Our community is very, very much not alone.
We’re facing a lot of problems. How do we stretch our hospitals to care for all the sick? How can we make sure losing your job doesn’t mean losing your house? How do we show solidarity when we can’t show our faces?
But billions of other people are facing these problems, too — or did already, or will. And we are a planet of ingenuous people. Other communities have come up with creative solutions. We need to know about them so we don’t reinvent the wheel.
And don’t we all need a little bit of hope?
Homelessness is an issue everywhere. People living on the street are particularly at risk for catching the virus, and for getting really sick when they do. David R. Baker and Nic Querelo at Bloomberg report that San Francisco has put its empty hotel rooms to use, providing temporary shelter for the homeless.
In Chicago, Kathleen Foody of the Associated Press reports that hotels are housing a different group of people — patients who need to be quarantined, but are not sick enough to be in the hospital. Chicago is working with five hotels and has reserved 1,000 hotel rooms.
Hotel employees, many of whom are desperate for work as travel has shut down, will cook meals and launder sheets, but only city health workers will interact with patients. Still, there is some risk to hotel workers, who will get training from public health officials on the best ways to handle trash and linens.
“I’m leaving my trust in the city of Chicago and their health department,” said José Gonzalez, who is cooking meals for patients in Hotel 166. “At the end of the day, I’ve got bills to pay and I have to move my family forward.”
Besides hospital beds, we’re also short on hand sanitizer, which is somewhat more puzzling. Who better to help than businesses that already make alcohol? Matthew Denis of the Eugene, Oregon, Register-Guard reports that local distilleries have turned from making artisanal gin and vodka to brewing stronger stuff. “We had calls coming in every 30 seconds for the first three days,” Thinking Tree Spirits founder Emily Jensen said.
It helps that on March 18, the federal government eased regulations on making hand sanitizer. Now brewers all over the country are switching over — including Anheuser-Busch, reports Gael Fashingbaauer Cooper at CNET.
Finally, a pandemic marked by social distancing has also, in ways, brought us together. Sigal Samuel reports in Vox on the mutual aid movement: grassroots groups creating online spreadsheets to link people offering help with those needing it. People sign up to deliver groceries and medicine, walk dogs and look in on those alone with phone calls or video chats. Some mutual aid participants come together because they share a church or a neighborhood, Samuel writes. “Most are simply people who are looking around, seeing a tragedy unfolding before them, and yearning to help their fellow human beings in any way they can.”
This roundup comes from the Solutions Journalism Network, a nonprofit organization dedicated to rigorous reporting about responses to social problems.