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How to Help Your Neighbours during MCO

As an increasing number of school districts and institutions shut down and more and more people practise social distancing, you might be looking inward as you try to make sense of the COVID-19 pandemic. While you go about your preparations, think about how your tiny community—your block, your building, or whoever else lives close enough to be your immediate neighbour—can prepare, and how you can be a part of those preparations. 

Not everyone has had the good fortune to be able to plan ahead. Those of us who can should do it now, today—and include others in those plans. Here are some tips to help you show up for those around you, even if you don’t know them yet.

Practice excellent hygiene in common areas

You’re probably getting better about washing your hands with soap and water by now, and are especially diligent after trips outside… but now would be a great time to think of other people, too, in order to keep you particularly attuned to this. Start washing your hands before you go out, and/or promise yourself that you’ll sanitize buttons and door handles after touching them.

Be conscientious of who you’re inviting into your building

Does your partner who insists on going to concerts while refusing to step up their handwashing habits want to come over for the weekend? Is your pal with the flu-like thing still insisting they are fine and should be allowed to attend your regular D&D game as planned? The answer is no.

Ask your neighbours what are they most worried about, and tailor your help accordingly

You can’t tell what people’s major concerns are just by looking at them or assuming you know what’s best for them. One neighbour might be immunocompromised and stressed about picking up an important prescription from the pharmacy; another might be worried about a loved one who is incarcerated in another state. You could check their concern by reviewing Feedback and Community Form on neighbourhood apps.

Start a community “in need of” list

Set out a notepad in a common area and encourage people to write their name, phone number, apartment/house number, and whatever specific thing they need—Tylenol, shampoo, some chickpeas, whatever—to it. You could also do this digitally via neighbourhood apps.

If you’re fairly tech-savvy, offer unique assistance to people who aren’t

Skills that many younger people take for granted—like, say, knowing how to order groceries online, deal with a pharmacy’s automated phone system, or recognize fake news—are not given realities for some older people. Keep this in mind if you’re feeling like you don’t have anything useful to offer right now, or if your own health concerns mean you can’t be too hands-on with your neighbors. Let them know what you’re offering—maybe it’s just that they can call you if they need help navigating a particular website, or perhaps you’re willing to just do certain tasks for them online if that’s easiest for everyone.

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