6 Ways Every Family Can Help Those Affected by COVID-19

If your family is staying home, there are ways you can help those on the front lines in the fight against COVD-19 and those who have been affected by the disease firsthand.

woman putting food in a shopping cart in a supermarket
Photo: Armin Weigel/picture alliance/Getty Images

While we're all hunkering down in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, there are those out on the front lines making it easier for the rest of us to stay home and stay safe. Health care workers caring for the sick, delivery drivers, and retail workers making sure we have what we need, and countless others who, for various reasons, are unable to stay home and must keep going out every day to go to work.

On the other end of the spectrum, there are those who, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, have lost their jobs. During the week of March 15, more than 3 million people filed for unemployment, a record-breaking number of claims.

With so many at risk of sickness or financial difficulty, many families are wondering what they can do to help. In the past, that might've meant hosting a fundraiser or delivering snacks to your local hospital, but in the age of social distancing, hands-off help is the best kind you can offer.

1. Support Food Banks

With the unprecedented increase in unemployment claims coming in as well as the closure of schools that provide children with two meals per day, well-stocked food banks are more necessary than ever before. To find food banks in your area, you can enter your zip code on the Feeding America website. Many food banks have lists of needed items on their websites and also accept cash donations.

2. Donate Supplies

Hospitals and health care facilities are in dire need of gloves, masks, hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, and other supplies. The crowd-supported initiative, #GetUsPPE, is a continuously updated database of hospital wish lists for personal protective equipment (PPE) and other necessary supplies. To donate, go to the website, search for your location, and follow drop-off instructions.

3. Check on Your Neighbors

High-risk individuals, including older Americans and those who are immunocompromised, are risking their health every time they walk out their front door. And while grocery and supply deliveries are common in many urban and suburban areas, some older people may not feel comfortable wading into online grocery delivery. Placing orders for them or offering to do their shopping for them allows them to stay home. Similarly, those who are working from home and caring for children may find it difficult to schedule a time to shop or make supply runs without their children being present. Just checking in on people in your neighborhood is a great way to help protect the most vulnerable populations.

Facebook recently announced a new function to make checking in on the people around you easier than ever. The new service, called Community Help, allows people to ask for help, volunteer to help, and contribute to fundraisers to help support those in need. Facebook is even matching donations.

According to a statement from the company, through the Community Help portal, you can "respond to requests or create a new post to let others know how you can help. [Or you can] post what you need and search posts to see if anyone is offering the help you’re looking for."

4. Support Small Businesses

Retail establishments, restaurants, and service providers like hairdressers and gyms have closed their doors around the country. Buying gift cards is a simple way to give business owners an influx of cash now, when they need it most. Similarly, moving your shopping to independent retailers like local pharmacies or grocers will help keep these businesses afloat and ensure they're able to keep the doors open and their staff employed during the pandemic.

5. Shop Mindfully

When filling your grocery cart, avoid buying WIC-approved items as these are the only items some people are allowed to buy. Don't buy three months of diapers and wipes or toilet paper—you're leaving people with limited options with no options at all. Buy enough groceries and supplies to keep your family at home for a couple of weeks, but don't empty the shelves of the most necessary items.

6. Stay Home

The most important thing we can all do is to just stay home. Doing your part to flatten the curve—to keep people from becoming sick—is vital. One quick trip to the store because you're out of chips puts not only you at risk, but your family and the families of every person you come into contact with. Plan ahead, make lists, get what you need, and get back home.

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