For folks who are friends of mine on Facebook, my writing and posting about COVID-19 and the worldwide response to it is very old hat. I have been very carefully following all the worldwide news, partly out of professional interest (I work for a catastrophe modeling company and we model pandemics) and partly because it was the biggest developing story with huge forthcoming community and personal impacts. Due to my keen interest, I was preparing my several weeks’ food and medicine stocks two weeks ago on February 29th, and telling my friends to do the same, way ahead of the panicked shopping we’ve been seeing in the last two days.
There have been reams of pixels written on the poor response in the US; how a different response could have prevented the complete shutdown we’re now facing, and personal tips on how to flatten the curve. You should definitely stay educated on all of this, if it doesn’t make you anxious (which is another impact on so many right now).
But I’d like to set aside all that for a moment and get people thinking about the impacts in your own backyard. If your workplace is an office, like mine, they’ve already sent the work-from-home edict, or are about to. I think of all the places I go get lunch around my Boston office; now, no one is in the office and those once-crowded spots are probably pretty empty.
I think of my weekend fun, like heading to Mill No 5 to grab a Dows milkshake and meet friends for a movie or a cool A Little Bazaar marketplace, or a Friday night dinner with the husband at Blue Taleh. The servers who rely on a busy night and tips; the little clothing shops like Humanity relying largely on walk in retail business. There is a cascading impact on our local businesses, on individuals who are already vulnerable—the elderly who should be staying home, the folks who can’t afford to stock up weeks’ worth of food at once—people who serve families in any capacity, like my dog walker, who I am still paying even though we are home and don’t require her services right now.
So bear all this in mind and, if you are physically or financially able, formulate a plan to help your community. I know there are are multiple efforts underway to form Mutual Aid groups to help vulnerable people, work to find child care now that schools are closed, and any number of other community-based remedies in this emergency. As soon as there’s something publicly available on those efforts I’ll post them. If you are interested in being part of that planning, comment on this post (with your email address which only I will be able to see) and I can forward your info to the coordinator in Lowell.
Another thing you can do, which I have already started, is to financially support local businesses and restaurants. The simplest, least risky (virus-wise) way you can do this is buying an online gift certificate. Not all local businesses have this capability…if you don’t see it on their website as an option, you can always contact the business and see if there is a way.
Today I ordered two e-gift cards for myself, the first at Red Antler Apothecary (hit “Load more” on their Products page and you’ll see options for gift certificates), and also a gift certificate good for three places at Mill No 5—Luna Theatre, Coffee and Cotten, and Dows. The Mill certificate buying link is here, I had to write to them to find it…but suffice to say this is good at all three locations at the Mill. I mean, I’m going to spend money at both places in the future anyway, as I buy my soap and hand cream at Red Antler, and visit the Mill all the time. So it’s not even “extra” spending for me, just “early.” I am hoping to be able to continue this every few days for different local businesses.
Quick tip: If you buy online gift certs, and are (like me) worried about forgetting you ever bought them…I’m on Gmail, and I made a label called GIFT CERTIFICATES. I am leaving the gift card emails “unopened” when they come into my inbox and moving them into the label…then the label is in BOLD AND CAPS and I can’t miss it. And it keeps them all together. As I use them up I can remove them from the folder, in the future.
You can also of course order goods and meals online for pickup or delivery, which poses a slight risk of virus spread (since the name of the game right now is try not to have contact), but with proper procedures, like making sure to sanitize your hands after handling deliveries, this is also a nice way to support local businesses. Also, I mean, I’m going to get bored with my own cooking pretty darn fast, even as prepared as I am. ^_^
Have you been thinking about this problem? Do you have interesting thoughts on ways to help the community get through this?
Addendum: I have a myriad of other recommendations, and will be compiling a post of local businesses to support, and ways to support them. I’m hoping to get that online tomorrow. It’ll include links if I have them.
Wash your hands, self-quarantine, and stay safe everyone!