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Playing: 7: Helping During COVID-19



Amberley Romo
Kurt Kemple

7: Helping During COVID-19

April 02, 2020

In this episode, Kurt and Amberley discuss ways we can all help support each other during the strange, scary time that is the COVID-19 pandemic.


Amberley (00:09): Howdy everyone welcome to Fullstack health, the podcast exploring mental and physical health in the tech industry. I'm Amberley.

Kurt (00:18): And I'm Kurt. Uh, and over the next two episodes we're going to be focusing specifically on what is on everyone's mind right now. And that's COVID-19 and the current pandemic. We're really breaking this up into two separate parts. First we're going to, today we're going to talk about what people are doing and what you can do to help during this time. Uh, and uh, then we want to follow up with that about coping. Cause like, I know this is a very stressful time for me. It's got my anxiety super high. Um, and yeah, so it's just nice to hear about how other people are coping with this and, and maybe I can pick up some things as well and share some things and yeah, this is just a kinda, you know, be part of the community and share this information. Um, yeah. Do you have anything you want to add?

Amberley (01:11): No, let's get right into it. So the first thing obviously we've heard over and over and over again in the last few weeks is wash your hands. Over and over again. Always. When in doubt, wash your hands and wash them the right way.

Kurt (01:30): Thoroughly. Yeah. Uh, there's a bunch of videos floating around which are very informative and some of them are also very funny that will, one, express the importance why it's so important to wash your hands so much and then, two, how to do it properly. Cause believe it or not, um, I thought I, you know, I was like, Oh, I just washed my hands for 20 seconds. And then I watched this really crazy video where they used, I think it was either ink, or paint and the person had on gloves and they showed how if you just do like a cursory scrub, a lot of it, his hands were still not covered in paint. Um, and so like you had to go back and scrub his wrists and dig in between the fingers and like lock his hands together to get it in all the little crevices. So that was very eye opening to me. Um, but yeah, wash your hands. That's, that's the key takeaway there.

Amberley (02:19): Yeah. And we can link that one. And also my favorite one that I've seen so far, I don't remember who it was, but on YouTube there's like the solution that people can use. It's like a fake germ solution. And so the guy with like show, all right, he's got all these fake germs, all over his hand and he shows like, all right, if I just rinse with water, this is what's left. And okay, if I just do a quick like five seconds, like, "doo doo doo", you know, here's how much residue is still left. And then showing like doing it really thoroughly. So I thought the whole like fake germs thing was interesting. So we can share that, those links.

Kurt (02:57): Oh yeah, we will have the links. Um, yeah. So something else that, uh, I wanted to follow up. So what we're going to kind of do is just go back and forth with things that we've seen or heard, um, that people are doing or we're doing ourselves. Uh, and just kinda share these tidbits just to catch you all up. Uh, something that's been very interesting that has popped up in my neighborhood is a lot of people, uh, who, who found themselves essentially like "anxiety purchasing" a lot of stuff that, uh, they probably did not need are using Facebook marketplace, uh, and, and Facebook in the local areas to, uh, basically sell things as free to give them away. So, uh, for people who don't, they have like a whole, uh, like Facebook group going and people who are in need of, of different items and then other people are, are supplying them and some people who just have a lot of extra and want to give it away to people who need or are selling it as free on Facebook marketplace. So I thought that was really cool.

Amberley (03:54): That is cool. And sort of related to that, I mean I've seen a lot of organizing on social platforms, but definitely specifically Facebook and Nextdoor, um, where not only like people asking, "Hey, does anyone have this that I can have?" or "Hey, I have a bunch of this, does anyone need it"? But also a lot of folks showing up and offering, like "I'll be going to the store if anyone's immunocompromised or in a position where they need stuff and they can't get out somewhere, let me know and I'll pick it up for you". Um, we have a bunch of folks in our neighborhood who work for different grocery stores and they'll offer like, Hey, I have a shift on X day and if someone needs something, I can pick it up before or after and drop it on your doorstep. Um, so there's a lot of, at least in my neighborhood, and I've heard a lot of other people, if you go looking for these groups and Facebook pages and stuff, um, there's a lot of neighborhood local-level mobilization to help out.

