COVID-19 and Adapting in Our Neighborhood

Updated: Mar 26

I’ve been thinking about how we can respond to COVID-19 at the local level. Yeah, I'm a bit paranoid about this. I've had some serious infections in my past, and I know how a bug like this can sneak around. But I also see some opportunities to build a more effective response, and a more together neighborhood in the process.

Why the neighborhood scale? I think most of us can identify our neighborhood geography in terms of the streets and houses. Twenty or thirty households are easier to organize than the whole village. Around here we generally know our neighbors which also makes organizing easier. It’s best to have a small number of people gathering and fact-checking and sharing info, or communicating with health authorities. And my neighbors have knowledge, skills and other resources to share.

This operates on multiple scales: If my neighbors and I develop an effective way to evaluate and share information about how to protect ourselves from C-19, fewer folks will be infected in my ‘hood. That means less transmission outside of my ‘hood too. Bad info or inefficient sharing of good info puts more of us at risk. Helping each other makes us all more resilient. So as we settle into a long period of seclusion maybe it’s time to consider how we can help our neighborhood adapt.

We’re a resourceful bunch and there’s innovative stuff happening! Facebook seems to have less of the usual meanness; instead it's full of wonderful ideas and gestures: sharing public health info and fact-checking; people offering to shop for seniors; free on-line concerts; lessons and activity plans for kids; all kinds of learn-a-new-skill offers; speculation about what it all means that the world has mostly shut down. It's more tailored at the neighborhood level: my neighbors are avid readers and we're trying to figure out how to share books without sharing the virus (research is ongoing). We’ve figured out that grandma must now stay away from grandkids, and that we need to safely check in on some of the older folks. We know which households are suffering most in this crisis and we're checking in on them. Our friend Linda V just dropped off a ukulele (which we sterilized) and Irene and I are working on a uke and harmonica song (stay tuned! ;- ).

This could be better organized. I tried to phone the Government of Quebec's COVID-19 hotline. I gave up after an hour on hold. Wouldn't it be better for one person to call this hotline than 20 from the same neighborhood? Who will do that? I think the longer this imposed isolation continues, the more important it will be to stay organized, connected, properly informed (because there's a lot of misinformation and speculation out there!) and caring for each other in new ways. I have started to identify some neighborhood organizers to develop a phone chain and/or a dedicated facebook page for sharing information. Shouldn’t be hard: like most neighborhoods, our neighborhood is pretty established in terms of social relationships. Then maybe we can set up a safe book (and game?) exchange, make sure we all have food, and monitor each others’ mental health. Figure out an effective way to share info. Send one or two cars to the grocery store instead of 20. Share dog-walking. If and when C-19 hits our neighborhood, we will all know immediately, can work with the authorities to help the affected household and keep everyone safer. Without getting too paranoid, this will be especially important if and when our local medical professionals get overloaded. It’s too early to predict this, but we’ve been warned it’s a possibility. Just like we've been warned about weather getting worse.

I’m just pondering some preliminary ideas out there. How else can we organize to help each other through this? And the next emergency?