We asked Ms. readers to share stories of how their communities are coming together and staying connected during the COVID-19 pandemic, and as this global health crisis has worsened, we’ve been overwhelmed by stories of generosity and kindness from our readers. Here, we’ve rounded up a few of our favorites.
I am a fourth-year medical student at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. In response to COVID-19, four of my classmates and I have joined together to lead efforts to organize student volunteers in many facets. One of our biggest efforts has been organizing childcare for healthcare workers who continue to work at the front lines of the pandemic. We are also volunteering with a local free clinic to deliver medications to uninsured patients who would not have access to life-sustaining medications otherwise. We are creating simple educational materials with graphics for people with intellectual disabilities or limited health literacy. The future feels uncertain, but we are empowered to advocate for social justice and health equity across Pittsburgh by bringing together healthcare workers, students, hospital management, and community partners during the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020. It is our hope that we can continue to push for these values beyond this outbreak and create a society that prioritizes the health and well-being of all its citizens.
—Tejasvi Gowda, Pennsylvania
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As some of us are neither essential workers nor healthcare professionals, we are doing our part by staying home to protect those that are most vulnerable and those on the frontlines of this pandemic. But how can we be an active part of assisting those in need during this time? Ohio has been on the frontlines of this pandemic and our state leadership has taken quick action to ensure the health and safety of all Ohioans. After the recommendation of Governor DeWine for all essential workers and the general public to wear face masks while in public, healthcare facilities, many businesses, and the general public were in major need. Cloth face masks are only a small step in ensuring the limited spread of COVID-19, the common cold, etc.
I reached out to physicians, sewers, and volunteers to begin an initiative to assemble and distribute face masks to essential workers and anyone in need. These seamstresses had just filed for unemployment and thus, I wanted to ensure they are supported financially in this mask initiative, as they have families to support and others are the sole providers to their household. We officially launched the Dayton Muslims for Humanity mask initiative in collaboration with the Islamic Society of Greater Dayton. We set up a GoFundMe account to support fabric supply and financial assistance to those sewing. We are aiming to make 1,000 face masks and next week, we will hit our 700-mask mark. We have ensured that all homemade cloth face masks are assembled properly by CDC guidelines and are run-by medical professionals before distribution. The ladies making these masks are professional seamstresses and it is rewarding to see them doing what they love to uplift the community.
Since the launch of this initiative three weeks ago, we have distributed to healthcare facilities, hospice care, home care, essential businesses, and delivered to locals that have reached out — free of cost. Gracious volunteers have assisted with the no-contact doorstep delivery of material. We often hear many thanking our heroes on the front lines, but we must ensure the health and safety of these heroes and do our part in keeping them safe; that is what true gratitude looks like. This initiative is made and run by women, but supported by an entire community that has come together to change our narrative and spread the love.
—Mariam Elgafy, Ohio
Our long-term healthcare company set up child care co-ops to provide services to our employees, so they can continue to take care of their residents. The co-op is staffed with some paid workers and supported by friends, family and students who are studying remotely.
—Karen Hyatt, Washington
At the grassroots level, people from all over the country are sewing masks for local hospitals and healthcare workers. This is an awesome movement organized in the Corona Masks for Medical Heroes Facebook group. Women (and men) are sewing masks at home, sharing the pattern, sharing ideas on how to improve each batch and what to do when elastic runs out in your area and hand-delivering them to their local hospitals. Like Betsy Ross sewing flags during the Revolutionary War.
—Lisa Szal, California
From bodegas and bars to laundromats and delis, small businesses are what makes New York City what it is. Unfortunately, city-wide shutdowns implemented to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus have had a disastrous impact on small businesses. I am a law student at Columbia Law School and although I am not able to provide life-saving medical help, I am able to provide legal assistance that can help people save their livelihoods.
One of my professors, a team of other law students and I have begun helping small business owners make sense of the recently enacted Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The CARES Act has expanded the amount of government financing small businesses can apply for. However, the process of applying to new programs under the CARES act, like the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), and other government programs can be confusing. In addition, banks are still trying to understand the new guidelines that have been handed down to them as a result of this Act by Congress.
My team and I hope that by helping small business owners who are interested in receiving assistance successfully submit their applications, we can keep employees on business payrolls, prevent businesses from permanently shutting down and help people maintain a level of financial security during this uncertain time.
—Kori Cooper, New York
*Submissions have been edited for clarity and length.
The coronavirus pandemic and the response by federal, state and local authorities is fast-moving. During this time, Ms. is keeping a focus on aspects of the crisis—especially as it impacts women and their families—often not reported by mainstream media. If you found this article helpful, please consider supporting our independent reporting and truth-telling for as little as $5 per month.