Kurt (05:01): Yeah, that's, yeah. I've see-- I've been seeing a lot of that on Facebook as well. A lot of people in my community are getting help. It's something that I might even have to start thinking about because I've been not taking my rheumatoid arthritis medicine because it's, uh, it lowers, like slows down my immune system. That's what it does. It's how it combats rheumatoid arthritis, so I can't take it. But then it's like a-- a time bomb until I get to a point where the RA is so bad that I'll have to take my meds again. And just to be able to like get around. So for that whole week like we'll have to be on full lockdown, like no one from the house will be able to go outside or do anything and won't be able to go to get grocery stores at least until my immune systems starts to boost back up a little bit. So yeah, we're, we're going to be relying heavily on our, our neighborhood and my brother that lives nearby to help us. Yeah.

Amberley (05:56): Um, next one, eh, for me is donate blood. A couple of weeks ago, sort of before, a lot of this sort of escalated, uh, here, um, me and some friends went to donate blood at our local blood bank. And the cool thing is I've been seeing, at least from our local blood bank, and I've been seeing, I think from the Red Cross that like a lot of people have been responding to this call because with the social distancing and everything, mobile blood drives and you know, all these events that these blood banks rely on to get blood products, a lot of those were being canceled so they don't have their normal kind of inflow. A lot of people have answered that call, but it's going to be really, really important not just now, but in the coming weeks and months as we're still dealing with this, um, to donate whole blood, donate platelets, donate, you know, just see what the need is in your community and if you're in a position to do so, consider doing that.

Kurt (07:03): Yeah, I really love that one. It's something that I didn't even think about. Um, so when you mentioned it, I was, uh, very surprised. Like, yeah, it's something that you don't think about. Uh, but they'll always be a need for blood. And I mean, we're pretty much always at a shortage already. And so in a time like this, I can only imagine how bad it is.

Amberley (07:23): Yeah. And also check your, whatever your local blood bank is that you would go to. They're taking extra precaution to make sure it's safe for you and for them. And for everyone else. Um, you know, they don't want you coming if you have any, any, any kind of symptoms. Um, my local one has gone to appointment only. It used to be appointment and drop in, but they're, yeah. Managing who's in the building by going appointment only. So we're all trying to social distance but at the same time like trying to help productively and sort of consciously.

Kurt (08:06): Yeah. And I think it's an important, um, thing to recognize the difference between like social distancing, you know, is prefaced with the word social, right? So it's like for things that are important, like you need to eat right and you have to have food, you need to get food or maybe get food delivered or you want to donate blood. And it's like, you know, at, uh, at the blood bank where they've set up and prepared for it as much as they can. I think those things are still very important and we should continue to do those, uh, for as long as we can, uh, and just limit the amount of social interactions that we're doing just for the sake of interacting, which is important interacting with people, but in person right now. Big no-no. Yeah. Yeah.

Kurt (08:52): And, uh, yeah, so I, I, uh, switching gears a little bit from that, uh, I want to talk about local businesses. Local businesses are doing, um, pretty rough right now actually. They're doing extremely rough right now. However, you know, check with, uh, you know, what the local government in your area has specified and and deemed safe. We are still getting food delivered, uh, relatively regularly. We're, you know, obviously buying groceries as well, but we're trying to eat out once, twice every couple of days, um, which is about as much as we can swing. Um, but yeah, just making sure that we're trying to support local businesses. We're switching it up, like we try and cycle through different restaurants, you know. Um, but yeah, if you can afford to eat out, which, you know, not everyone can all the time, but yeah. Do it. And something else that we've been doing is tipping, um, our delivery drivers well above and beyond like what we would normally do or the normal 20%. Like generally we're doing 20 bucks or $30 at a time to try and help out. And same thing with like grocery pickup. Technically a lot of places have policies in place that you're not really supposed to tip, but those people are being overworked. Um, and you know, times are getting tough, so if you can tipping them as well is nice.

Amberley (10:10): Yeah. It's been really interesting to see how some of the restaurants in Austin have, um, they've just decided to not do pickup, not do delivery, not transition into anything. So some of them are closed, but then also some that have never had any kind of pickup or takeout process or anything have started to do that. So I would say check-in somehow online with what's available.

