Today is day 183 since I began sheltering in place in my apartment due to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus.
This means that I have been quarantined for over half of one calendar year.
Every now and then, I find myself laughing out loud because, the first week my office closed, I asked if we should expect to be back in the office the following week or would we not be able to return until April?
(I also am laughing out loud more often because I’m not sure I can regulate my emotions anymore? It is very likely I have become feral and am unable to be tamed for society again…)
Despite what appears to be a large chunk of time passing… it still feels unreal to me some days. Each individual day drags on, but the weeks and months pass in the blink of an eye. I can remember how my own stance on COVID-19 and how dangerous it was changed during the course of a single workday, when I packed my desk with the intention of not returning to the office a few days in advance of it closing. But the months since… are a blur.
There are a lot of things I wish went different for me personally during quarantine, but this pandemic has been much, much bigger than me. And one of the more productive things I’ve been able to do is to try to help others where I can. When I am having trouble taking control over what’s happening in my life, it helps to try to at least contribute some positive change somewhere in the world.
Here are a few ways I have been trying to help:
- Donate masks. At the beginning of the pandemic, when the United States was experiencing a mask shortage and New York hospital workers were left with scarves and trash bags, I donated KN-95 masks I was sent from family along with surgical masks that I had stockpiled from earlier in the year. This was a no-brainer; these people were risking their own lives to save others, and I didn’t need a single mask because I did not ever leave the building.
- For folks who are able to sew, making and donating cloth masks is still helpful as schools and other businesses reopen.
- Donate to relief funds. I’ll admit that I am a millennial who ate out a lot, and I have friends in the restaurant industry who are personally affected by how the entire industry has been struggling during this crisis. A few relief funds you can support are:
- Power of 10 Initiative. Donate in multiples of $10 to fund a restaurant to pay chefs and buy ingredients to make meals for a non-profit or community organization to distribute to those who need them. You’re helping provide meals and keep restaurants going.
- Chinatown-specific funds. Chinatowns around the world have been struggling since before shutdowns began in March, and many Chinese- and Asian-run businesses have seen a much slower recovery than their peers. In NYC, you can start with Send Chinatown Love and The Longevity Fund. Manhattan’s Chinatown has been a part of my life for a long time, and many of their businesses operate on extremely tiny margins. Many of them serve elderly and low-income locals; they may not accept credit cards but they do accept food stamps. They don’t have Instagram pages but they have regular customers who haven’t left their apartments much since January because they are elderly and at-risk. These are the businesses that the community has been rallying around to support.
- Restaurant worker relief funds. If there is a local restaurant you love, check if they have a relief fund for their employees. Eater has a list of funds you can donate to, as well as city-specific funds.
- Donate to bail funds. I am one of the lucky ones who stayed employed during a world-shifting pandemic. In the past, I have often hesitated before donating to causes, but when the Black Lives Matter protests started, that hesitation took a big step back. The right to protest is essential to our democracy and the more I think about bail, the more frustrated I get that it is used to punish people with less money more for the same alleged crimes as people with more money. If the difference between someone spending several nights in jail during a global pandemic and going home is money, I know that my donation can help directly make that difference for at least one person. Find your local bail fund by state. Most recently, I have also donated to Milwaukee Freedom Fund, which has extended their support to the Kenosha protesters.
- Keep donating. There are many non-profits that are doing the extremely hard work in our communities that need our support. I have been donating to several of these and am trying to figure out what kind of recurring donation I can make and which organizations can most use my support right now.
- Sign petitions. I don’t like signing petitions as much, especially because many petitions don’t accomplish much, but they are a very effective way to show those in power that there is a mass of support for a cause and it is easy to add your voice to that mass. (Make sure you do not donate money to change.org after you sign a petition there; only donate where it is confirmed the money will go to your intended recipient.)
- Call and email. I hate this. I’ll admit it openly. I really hate calling strangers and I hate emailing them too. But it’s important. The first time I ever called a representative was to ask for net neutrality and I almost threw up but I did it and I will keep calling. If you email, make sure your message isn’t completely copy + paste from a script, which makes it easy to filter out.
And of course, the ol’ favorites:
- Stay home. Among my friends, I am easily the most cautious and conservative of my friends when it comes to my threshold of safety during this pandemic. But it’s easy for me to do, even though I am extremely extroverted, because I remind myself that not being part of the spread of coronavirus is a way that I don’t make lives difficult for the immunocompromised and people of color. I have loosened up considerably, leaving the apartment once or twice a week versus one time after 2-3 months, but I still exercise caution.
- Wear a mask. When I do venture out, I make sure to wear a mask. Again, it’s the least I can do and I don’t have to worry about how my mouth looks in public…?
- Carry out over dining service. Although New York City has been doing outdoor dining for almost 2 months now, I still feel uncomfortable with the risk I pose to servers and other restaurant staff, as well as the risks that come with dining with other people in such close proximity. For now, I’m happy to support local restaurants by ordering delivery to our apartment (with a large tip for the delivery person) or, lately, by picking up our order to eat at home.
- VOTE. One of the last things my husband and I did before shelter-in-place was get our New York state IDs. (Very late!!!) We had no intention of sitting out the primary elections and definitely will be voting in November. Please check that you are registered to vote and have a plan for how you will vote. Many states have made it possible to vote by mail because of COVID-19 but because of changes to the USPS, you want to make sure you will be able to get your ballot in at all. If possible, try to plan to drop off your ballot rather than mailing it in, or make sure you can safely vote in person. I am also considering signing up to be a poll worker, pending the safety measures that polls will have in my district – you can do the same if you are safely able to do so that day, as most poll workers are elderly volunteers who may not be able to safely work this year and there are never enough poll workers to begin with.
It’s easy to feel hopeless. I do, often. And I’ll freely admit now that my mental health has… suffered a lot while I’ve been in quarantine.
But at the very least, from rock bottom or whatever state this is, I can still put forth some positivity into the world. I can still help someone who needs help more than I do.
I have a sinking feeling that I will be in quarantine for at least another half year, but I hope to be proven wrong about that. In the meantime, I will keep fighting to add good to this world where I can. I hope you will, too.