Coronavirus: 7 Ways You Can Help Your Community

Daisy-Daisy/iStock via Getty Images
Daisy-Daisy/iStock via Getty Images

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. currently stands at more than 3000, with people in at least 47 states (including Washington, D.C.) harboring the disease. That number is significantly lower than rates in countries that have been hit the hardest by COVID-19, but according to experts, the pandemic has not yet peaked in America.

"I can say we will see more cases, and things will get worse than they are right now," Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said at a House of Representatives hearing last week.

The easiest and most direct way to help your community at this time is to avoid contracting the disease and spreading it to others. That means washing your hands regularly and properly, practicing social distancing, staying home and away from other people if you're feeling sick or exhibiting any symptoms, and following all protocols being set by your local government. If you're looking for more ways to do good beyond those precautions, you can support one of the many charities helping people whose lives have been disrupted by coronavirus. Whether you want to volunteer or donate, here are some opportunities to consider.

1. Donate to GlobalGiving's Coronavirus Relief Fund.

As coronavirus has swept the globe, medical care providers have struggled to keep up with the needs of the growing number of sick patients. This relief fund organized by the charity crowdfunding platform GlobalGiving is aiming to raise $5 million for communities that have been impacted by the virus. The money will go toward providing healthcare, food, and water to the places that need it most around the world. As the situation progresses, donations will fund longer-term education and recovery efforts. So far, nearly 1500 people have donated just over $278,000.

2. Volunteer at your local food bank.

Experts recommend that people prepare for a possible coronavirus quarantine by stocking up on pantry items—something that not everyone is in a financial position to do. Texas's Houston Food Bank is currently preparing for an increased demand for nonperishable goods by packaging quarantine meal kits, and they recently called on volunteers to help. You can reach out to the food bank in your neighborhood to see if they have plans to do something similar.

3. Donate to the Center for Disaster Philanthropy's COVID-19 Response Fund.

Even if they haven't been infected, many people's lives have been disrupted by the threat of coronavirus. Canceled events and closed businesses have led to many people losing work at a time when being able to afford healthcare and basic necessities is especially crucial. The Center for Disaster Philanthropy's COVID-19 Response Fund assists local nonprofits supporting people who are financially vulnerable at this time, including gig workers, hourly wage workers, immigrants, and people with disabilities. Based on where the highest needs are, donations may also be used to promote proper hygiene, support healthcare workers, and assist people in quarantine.

4. Donate blood to the American Red Cross.

As social distancing becomes the norm, the American Red Cross has had to cancel more than 1500 blood drives nationwide due to concern over gatherings and the risk of transmission of the viral illness. That means that the country's blood supply could be in danger at a time when we need it the most. While no data exists to indicate that COVID-19 can be transmitted via blood transfusion, the organization is taking every precaution to minimize the risk of contracting the virus during the donation process. In addition to enhanced disinfecting protocols at donation sites, prospective donors are being screened for symptoms of possible illness, including temperature checks, before being allowed into a collection area. And all donations are being made via direct appointment. If you’d like to donate, you can enter your ZIP code at the Red Cross website to find a local donation center.

5. Donate to the Seattle Foundation's COVID-19 Response Fund.

Washington state was one of the first areas to see a major coronavirus outbreak in the U.S., with the majority of American deaths from the virus happening there. The Seattle Foundation's COVID-19 Response Fund was set up specifically to support communities in the greater Puget Sound region. Donations will be used to fund grants for organizations working with people both physically and economically impacted by the virus. The grantees have not yet been announced, but the foundation plans to work with United Way of King County and King County’s Pandemic Community Advisory Group to identify the most deserving recipients.

6. Volunteer for Meals on Wheels.

Meals on Wheels provides ready-to-eat food to homebound seniors. Older people are particularly vulnerable to coronavirus, and as leaving their homes becomes more dangerous, the demand for this service has skyrocketed. The organization relies on volunteers to put meal packages together as well as to deliver them. Contact your local branch to see if they need an extra hand, or if you'd rather help from home, you can make a donation.

