreement with my elderly neighbor that we’ll both go outside and wave hello or check in from a distance every day, just so we can make sure we’re both okay.

There will be more, I just don’t know what yet.
posted by centrifugal at 9:37 PM on March 19, 2020 [7 favorites]

I have a movie blog and Netflix Party is a thing.

I've enlisted some of my friends to help me test Netflix Party out this weekend - and if that goes well, I may launch a couple of "special events" through my blog. I've apparently got a small following (at least, there's this one dude in Denmark who's faithfully reading through each thing on my back catalog and commenting), so that could be kinda fun.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:59 AM on March 20, 2020 [4 favorites]

My church has put a form on their website for people to fill out saying what help they need and what help they can offer.
posted by FencingGal at 6:34 AM on March 20, 2020 [2 favorites]

Not coronavirus-specific, but my synagogue sent this out today -- different ways to volunteer from home (some are more useful than others).
posted by Mchelly at 7:00 AM on March 20, 2020 [4 favorites]

I've been supporting my fave little online snack shop, nuts.com, with fun snack packages to friends with cooped up kids (gummi penguins! wax bottles! fancy raisins!). Also, there is a free little pantry at a small church near me so next time I go to the store (probably next week), I will be sure to bring a few supplies over.
posted by Glinn at 8:40 AM on March 20, 2020 [4 favorites]

zeusianfog: In Trump's America mutual aid is more important than ever, even without a global pandemic making everything worse.

I hope and expect the scope of this thread is not limited to the US.
posted by Too-Ticky at 9:15 AM on March 20, 2020 [1 favorite]

It is not intended to be US-specific. For one thing, I know my UK friends in particular are possibly even more scared than my US ones.

This is a global pandemic; we're all in this one together.
posted by sciatrix at 9:24 AM on March 20, 2020 [8 favorites]

update: we did a courtyard singalong today starting with Les Mis songs (there's a wider CoronaChoir event happening on Sunday but I'll be driving then). Afterwards I walked around chatting to people through their windows. We have at least two symptomatic people in housing here at the moment, and they are feeling very lonely, although well supplied with material goods and cats.
posted by notquitemaryann at 10:30 AM on March 20, 2020 [4 favorites]

Maybe this is a bit embarassing. But I noticed that this is a post by sciatrix. And I just want to say thanks and you're awesome, sciatrix. Because usually I don't really notice who is posting or saying what on metafilter, because of how the username is there at the bottom. And this is a feature! I like how metafilter basically sounds like a stream of ideas, and not a stream of persons. But sometimes you do notice people, and I've noticed sciatrix, and you're like the best.

Also I think you like animals, and too will defend animals against human hubris!
posted by Pyrogenesis at 10:53 AM on March 20, 2020 [18 favorites]

I'm helping to organize my (large, multigenerational) building for mutual aid.
posted by the_blizz at 11:28 AM on March 20, 2020 [2 favorites]

I started a mutual aid group as part of our city network, between us we've got excellent coverage of the whole city and everyone's swapping phone numbers with their less-online neighbours. There's an existing voluntary sector co-ordination charity gearing up to keep the network informed of services available.
Meanwhile we're busy compiling lists of businesses that will deliver food in our area.

Our local councillor is doing an online "town hall" in our facebook group.

The city has basically built this thing out of nothing in under a week.
posted by quacks like a duck at 3:26 PM on March 20, 2020 [4 favorites]

It's been more than a week now, and I've got two exercise-related things going: Couch-to-5k (C25K) a program that is aiming to get you off the couch and able to run a 5 km in 9 weeks. It's got gentle progression and a lot of different app support and forums etc. I've managed to complete it before, and so has my wife, but we've both relapsed under the everyday grind.

And to build strength I use bodyweight fitness, which aims to do away with a lot of the equipment normally associated with strength training. I use the recommended routine from this subreddit. It can also start of very gently and slowly build progression.

These might not be right for you or your body, but I hope some of you might be able to keep moving and get fitter in these dark days.
posted by Harald74 at 11:47 PM on March 20, 2020 [3 favorites]

Maybe this is a bit embarassing. But I noticed that this is a post by sciatrix. And I just want to say thanks and you're awesome, sciatrix. Because usually I don't really notice who is posting or saying what on metafilter, because of how the username is there at the bottom. And this is a feature! I like how metafilter basically sounds like a stream of ideas, and not a stream of persons. But sometimes you do notice people, and I've noticed sciatrix, and you're like the best.

I agree with every word of this. Although there are many mefis I love
posted by daybeforetheday at 2:25 AM on March 21, 2020 [1 favorite]

I live in a building that's going through a demographic transition from mostly white and elderly to younger poc families, many of them Asian like us.

I was initially thinking of offering to run errands for my elderly neighbors. I've since had some creepy encounters where they've averted their gaze and ignored my greetings for multiple minutes while waiting for the elevator. Not even playing with their telephones or anything, just staring away into the corner of the room.

I'm still thinking of slipping notes with my contact information under people's doors, but I'm definitely going to sign them with my recognizably Chinese name rather than my wife's English name. Let them self select out if they want to avoid Chinese people.
posted by meaty shoe puppet at 7:30 AM on March 21, 2020 [7 favorites]

Some things people in power are doing “ DSA member and judge, @franklinbynum is using the COVID pandemic to implement transparency reforms in his court

See original tweet for a video of the judge questioning why the DA’s office convened a grand jury to indict, jail an individual on a 3 y.o. offense during the pandemic”
posted by The Whelk at 10:04 AM on March 21, 2020 [2 favorites]

This might be on the list already, but our neighborhood organized a shamrock hunt - you printed out a shamrock and hung it in the window so kids walking by would see them. They're going to do the same thing with Easter Eggs I think.

