Special Briefing: Why Social Distancing Won’t Tear Us Apart
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because everyone’s efforts count.
By Dan Peleschuk
This is an OZY Special Briefing, an extension of the Presidential Daily Brief. The Special Briefing tells you what you need to know about an important issue, individual or story that is making news. Each one serves up an interesting selection of facts, opinions, images and videos in order to catch you up and vault you ahead.
What’s happening? Sealed-off borders and shuttered businesses are quickly becoming the new normal as societies struggle to stem the spread of coronavirus. Social distancing is key to “flattening the curve” — or making sure the rate of transmission doesn’t overwhelm the capacity of health care systems — and that threatens the very fabric that keeps people together. But it doesn’t mean humanity’s sense of community needs to suffer: OZY looks at the ways in which various actors, from students to celebrities, are helping preserve that sense of togetherness. Also, shuttered local schools in many places are still offering free pickup lunches for children in need.
Why does it matter? There are few indications about when this outbreak might end, while governments around the world are grappling with challenges ranging from testing and treatment to the logistics of keeping major cities virtually closed. That’s why private citizens may need to step up more than ever to fill a void left by authorities, which increasingly seem spread desperately thin.
HOW TO THINK ABOUT IT
Learn a lesson … Millennials are among those leading the charge. Take Middlebury College, for example, where students created a “mutual aid spreadsheet” to catalogue requests from the community, as well as items people were ready to offer those in need. Thanks to that effort, lower-income students from faraway places found rides to the airport, while others stowed away their belongings at storage spaces offered by administrators. It’s caught on: Communities at more than a dozen institutions, such as the universities of Pittsburgh, Texas and Virginia, have organized similar charitable efforts. In places like Chicago and across Florida, local schools are offering free pickup lunches while they remain closed for lessons.
… and keep the spirit. While vacationers are canceling travel plans — enough that U.S. airlines have asked the government for a $50 billion aid package — that doesn’t mean holidays should lose their meaning. Ahead of St. Patrick’s Day today, Ireland’s national broadcaster asked citizens to post videos of their previous revelry or alternative celebrations to replace the annual parades. Despite the lack of public gatherings, many buildings and landmarks around the world are still turning green. And Boston punk mainstays the Dropkick Murphys, who’ve played every March 17 for nearly a quarter-century, will livestream their fan-less gig for free.
Giving back. “It’s going to take all of us.” So tweeted Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr while promoting the importance of social distancing. One of the first two squads scheduled to play behind closed doors before the NBA suspended its season, the Warriors are now focusing on other responsibilities: They’ve established a $1 million relief fund for the more than 1,000 hourly wage Chase Center employees who won’t be working anymore. Star Steph Curry and his wife, Ayesha, have launched their own relief effort aimed at helping feed the 18,000 students in California’s Oakland Unified School District now sitting at home.
Big brother. Despite the seemingly constant flow of headlines about how it’s messing with personal privacy or compromising national elections, Big Data is stepping up to help. In a joint statement Monday, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Reddit, Twitter and YouTube all pledged to fight fake news as the outbreak continues sowing global confusion. They’ve promised to “elevate authoritative content” and share health-related updates, while calling on other companies to follow suit. Today, Amazon told sellers it’s halting supplies of non-essential items to free up warehouse space for medical supplies and household staples.
WHAT TO READ
‘People Need to Be Supportive’: Communities Gather Online in the Coronavirus Crisis, by Katie Cunningham in The Guardian
“Outside of designated Covid-19 groups, some are using their personal social media pages — and the downtime social distancing has given them — to help in creative ways.”
America Needs Its Own ‘Christmas Truce’ to Triumph Over Coronavirus, by Michael Goodwin in the New York Post
“It’s time to do something about our national divide. A 30-day political cease-fire is reasonable and doable. We must take a break from the hate.”
WHAT TO WATCH
Coronavirus: How Local Communities Support Each Other and Keep Their Spirits Up
“We saw one [initiative] in Ireland recently where people are just saying, ‘Hey, I have some time, and I can come to your house and deliver groceries or even walk your dog.’”
Watch on DW News on YouTube:
Coronavirus Outbreak: What Does ‘Flattening the Curve’ Mean?
“Social distancing is key, but the World Health Organization wants more testing.”
Watch on Global News on YouTube:
WHAT TO SAY AT THE WATERCOOLER
Furry friends. As Americans prepare to self-isolate, some animal shelters are calling for them to not do so alone. Besides keeping a pet for company in these lonely times, they say fostering an animal also helps lift the burden off soon-to-be-strained adoption centers.
- Dan Peleschuk