7. Buy a gift certificate.

Due to mandated business closures across the country, the livelihoods of many small business owners and their employees are being put at risk as long as restaurants, shops, hair salons, and the like are being forced to close their doors. One simple way to continue showing your patronage is to purchase a gift certificate to be used at a later date.

10 Products for a Better Night's Sleep

Amazon/Comfort Spaces
Amazon/Comfort Spaces

Getting a full eight hours of sleep can be tough these days. If you’re having trouble catching enough Zzzs, consider giving these highly rated and recommended products a try.

1. Everlasting Comfort Pure Memory Foam Knee Pillow; $25

Everlasting Comfort Knee Pillow
Everlasting Comfort/Amazon

For side sleepers, keeping the spine, hips, and legs aligned is key to a good night’s rest—and a pain-free morning after. Everlasting Comfort’s memory foam knee pillow is ergonomically designed to fit between the knees or thighs to ensure proper alignment. One simple but game-changing feature is the removable strap, which you can fasten around one leg; this keeps the pillow in place even as you roll at night, meaning you don’t have to wake up to adjust it (or pick it up from your floor). Reviewers call the pillow “life-changing” and “the best knee pillow I’ve found.” Plus, it comes with two pairs of ear plugs.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Letsfit White Noise Machine; $21

Letsfit White Noise Machine
Letsfit/Amazon

White noise machines: They’re not just for babies! This Letsfit model—which is rated 4.7 out of five with nearly 3500 reviews—has 14 potential sleep soundtracks, including three white noise tracks, to better block out everything from sirens to birds that chirp enthusiastically at dawn (although there’s also a birds track, if that’s your thing). It also has a timer function and a night light.

Buy it: Amazon

3. ECLIPSE Blackout Curtains; $16

Eclipse Black Out Curtains
Eclipse/Amazon

According to the National Sleep Foundation, too much light in a room when you’re trying to snooze is a recipe for sleep disaster. These understated polyester curtains from ECLIPSE block 99 percent of light and reduce noise—plus, they’ll help you save on energy costs. "Our neighbor leaves their backyard light on all night with what I can only guess is the same kind of bulb they use on a train headlight. It shines across their yard, through ours, straight at our bedroom window," one Amazon reviewer who purchased the curtains in black wrote. "These drapes block the light completely."

Buy it: Amazon

4. JALL Wake Up Light Sunrise Alarm Clock; $38

JALL Wake Up Light Sunrise Alarm Clock
JALL/Amazon

Being jarred awake by a blaring alarm clock can set the wrong mood for the rest of your day. Wake up in a more pleasant way with this clock, which gradually lights up between 10 percent and 100 percent in the 30 minutes before your alarm. You can choose between seven different colors and several natural sounds as well as a regular alarm beep, but why would you ever use that? “Since getting this clock my sleep has been much better,” one reviewer reported. “I wake up not feeling tired but refreshed.”

Buy it: Amazon

5. Philips SmartSleep Wake-Up Light; $200

Philips SmartSleep Wake-Up Light
Philips/Amazon

If you’re looking for an alarm clock with even more features, Philips’s SmartSleep Wake-Up Light is smartphone-enabled and equipped with an AmbiTrack sensor, which tracks things like bedroom temperature, humidity, and light levels, then gives recommendations for how you can get a better night’s rest.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Slumber Cloud Stratus Sheet Set; $159

Stratus sheets from Slumber Cloud.
Slumber Cloud

Being too hot or too cold can kill a good night’s sleep. The Good Housekeeping Institute rated these sheets—which are made with Outlast fibers engineered by NASA—as 2020’s best temperature-regulating sheets.

