If you're like me, you might be experiencing a case of COVID-19 social paralysis. Even if you're not coughing or feverish, you don't want to risk asymptomatically spreading the virus to those with weakened immune systems. At the same time, you know that local businesses are struggling, and problems for our most vulnerable populations don't just disappear because a new virus is in town.
Today brought a measure of relief to some of those affected by the outbreak. Governor Jay Inslee announced new rules to protect residents of nursing homes and assisted living facilities, which include mandatory COVID-19 screening for all visitors, volunteers, and employees. He also released new policies to help businesses and workers impacted by temporary work stoppages, isolation, and quarantine. The Washington Employment Security Department expanded unemployment benefits—here's a handy chart to see who qualifies—and employers can pay their taxes late without fines. (Mayor Jenny Durkan also just announced utility and tax relief, as well as more access to funding and loans, for the city's small businesses.)
Still, the Seattle area needs more support, and here's the good news, couch potato: You can help. This is how.
Donate money. This week, a coalition formed the COVID-19 Response Fund. "One-time operating grants will fund organizations that have deep roots in community and strong experience working with residents without health insurance and/or access to sick days, people with limited English language proficiency, healthcare and gig economy workers, and communities of color, among others," according to Alicia Teel, the VP of marketing and communications at Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce. More personal crowdfunding efforts will undoubtedly emerge in the coming weeks. And Pike Place Market Foundation's Market Community Safety Net will continue to support the small businesses and services that comprise one of Seattle's most storied institutions.
As always, do your due diligence before forking anything over.
Donate goods. Local shelters need actual items, not just dollars, to continue offering adequate services. Linda Mitchell, chief communications officer of Mary's Place, says its sites could use some additional twin sheet sets and blankets to make up for a more frequent cleaning schedule. (Note: As of Sunday, no shelter workers or people experiencing homelessness have tested positive for the virus.) Mitchell also mentioned that the organization is seeking help putting together "isolation kits for guests who may need to recover in a private space." These packages might include bottled water, cough drops, hand sanitizer, Tylenol or Advil packets, tissues, and snacks. (Email [email protected] for more details.)
In case you've hoarded more cleaning supplies than ever necessary, Catholic Community Services of King County would appreciate if you could spare hand sanitizer, bleach, disinfectant wipes, and disinfectant spray, to assist its shelters and other programs. Reach out to [email protected] for more info on that and other ways to help, including providing meals. (Only if you're symptom-free, obviously.)
And Pike Place Market Foundation's Hygiene Drive—ahem, TP aisle bulk buyer—will take your toiletries.
Work your contacts, and brainstorm. Another housing provider, Downtown Emergency Service Center (DESC), anticipates that more motel rooms will be needed for those who aren't sick but are at great risk in crowded areas. If you know of any motel operators with rooms available to rent, email [email protected] The organization is also happy to pass along any isolation and quarantine space ideas you might have should current preparations fall short. This is your moment, "creatives."
If you're symptom-free, order pick-up. If you're not, opt for delivery. (And you can often still keep your distance.) Businesses are bearing the cost of this outbreak in a major way. The Intentionalist's Laura Clise has heard from local establishments that they're experiencing somewhere between a 20 and 70 percent drop in revenue. "Show up to your neighbors if and when you are able—many of them may be at serious risk of going out of business very quickly if customers stay away," Matt Landers, GSBA's director of public policy and government affairs wrote in an email. "Health concerns should of course take priority, but where possible make the effort to support the small businesses that are the fabric of your neighborhood." Especially consider visiting or ordering online from the Chinatown-International District Area. Those businesses were taking a hit even before the outbreak reached Seattle, according to Connie Au-Yeung, the marketing and communications coordinator of Chinatown-International District Business Improvement Area.
Purchase gift cards and order items online. You do that anyway. Just make sure you're keeping it local this time.