Social Connection in the time of “Social Distancing”

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I am concerned about the idea of “social distancing” during the current pandemic. Do we need distancing from germs? Absolutely! We must “flatten the curve” on COVID-19 and decrease the spread of disease, especially to vulnerable people. But if social distancing means completely withdrawing from your community, it will be detrimental to the health of our neighbors and small businesses.

If we want to halt the spread of the virus, we need to practice:

1. Hygiene; 

2. Consideration; and

3. Social care.

We need to wash our hands, be considerate of people with compromised immune systems, and check in on our friends, family & neighbors.

We need to wash our hands again, consider the impact on local economy and people, and support our local businesses.

How Social Connection Helps in an Epidemic

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During a heat wave in Chicago in 1990’s, 739 people died. This was many more than expected by epidemiologists given the climate conditions. The sociologist Eric Klinenberg explained in this podcast that a lack of social connection is believed to be a major cause of high number of heat deaths.

The sad thing about a heat death is it’s so easily preventable if you’re with someone else who recognizes it. One of the most — maybe the most important risk factor for dying in the heat wave was living alone.”

If we are worried about public health, we should be doubling our efforts to check in on neighbors, especially the elderly and those living alone. You don’t have to be in the same room to check in on them. Call, email, text, Facebook–heck, drop a note in their mailbox! Make sure you are doing your part to keep your germs to yourself, but not your concern for the people around you.

  1. Ask your neighbors if they need groceries. It is better for healthier people to do the shopping than people who have underlying health conditions.
  2. Chat on the phone with neighbors. If you’re not sick, why not knock on the door and keep a few feet back. Make sure the people around you are ok! Alleviate loneliness and isolation.
  3. Ask for help! If you have a compromised immune system or are worried about going to public places, ask the people around you for help! We are in this together.
  4. Share! You want the people around you to have what they need to stay healthy because that keeps you healthy too. If you already panicked and bought all the toilet paper, give some away to people who might need it.
  5. Can you help with child care? K-12 school throughout Oregon was cancelled next week and many parents are scrambling. Maybe you can work at home, but not everyone can.
  6. Can you help with chores? If your neighbor is sick, maybe they need someone to feed their animals or shovel their walk or pick up their mail at the post office.
  7. Can you increase your donations? The folks most impacted by the disruption are people without a lot of resources or paid sick time. Consider giving to the Oregon Food Bank or the World Health Organization.

Pretending that you can get through a public health emergency by yourself is magical thinking. Focus not on walling yourself off, but thinking about ways to make things better for the community.

Social Distancing Hurts Small Businesses

You may not feel comfortable sitting in a restaurant or coffee shop, but you can still help keep small businesses afloat during this time of social distancing.

  1. Buy gift certificates! You can give them away or just enjoy them later. Gift certificates can give small businesses cash to keep going during the outbreak. Think about your normal spending for the week or month, and buy a gift certificate that reflects it.
  2. Order take out! Restaurants and food businesses are especially hard hit by these disruptions.
  3. Do business over the phone. If you were planning to order something from a local business, it will be especially helpful to follow through with that this month and help with cash flow.
  4. Support local organizations. Places like Art Center East have a razor thin margin of operation. It keeps afloat on income from classes, so if we aren’t going to those classes that income is lost. It is a perfectly reasonable decision to avoid a public class, but can you pitch in with a donation? Can you renew your membership?  (I just did!)
  5. Don’t forget other businesses like barber shops and salons, the movie theater and book stores. Again, order over the phone, buy gift certificates, or just drop off a tip to show appreciation for that barber or hairdresser that makes you look so good. 🙂

Thanks for taking care of your neighbors and community!

Your farmer,

Nella Mae