Buy it: SlumberCloud

7. Comfort Space Coolmax Sheet Set; $29-$40

Comfort Spaces Coolmax Sheets
Comfort Spaces/Amazon

If $159 sheets are out of your price range, the GHI recommends these sheets from Comfort Spaces, which are made with moisture-wicking Coolmax microfiber. Depending on the size you need, they range in price from $29 to $40.

Buy it: Amazon

8. Coop Home Goods Eden Memory Foam Pillow; $80

Coop Eden Pillow
Coop Home Goods/Amazon

This pillow—which has a 4.5-star rating on Amazon—is filled with memory foam scraps and microfiber, and comes with an extra half-pound of fill so you can add, or subtract, the amount in the pillow for ultimate comfort. As a bonus, the pillows are hypoallergenic, mite-resistant, and washable.

Buy it: Amazon

9. Baloo Weighted Blanket; $149-$169

Baloo Weighted Blanket
Baloo/Amazon

Though the science is still out on weighted blankets, some people swear by them. Wirecutter named this Baloo blanket the best, not in small part because, unlike many weighted blankets, it’s machine-washable and -dryable. It’s currently available in 12-pound ($149) twin size and 20-pound ($169) queen size. It’s rated 4.7 out of five stars on Amazon, with one reviewer reporting that “when it's spread out over you it just feels like a comfy, snuggly hug for your whole body … I've found it super relaxing for falling asleep the last few nights, and it looks nice on the end of the bed, too.” 

Buy it: Amazon 

10. Philips Smartsleep Snoring Relief Band; $200

Philips SmartSleep Snoring Relief Band
Philips/Amazon

Few things can disturb your slumber—and that of the ones you love—like loudly sawing logs. Philips’s Smartsleep Snoring Relief Band is designed for people who snore when they’re sleeping on their backs, and according to the company, 86 percent of people who used the band reported reduced snoring after a month. The device wraps around the torso and is equipped with a sensor that delivers vibrations if it detects you moving to sleep on your back; those vibrations stop when you roll onto your side. The next day, you can see how many hours you spent in bed, how many of those hours you spent on your back, and your response rate to the vibrations. The sensor has an algorithm that notes your response rate and tweaks the intensity of vibrations based on that. “This device works exactly as advertised,” one Amazon reviewer wrote. “I’d say it’s perfect.”

Buy it: Amazon

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Seniors in a North Carolina Assisted Living Facility Are Looking for Pen Pals

Seniors in nursing homes are hoping to develop new friendships with pen pals.
Seniors in nursing homes are hoping to develop new friendships with pen pals.
MichaelShivers/iStock via Getty Images

Although coronavirus still holds many mysteries for the researchers working to understand it, one thing is certain: Older populations, particularly those in group living facilities, are at high risk of serious complications. Assisted living facilities around the country have largely shied away from allowing visitors, which means residents have little contact with anyone beyond staff.

Victorian Senior Care in North Carolina is looking to change that the old-fashioned way. They’re soliciting pen pals for their residents.

The facility, which has several locations throughout the state, has set up a program for residents looking to correspond with someone. Each person has a photo profile listing their name and interests. Enjoy video games? Then you might like exchanging letters with Robert at The Living Center of Concord. Know about farming and heavy farm equipment? Mr. Tom at The Village of Kingston is your man. Don’t mind an old rascal? Check out Leon at Montgomery Village, who likes “shag dancing” and “loves girls.”

You can find dozens more seniors who have a lot of life experience to share on the Victorian Care Center’s pen pal page. The program is already a success, with over 15,000 letters received to date. One location is even at letter capacity, as all the seniors looking for a new friend at their Phoenix Assisted Care location have a full dance card.

Other care facilities throughout the country are also hoping to match residents with pen pals. Ridgecrest Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center in Forney, Texas, has resident profiles on their Facebook page:

None of these facilities are offering email addresses, which means you’ll have to correspond like pen pals did for centuries—with pen and paper.

[h/t Victorian Senior Care]