Life came to a screeching halt last week as restaurants, theaters, salons, gyms, and other businesses in the background of daily life shut down to encourage social distancing, protect employees and customers, and reduce the spread of coronavirus.

If you’re lucky enough to have a job that allows you to work from home, you can still step outside for a walk or run or pick up essentials as needed from an open pharmacy or grocery store. For the less fortunate, however, many businesses will close and millions of people will lose their jobs. Others, for a number of reasons, are at a higher risk of contracting the virus and have been strongly urged to avoid contact with other people. Some of them are alone. 

We’ve heard the usual guidelines for preventing coronavirus disease: wash your hands, avoid large gatherings, stay home as much as possible, isolate, and take care of yourself. But here are five ways you can show care and solidarity toward the rest of your community near and far and in the digital and physical worlds.

1. Support local and independent businesses

Small businesses are collapsing. Half of them have 14 or fewer cash buffer days, according to a JPMorgan report. In black or Hispanic communities, most small businesses have fewer than 21 cash buffer days. The National Restaurant Association estimates the outbreak will cost the industry at least $25 billion and as many as 7 million jobs over the next three months. It also expects 28,000 restaurant closures by the end of the month and 80,000 by the end of May.

While we can’t walk into those businesses right now there are still plenty of ways to show your support. Inquire with them about purchasing gift cards for yourself or others to use later. It will help with their cash flow. If it’s a restaurant that’s shifted to takeout or delivery-only, continue ordering from there if you feel comfortable. Try to do so directly through the restaurant unless they want you to order through a delivery app; DoorDash, Uber Eats and the like typically have hidden costs that restaurant partners pay. 

2. Give to a relief fund 

Nonprofits, grassroots organizations and other community groups and individuals are establishing relief funds and crowdfunding campaigns for specific groups by industry and location that have been impacted by sudden coronavirus-related unemployment. People are collecting money for restaurants (which seem to make up the majority of them as of today), bars, artists, musicians, writers, freelancers, sex workers, people of color in the LGBTQ+ community, and so on. Pick a cause and donate if you have the means.

3. Mutual aid 

There was an explosion of mutual aid groups this week as people across the country organize ad hoc groups of young, healthy volunteers who want to help those at higher risk and shouldn’t go out in public by bringing them food and other services. (COVID-19 has been found to be much deadlier among older people, but a CDC report released Wednesday shows that 40 percent of U.S. patients so far requiring hospitalization were between ages 20 and 54.)

“Such cooperation has to be about building on — rather than fearing — the fact that we’re all interconnected and impacted by COVID-19, that we’re all in this together,” Cindy Milstein, author of the book Anarchism and Its Aspirations, wrote ahead of an extensive list of mutual aid groups nationwide.

“Our cooperation is about making sure everyone can take time off work, have a home and enough food, stay hydrated and wash their hands, not feel alone or abandoned, receive health and other care, and the list goes on.

4. Contribute to your local food bank

With schools shutting down to reduce the spread of coronavirus, many kids whose parents rely on federally assisted meal programs are skipping those meals. Typically, this is where a food bank would step in and help. But right now, food banks around the world are low on stock since many people are hoarding food in anticipation of extended quarantines. There have also been fewer volunteers stepping up, as people are avoiding contact with others to reduce the spread. 

If you can, donate to them with money, not food. Food banks have arrangements with wholesalers that let them buy goods at a discount. If you are not in an at-risk group or have time on your hands and can do it while maintaining some distance with other people, volunteer. 

5. Just be kind

If you have a job that lets you work from home, or the time or means to give back in many of these ways, you’re one of the lucky ones. Thank the people on the front lines who have a harder time social distancing because they have to go to work: the cashier at the grocery store, the person delivering your mail, your pharmacist. Focus on your own mental health and use it to spread positivity to strangers going through the same (temporary) life changes.

“Making sure you're healthy and well and following protocol is also really good for your community,” said Amy Cirbus, director of clinical content at Talkspace. “Waving outside is good” to show “there's camaraderie in what we're going through and that can help spread some positivity, as well, and help people not feel so alone.”

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