Community is our anchor during COVID-19

Life is drastically different than it was two weeks ago. Kids are out of school, many are working from home, sporting events and concerts are cancelled. Now even movie theaters and bars are closed and dining in a restaurant is prohibited. Sometimes it feels like the only things that haven’t changed in King County are our beautiful views of the mountains.

So how do we get on with living when life is so altered? Our best answer is that we’ll get through this outbreak by building community and making sacrifices out of love. We shared this in an earlier blog post and it only rings more true with even stricter limitations now. Changes to our usual way of life will require sacrifice but we have to do it for the most vulnerable among us and for our community to function, and—when this is all over—rebound.

So what does this kind of love look like?

Preserve the healthcare system for those who need it most

Our health care system is already stressed and we know that with more people getting sick, it will only experience a heavier burden. So we must think collectively so we can help reduce the strain. By thinking of the needs of the whole community, we help the healthcare system stay operational for everyone. Which means:

  • Don’t buy more medical and health supplies than you need. Facemasks especially are sadly in short supply, but overstocking on hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, and plastic gloves will make it difficult for health care providers and emergency response personnel to get what they need to take care of others.  
  • Consider whether you really need a COVID-19 test. Ideally, everyone who wants a COVID-19 test would get one, but there is limited capacity to collect samples. Providers in our region are now running out of the swabs needed to take test samples. People with mild symptoms do not need to be tested, especially since the home treatment for COVID-19 is the same, no matter what test result comes back. We currently have to prioritize testing for those most at risk of severe illness or who live or work in a high-risk setting, like a long term care facility.
  • Preserve the ER for critical health needs. At this time, emergency rooms are overwhelmed. Do not go to the emergency room unless you are having an immediate medical emergency. People who receive a positive test result for COVID-19 should not go the emergency room unless they are experiencing severe symptoms (such as difficulty breathing) that require hospitalization. Less severe symptoms can be treated at home.

Social distancing but not social isolation

Community matters now more than ever and we need each other during these stressful times. With school out, kids still need to spend time with other kids, just in ways that reduce the risk. Healthy children can still get together if steps are taken to make sure they aren’t sick and that they wash their hands and minimize face-to-face interaction as much as possible.

Think small groups and prioritize outdoor activity as much as possible. The lower the number, the lower the risk. Teens and youth can bike together or kick a soccer ball with a friend. Following these guidelines on how kids and youth can gather and interact can help our kids to get the healthy physical activity they need while managing the anxiety they may be feeling about coronavirus.

Large events of 50 people or more are prohibited, but smaller gatherings are allowed if event organizers take required steps to minimize the risk of COVID-19. Kids generally aren’t at high risk for severe illness from COVID-19, but it’s different for adults. For the next few weeks, adults should try to hunker down as much as possible, especially those 60 and over, who have medical conditions, or if they’re pregnant. But it’s still important to find ways to connect. Make a Facebook group, chat via text, or converse over Skype or FaceTime. Now’s a good time to bring back old-fashioned letter writing. And even waving to a neighbor through the window may make the day feel a little less lonely.

Supporting one another

Seattle and King County residents are rising to the occasion. Coronavirus is causing stress for everyone, perhaps in different ways, and we all have different coping mechanisms. But in the face of adversity, community is already coming together to support one another and it is absolutely inspiring.

What does this community love look like? It looks like:

  • Influencing your inner and outer circle with good, accurate information and resources about COVID-19. We update our COVID-19 website daily. City of Seattle has pulled together a long list of resources for the community about getting food, paying utilities, and support for artists, small business, and home education.
  • Sharing in childcare responsibilities, particularly to support health care workers and people who don’t have work flexibility. We have information on how to share childcare and reduce COVID-19 risk.
  • Feeding our neighbors. Neighborhood libraries are transforming into small food banks. Continue to support local food banks. Offer to bring someone a meal to their doorstep who may not otherwise be able to easily access healthy food right now.
  • Taking care and protecting our elders. That’s where staying home when we’re sick and social distancing ourselves can really help save lives.
  • Extending compassion and being an advocate. Rather than spreading rumors about people who are sick and staying home, we need to show love and support. Unfortunately, a number of groups are bearing the brunt of stigma, including Asian-Americans and folks living homeless. Be ready to stand up to stigma when you encounter it
  • Supporting local businesses. Use a food delivery service to order from local restaurants (now is the time for takeout!). Shop from local businesses online or buy gift cards to use later.

It can feel like a scary time right now. That’s real. But let’s acknowledge the fear and anxiety and then choose to focus on the ways that we can show up for each other right now. We need to be loving each other and also loving ourselves. Let’s always be asking, “What does love look like”? And then do that.

Originally posted on March 14, 2020.