Community Covid-19 Response Check-in #2

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The full reality seemed to hit most people yesterday. Chapel Hill/Carrboro schools announced a three week closure and there was an exponential leap in the amount of networking and information sharing. 

Today I will share some new resources and lists of resources I'm aware of, and I will discuss the information cacophony. 

Most of the information, including childcare info, from yesterday's post is still relevant as well. 

There are now several fundraising efforts I'm aware of raising money to help service workers and others who will be placed in financial danger when they loose work hours. The fundraising I'm personally associated with, the integrity of which I can be partially responsible, is at https://donorbox.org/nc-solidarity-fund. Others I know of are: 

These resources and several others are listed in an email sent out by a self-organized group of local service workers. I captured the HTML from their email and put it up on a website I have access to for reference. You can subscribe to their mailing list if you like. 

Other bits of information and resources

If you feel sick or are concerned that you might have COVID19: COVID-19 Health Link Phone Number Helpline: 1-888-850-2684
Looks like Table will do home food deliveries once a week. https://tablenc.org/about/updates/tables-plans-amidst-covid-19/
Orange county community centers & libraries closing to the public Monday until 4/3. Senior centers, health/wellness, & parks/rec halting programs. Sr centers to do carry out lunches.
PORCH cancelling activities, mailing $50 Food Lion gift card to each of 463 families served. 
Superior and district courts will be shut down statewide for 30 days starting Monday, except for trials in process, says someone who works there. If you have court-system related questions locally, Jamie Paulen says you can call her: 216-965-5095
Resource for community coordination from Town of Chapel Hill & Orange County Health Dept: https://www.chcommunitypost.com/
Chapel Hill call center: 919-969-5005
Orange County 919-245-2400
Raleigh Water and OWASA are not shutting off peoples water if they cant pay during  the virus outbreak
Chatham Marketplace will do home delivery; [email protected]
Chapel Hill/Carrboro schools published flyer describing where free lunch can be picked up. 
Food not Bombs is offering curb-side or delivery from their distro today at Nightlight in Chapel Hill. 
From Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance via email: We will waive early medication refill limits • Testing for COVID-19 will not need prior approval • Blue Cross NC members will have zero out-of-pocket expenses for the COVID-19 test • If you are diagnosed with the COVID-19 illness, Blue Cross NC will not require prior approval for medically necessary services

There is no way I could hope to capture even all the information which is relevant even locally; I'm sure there are helpful things I haven't seen. Amongst the information I have seen there is quite significant overlap. There has been some back-and-forth with contradictory information, such as the discussion about the pros/cons of using elderberry in formulations to combat the virus. At one point I saw information about the national guard being deployed, followed up by a suggestion that this may be an incorrect rumor, though it appears to now be confirmed

In some ways the situation reminds me of my experience trying to help out after hurricane Katrina. That disaster, which famously hit New Orleans quite hard, caused damage to many smaller communities as well and dispersed people throughout the region. Relatives and loved ones were desperately trying to find out who was OK and to reconnect. Since there were so many shelters and agencies and local newspaper websites, people were getting really frustrated with needing to call many places and reaching busy lines. A group of us created the "People Finder Project" to collect and make the information searchable across the region. 

Since 2016 much of the US population, at least those of us not enamored with the Trump regime, have been hearing, thinking, discussing the way "fake news" and propaganda spread through social media. The answer to this problem I've heard most often is to rely on official/establishment/well-known sources of information. In the case of disaster relief, and Covid-19 in particular, I think this answer is good for only half of the problem. For information about the virus itself - how it spreads, how contagious it is, how long it lasts, etc. - official sources may be better than hearsay. Unfortunately the Trump regime's response has been criminally negligent (at best) and has a long-standing antagonism to science in general. I think one needs to read a bit carefully and find individuals, non-profits and perhaps foreign sources which seem credible and ideally cross-check a few of these. Finding the definitive truth is complicated a bit by the fact that this is so brand new, so what all information is emergent. 

Other types of information will simply be unavailable from governments or even national non-profits -- information about where hand sanitizer is available, what childcare resources are available, etc, as well as connections to some forms of immediate and medium-term aid, such as the funds for service workers being set up -- all these exist on the hyper-local town or neighborhood level. One of the distinguishing characteristics of a natural disaster is that needs suddenly overwhelm the usual systems. Having local, alternative systems set up in ahead of time are a huge advantage. 

When it was clear Covid-19 was coming to our area, a group of people I've worked with for several years now around hurricanes and other natural disasters under the banner "Mutual Aid" came together quickly. We're having our third in-person (with teleconference option) meeting later this afternoon and we have a very active text chat group. The core group of people knows each other, knows each other's skills, backgrounds, communication styles. We know how to add new people to our group, what our communication tech is. We're tied in to broader networks in the southeast and internationally. All of this gives us the ability to sort through information, hash out ideas and put out calls to action effectively. 

Engagement

The underlying key concept to building resilient local communities, appropriately networked, is for each person to spend more of their time being actively involved in setting up and maintaining collective systems which are not dependent on outside direction. A good example is the Weaver Housing Cooperative Association which manages two collectively owned apartment complexes in Carrboro. I sit on the board of directors, and we just finished a small Covid-19 focused meeting to discuss mutual care for anyone who falls ill, how to collectively do shopping runs or pool resources for food orders. We discussed financial resources and a modified eviction policy. Our larger society has a pathological aversion to this sort of collective engagement. We need to get over it. Global warming and international financial instability means there are going to be more and more of these crisis periods. The buffer against authoritarianism filling the void is for us to be prepared. I believe this can be done without costing us huge new chunks of our time if we think of it as substituting real community involvement for things we pay for now -- we don't need to seek out as much entertainment when we can laugh with our neighbors. We don't need to go to the gym as much when we are digging community gardens. We don't need to go to leadership summits when we can learn facilitation and process tied to real shared goals. 

I've seen a few  places set up online forms to build new neighborhood networks. I sincerely hope these efforts, at least some of them, continue in place so they are functioning for the next hurricane or other disaster. Another global-warming  related scenario becoming more prevalent and for which we are under-prepared  is how we deal  with electricity blackouts during extreme heat waves in the summer. Here's one example form for jump-starting a local mutual aid network

Economic Reorientation

The other meta-observation I can make at this point is to notice how all of the really welcome and positive things being done by local governments and corporations involve them abandoning their usual economic patterns of behavior. Schools are handing out free lunches to kids without rigorous checks for who is on the free lunch program. The insurance company is promising free testing and no-questions-asked treatment coverage. Evictions are on pause, water and electricity will not be cut off for lack of payment. It seems that when push comes to shove, capitalism is not a good system and everyone knows it. It seems that making decisions with compassion is instantly possible when their is a self-preservation motivation apparent. Imagine what might be possible if we grow these possibilities, if we treat chronic homelessness and racial disparity as the real problems they are, impacting millions of people's livelihood. 

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