The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted the lives of people around the world. Luckily, there are ways you can help out those who are affected by the outbreak, even if you’re working from home.
1) Perhaps the most important step you can take is practicing social distancing. Avoid big gatherings where you could pick up or unwittingly spread the virus, and consider phasing out handshakes and hugs. Work from home if you’re able to do so, and when you do go out, try to keep some distance between yourself and the people around you.
2) If you’re not sure you have the virus, consider checking in with your doctor or a medical facility before heading straight to the hospital if you’re not seriously ill so you don’t overwhelm the health centers dealing with the pandemic. You can also complete an online screening to see if you should get tested for the virus and find an appropriate facility near you. If you’re thinking about visiting relatives in the hospital or at a nursing home, also consider checking with their doctors or the facility to see if that’s a good idea.
3) If you’re planning to work from a location like a cafe or restaurant, or if you’re picking up take out for your family, consider going to an eatery that might be hurting from the pandemic. If there’s one in your neighborhood that you like but you’ve seen their crowds diminish, or even one that might be losing visitors due to virus-related racism, consider making that your destination, as New York magazine city editor Christopher Bonanos suggests on Twitter.
If your office is closed, consider working at a restaurant in the neighborhood that is empty, instead of a coffee bar that’s already crowded. They’re hurting. I have an entire wine bar to myself right now, friendly server, great food, feeling great. Tip extra if you can.
— Christopher Bonanos (@heybonanos) March 13, 2020
4) Donate to your local food bank. The pandemic doesn’t stop people from being hungry, and depending on what your local schools and colleges are doing for the outbreak, students who normally access food through school may have trouble finding enough nutrition. You can find a local food bank through the Feeding America website or consider donating to Blessings in a Backpack, which helps feed children when school isn’t in session. You can also look for other nonprofits in your area addressing people’s food and other needs.
5) Give to your local arts organization, music nonprofit, or museum. Many of these organizations rely on visits from the public, but their facilities have closed or crowds are drastically diminished due to the virus. Check to see if local organizations have any specific virus-focused campaigns or simply make a donation online. If you have tickets for an event that’s canceled, consider turning any refund you get into a donation if you can afford to do so.
6) Consider giving blood. If you’re healthy and able to donate, you can help replace the flow of donations from canceled corporate blood drives and a decline in drop-in donations that the American Red Cross and many local blood have experienced. The Red Cross is urging people to donate and says there’s no known coronavirus risk from giving blood (or receiving a transfusion). Contact your local blood bank or the Red Cross to set up an appointment.
7) Look for matched donation opportunities, where someone will contribute a dollar for each dollar you donate, to make your donation money go further. Some employers offer charitable giving matching, so check to see if yours has such a program. Facebook has also announced that it will match up to $10 million in donations to the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund, an effort by the United Nations Foundation in partnership with the Swiss Philanthropy Foundation to support the work of the World Health Organization in responding to the pandemic.
8) Check in with elderly people you know, whether they’re relatives, friends or neighbors. Some older people are avoiding basic errands like going shopping for fear of catching the virus, which tends to affect older people more severely. You might want to check in and see if they need any groceries—or would like to hang out. If you’re tech-savvy, you might also see if they need help FaceTiming with family, signing in to streaming media, or anything else digital.
9) Stock your pantry with food, medicine, hygiene supplies and other necessities if you haven’t already, but resist the urge to over shop. Make sure to leave necessary items for others, especially medical supplies that could be needed in an emergency.
10) Watch out for scams, hoaxes, and rumors, and make sure your loved ones know to do so as well. State attorneys general have already gone after merchants for selling bogus coronavirus cures and preventive measures, hackers have used coronavirus information to distribute malware, and scammers will likely invent other ways to take advantage of people’s fears of the virus. False information has also been circulating on social media, so make sure to verify that anything you hear comes from a reliable source before passing it on or taking it too seriously.
11) Figure out which news sources you do trust and keep up to date with their reporting. Subscribe to local news publications if you can. See if there’s a way to get digital alerts from your local government agencies or to follow them on social media. Keep an eye out for any new restrictions or risks in your area and for any advice on ways you can help out.
12) Donate your spare computing power to Folding@Home. The longstanding scientific project uses spare processor power from desktop and laptop machines around the world, and it’s started projects related to understanding the new coronavirus. You can install the software on your computer, but make sure you’re getting it from the legitimate source to avoid malware. Naturally, if you’re thinking of installing the software on someone else’s computer, like an employer’s, make sure to get permission.
13) If you don’t feel like going out to eat or going shopping now, consider buying a gift card or gift certificate at a local small business. They’ll get the cash flow and your support up front, and you can spend the money when you feel it’s appropriate to go out again. Look out for any crowdfunding campaigns for businesses you support, in case you’re able to donate. Keep in mind that if a business does fail to stay open, you may lose anything you spent on gift cards or funding campaigns.
14) Consider reaching out to your elected officials. Whether you’re happy or disappointed with what your federal, state, or local representatives are doing about the virus, you can make your voice heard and let them know, even while you’re stuck at home. Pick up the phone or send an email or a physical letter to your representatives.