Lastly, what unexpected initiatives do you know about to help folks out that might capitalize on skills that people might not have thought of?

I mention the following things only because maybe someone wants to help but has hobbies or occupations in which one may feel that you may not have anything to offer, and maybe it may inspire someone?

Schools here have been closed for almost two weeks, so on Tuesday I dressed up in my inflatable T-Rex costume and walked around. I sent a text to all the neighbors with kids that I would be walking around the block at a certain time, and if they wanted me to stop and wave in front of their house to send me their address. My number got forwarded and then forwarded again so I ended up doing it several times in order to get all the houses in the area. I did a little bit of dancing and fooling around with the fact that I had tiny arms in front of a lot of porches and windows. It was a big hit, and even some people without kids got a large kick out of it! A few kids even drew dinos and stuck them in their windows. I'm trying to think of a way to do this again and maybe have an impromptu paleontology lesson with some fossils and some fossilized dino poop that kids just go wild over, but do it safely without spreading anything.

Because of my job in which I often have to work around hazardous dust and small particles, I had several industrial sized boxes of N95 and better masks which laying around and was able to donate them. We also pulled most of the gloves we had in our first aid kits (of which we have several). There weren't many but it was better than nothing. We also had a box of gloves from staining and painting which we donated to the assisted living facility nearby - not for medical use, obviously, but better than not having any gloves at all.

Apologies if this has been on MeFi elsewhere: I also have a sewing machine and have been making face masks for older people in our neighborhood, as well as a few more in case first responders get super desperate. While I certainly hope that the medical community doesn't have to resort to using them, they're a better option than nothing for other folks who might not have any masks at all, particularly elderly people who might be concerned. Here is an article in Forbes explaining how this works, what's not PPE about it (i.e., it is a last resort kind of thing), and about the million mask initiative going on right now. (To repeat and to be clear: the CDC recommends them only if there is nothing else - but stopping 50%-80% of virus (depending on the material) is better than none at all. It has several links to resources, including the best material from the CDC's experiments. I've been using this template with and without the pocket for general ones, but have been using this template for people I have specific measurements for because a mask that fits properly is super important (and is the template to use for a child as the other one is too big.) The CDC found vacuum bags as a useful material but cautioned it made it much harder to breath, so I'm experimenting with vacuum bags only as the filter in the cloth pocket option. (Important cautionary note: While I've seen research about this entire idea from the CDC itself, I've not seen any actual research talking about why this might be a horrible idea, but that doesn't mean a follow up doesn't exist somewhere. But if I'm interpreting the research correctly something is better than nothing.)

Also, it's okay to just take care of yourself/your family if that's all you have spoons for right now, as colorblock sock pointed out (thank you!). Along those lines, here's an idea for helping out yourself or your family that may be useful? So I grew up in a pretty rural area that was already kind of isolated, and spending a week or more without any contact due to weather or power outages was an occasional thing. While I doubt I have any other tips that haven't been circulated on social media already, there was one thing my parents did: every day, at a certain time, we got a "present". It was never anything fancy - maybe it was a candy bar, hot chocolate, or making cookies, or playing a card game as a family (looking back, a lot of them were things that were going to happen anyway, but my parents just reframed it. One time it was giving the dog a bath hahahaha!) There were only two rules: absolutely no asking about the present until present time (to prevent that kind of whining you get on, say, Christmas Eve). And no whining about the present itself. It gave us something to look forward to each day and because they sprinkled enough good things in with the just okay things we behaved *slightly* better so as not to lose the privilege.

What I think we really liked about it was that despite being the greedy little monsters that we were, it was also an opportunity every day to take a moment and acknowledge that we had gotten through another day, centered on the "one day at a time" mentality. It was a celebration of what we had accomplished so far. It was a "here's something good about today" kind of thing. It was a moment of gratitude, even if it was subtle. That's something you can do with kids, but it's also something one can do as an adult. So every day, at 7 PM, we give ourselves little gifts. Sometimes it's been Snickers, but it's also been buying a new book, opening a beer, going for a walk, calling a friend, renting a movie, giving ourselves permission to not save on laundry and wear the same clothes tomorrow, proclaiming SNUGGLE POOCHIE PARTY TIME (5 minutes of cuddling with the dog - with a timer and everything). Mostly the kind of thing we'd do anyway, but just reframed as, "Hey, we got through today! Maybe we did okay, maybe not, but we still did it. So let's just pause for a moment and acknowledge that."
posted by barchan at 10:13 AM on March 21, 2020 [13 favorites]

Mutual aid groups are appearing in Cambridge (UK). I've signed up to the Whatsapp group for the one near me and we're currently trying to leaflet the area so people who are not online know that where they can ask for help.
(happy to share details if you are near me)
posted by crocomancer at 1:00 PM on March 21, 2020

> on Tuesday I dressed up in my inflatable T-Rex costume and walked around.

Oooh, I could do this!
posted by gingerbeer at 1:29 PM on March 21, 2020 [1 favorite]

I've been trying to donate where I can. And in light of my normal volunteering options being shuttered, I've been signing up for shifts at several local food banks. It's probably not the safest thing health-wise, but people going without food is a lot scarier to me, for many reasons.
posted by Gorgik at 4:54 PM on March 22, 2020 [2 favorites]

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