Drones over Boston: A city emptied by coronavirus. Watch aerial video of some of the city’s busiest spots, in the middle of a weekday, almost completely devoid of people. https://t.co/4IMrLKjjq2 pic.twitter.com/5AsBQmqrDf
— The Boston Globe (@BostonGlobe) March 19, 2020
The state reported its first coronavirus-related death yesterday (an 87-year-old with underlying health conditions), and my city, a dozen miles north of Boston proper, reported its first case (not severe; the patient was sent home to self-isolate). But I can’t think of anywhere in America where I’d rather be living under the current lockdown than here. The government, and just as important most big employers, have been taking the possibility of a global pandemic seriously well before that ill-stared Biogen conference; there have been public news reports since at least early February, when the first case was reported in a traveller returning from Wuhan. Even our Republican governor has resisted the impulse to either underplay or scaremonger news updates. And we’ve got so many hospitals, we can afford to convert one (albeit maybe not the highest-rated one) into a dedicated coronavirus treatment facility!
The Army Corps of Engineers can help address the coronavirus public health emergency by converting or constructing new temporary medical facilities. President Trump should activate @USACEHQ immediately nationwide. https://t.co/ZLtbHxGSnL
— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) March 18, 2020
Boston Medical Center testing possible COVID-19 treatment https://t.co/ZnA7iMmrDK
— WCVB-TV Boston (@WCVB) March 20, 2020
We’ve been working incredibly hard and around the clock to develop high capacity testing for #COVID19 at the Broad Institute in Boston.
Anticipate 1000 test/d and up if needed.
Not live yet but will be shortly!https://t.co/1Na24c0T8G
— Michael Mina (@michaelmina_lab) March 18, 2020
And this was a mood-lifter:
Amid coronavirus pandemic, neighbors delivering what government cannot https://t.co/EIqa4DnuHG
— Boston Globe Metro (@GlobeMetro) March 20, 2020
Some of the requests are simple: Deliver a 6-year-old’s birthday cake from Whole Foods to a single mother who’s afraid to leave the house. Donate an old laptop to a student trying to connect to virtual classes.
Others are profound: College students from Nigeria looking for somewhere, anywhere, to live after their dorms closed. Out-of-work cooks, fitness instructors, and musicians who can no longer afford to feed their children.
But for so-called mutual aid groups now springing up across Massachusetts, no ask is too small or too large. Collectively, leaders of this grass-roots movement believe, local residents already have much of the expertise and many of the resources their neighbors will need to survive the coronavirus pandemic.
To get the job done, the helpers are relying on free time, anxious energy, their trust in each other — and online spreadsheets.
“No one knows or has everything, but as a community we know a lot and we have a lot of resources,” said Anna Kaplan, a 25-year-old volunteer who helps lead the Mutual Aid Medford and Somerville group. “It’s actually been really amazing to watch people offer up so much, from donating $10 to a room in their house, all to people they don’t even know.”
Decentralized “mutual aid” networks, which can serve a single neighborhood or up to several adjacent municipalities, existed in some places before the current crisis. But with the economy crumbling, and the government’s response slow and haphazard, an unprecedented number of ordinary residents in Massachusetts and across the country are forming or joining such groups.
The way it works is simple: Those with needs enter their requests into a shared online spreadsheet, along with contact information. Those with resources, time, and skills can reach out directly to help, or list their offerings in a separate spreadsheet that anyone can peruse.
Meanwhile, designated “pod leaders” collect phone numbers of their immediate neighbors, stitching together a hyper-local network that can quickly share news and urgent requests by text message, and collate lists of other free resources and institutions offering help. The idea is to create a one-stop resource that any overwhelmed resident can contact for immediate help, or at least a friendly pointer in the right direction…
What’s going on in your neighborhood, pandemic-related or otherwise?