As people all over the world strive to protect themselves and their loved ones from COVID-19, the novel coronavirus, many are also seeking out ways to help their local communities and those most severely impacted by the pandemic. Below are some ways that you can help.
Stay Home and Social Distance
The best way to help others is to help stop the spread of COVID-19, which you can do by staying home as much as possible. The virus is spread mainly from person-to-person contact, according to the Centers for Disease Control. In April, new data showed up to 50 percent of cases never show symptoms, but positive, asymptomatic people can still spread the virus to others. That makes social distancing protocols particularly important for fighting the spread.
When you do leave your home, whether for essentials like groceries or to get some fresh air, practice social distancing by staying at least six feet away from people, avoiding group gatherings and staying out of crowded spaces.
Continue preventative measures, including washing your hands thoroughly and frequently with soap and water and avoiding touching your face. The CDC has further recommendations, including cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces.
Wear a Mask
On April 3, the CDC advised all Americans to start wearing non-medical face masks while going out in public, in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19. Although these non-medical masks don’t offer full protection to the wearer from another person’s germs, they do keep the wearer from spreading their own germs — a huge help in reducing the transmission of COVID-19, especially if someone is unaware that they have the virus.
Ensure that your mask is covering your mouth and your nose, and avoid touching and adjusting your mask once you've gone outside.
Not sure where to start? Check out GoFundMe's COVID-19 Relief Fund here. PEOPLE has partnered with the fundraising platform to bring as much relief and support as possible to the people impacted by COVID-19, be it front-line responders, families who have lost loved ones or organizations working to fill empty refrigerators.
Nonprofits and various social organizations are a huge resource for those who may be hit hardest economically by the virus. You can help meet the demand by donating to your local food bank, which you can find at feedingamerica.org.
Meals on Wheels America, an established nonprofit, relies on volunteers to deliver food to seniors in more than 5,000 communities across the United States, ensuring that those living alone are not left hungry or isolated. Monetary donations or volunteer assistance are in high demand, and further information on how to help and protect those who are most vulnerable can be found on the organization’s website.
Support (and Feed) Essential Workers
In addition to staying home and practicing social distancing, you can support frontline workers by giving to organizations like Direct Relief, which is providing personal protective equipment and other medical essentials to healthcare workers around the world, or the First Responders Children's Foundation, which helps fund grants and scholarships for the children of first responders impacted by the pandemic.
Many are looking for ways to help fuel those on the frontlines. Organizations and initiatives including Off Their Plate, Feed the Frontlines NYC, and Pizza vs. Pandemic are donating meals to healthcare professionals and first responders across the country, and many restaurants — local and chain — will make deliveries to local hospitals and healthcare centers.
Schedule an Appointment to Give Blood
The American Red Cross announced on its website that thanks to those who have given blood amid the pandemic, the organization has been able to meet "immediate patient needs." While they urge people with scheduled blood, platelet or AB Elite plasma donation appointments to keep those appointments, they encourage others to schedule donations for the coming weeks to keep the supply stable throughout the pandemic.
“It is safe to donate blood,” Admiral Brett P. Giroir, M.D. Assistant Secretary for Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said in a March press release. The Red Cross follows "the highest standards of safety and infection control," according to its website.
Support Small Businesses
Amid business closures, many local shops have faced severe financial strain when it comes to paying rent — and their employees.
Consider ordering takeout from a range of local spots. If you’re a regular anywhere — whether it’s a coffee shop where they’ve memorized your multi-hyphenate order or a salon where the colorist is always up-to-date on your love life — consider buying a gift card for yourself (or a friend!) to use there in the future. You’ll help the business stay afloat in a turbulent time, and as a bonus, it’ll feel like giving yourself a treat.
While tipping is always a good practice, if you're able, now is a time to be particularly generous with those who are delivering food or groceries or driving for ride-share services like Uber, allowing many people’s transitions to working from home and social distancing to be more manageable.
Reach Out to Vulnerable People in Your Community
If you're healthy and not in a high-risk group, you can help people in your community stay home and still get what they need. You can reach out to your neighbors directly, or volunteer with groups like Invisible Hands to help deliver groceries to elderly or immunocompromised people. Make sure to follow the CDC's safety precautions for running essential errands.
While physical health is a priority, it’s also important that people are mindful of their emotional well-being and that of those around them in times of turmoil. One-third of Americans are showing signs of clinical anxiety and depression, according to new data collected by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) in partnership with the Census Bureau. A simple act of reaching out to to those you know who may be struggling can make a huge difference, as does taking time for your own mental health.
As important events like weddings, graduations and baby showers are put on hold, check in with your friends and family about how they're doing, and find ways to celebrate them virtually. Ask your friends and family members who own businesses how they’re coping. Video chat with anyone you know who is self-quarantined to keep them company. In a time of literal isolation, it’s crucial to find ways to build a sense of community, even while apart.
As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. PEOPLE has partnered with GoFundMe to raise money for the COVID-19 Relief Fund, a GoFundMe.org fundraiser to support everything from frontline responders to families in need, as well as organizations helping communities. For more information or to donate, click here.