Kurt (10:43): Or their preferred method because it might differ, like they might have their own delivery as opposed to wanting you to like use door dash or something.

Amberley (10:50): Yeah. So there were a lot of Austin institutions that like either have no parking or you know, they're like difficult to park or get to where Austin has actually converted some on-street, on-street parking, like paid parking into customer pickup zones, uh, for some of the, for some of these restaurants. So a lot of interesting things, uh, happening to try to facilitate that. I think.

Amberley (11:20): Another thing you can do, just one of the first things that I started doing was to buy gift cards from local businesses. So there are a lot of things that I would do on a regular monthly basis, uh, that, you know, instead of, I mean, most, most of them aren't things that I can go do now, obviously, but I would still buy a gift card or a gift certificate with what I would have spent, even if the business is closed temporarily or whatever it is, just to keep their cash flow going.

Kurt (12:01): That is a fantastic one. And I didn't think about, you're basically just like stockpiling things you would have done. Like I'm going to do that for my barber shop for like a haircut and like all different places. I never even thought about that. That's genius.

Amberley (12:16): Mhm, yeah. So just trying to keep, keep my spending habits on certain things like that. Just the same.

Kurt (12:24): Yeah.

Amberley (12:24): And something I've heard back from people is like, well that just pushes it down the line where like if you buy a gift certificate and then you use it later, they're not getting the money at that point. But from what I've heard is, I mean, making sure that they have inflow right now is what's helpful.

Kurt (12:45): Yeah. Yeah. Which makes sense. Um, yeah, and I mean, I don't know most places where I go, you purchase the, the gift certificate on the spot and then you redeem it later. So I don't see how they wouldn't be getting the money now. I guess maybe if it's like the gift card is like something,

Amberley (13:02): No, no, no, they would be getting the money now. But in the sense that like later you wouldn't be spending the money again.

Kurt (13:08): Right, right. I think that's still better. Other people will be spending money, so it's like,

Amberley (13:14): Mhm, yeah.

Kurt (13:17): Got it. Huh. Yeah. Um, another really interesting thing, uh, that has come up that I've found myself, uh, doing and other people doing too is trying to find interesting ways to put, uh, existing skills to use. Uh, as someone who's familiar with technology, a lot of local businesses may not be as familiar with technology as you are. And things as simple as setting up zoom calls with like 20 or 30 people might be very confusing to others who aren't used to video conferencing at all. Uh, more concrete examples is I've been helping my gym set up online classes so that people can still attend and can still do that. I've been helping my tattoo artists set up online shop, so that he could sell merchandise cause right now he can't tattoo. So he's going to be pivoting into selling like his art and different stuff like that. And those are just like two examples. There's a lot of other things that you could do and there's a lot of projects and I'm sure that could be found where people can need help. Um, you know, on a technical side, which is a skill that we have, um, and we can give and donate directly from our home, which is generally, which is, um, our true blessing and privileged. So, yeah. Uh, yeah, that's, that's one thing that I've been trying to, uh, do as much as possible have as I can.

Amberley (14:44): Yeah. So to me they're like two sides of that, right? Like we can use our software skills to me and some Gatsby folks put together a Gatsby theme, um, where people can stand up resource sites, uh, for their particular community and just we put it out there in case anyone would find it useful. Um, Contentful and Netlify and Gatsby all together, uh, put together this project called stop the spread, uh, which you can create a website for announcements and information sharing. Um, one cool project that I saw early on is called takeout tracker, just made by, uh, two folks here in Austin. They're just like cataloging the states of different restaurants here in Austin or whether they're doing pickup or delivery or closed or whatever. So I know the tendency is for people in the software and dev world to want to build a solution for everything. And um, that's not all we should do. We can't fix this with software. Um, but some people are doing some cool things. It's not all we should do, but some cool things are happening.

Kurt (16:02): Yeah, I completely agree. Software is definitely not the solution to saving us from this pandemic or saving the world at all. But we can find ways to, you know, make it useful on a much smaller scale. And it's nice.

Amberley (16:17): Yeah. Yeah. And then the other side to that, um, you know, the things you can use your skills and build, the other side to that is I'm supporting your local gyms and studios taking online classes and things. You were talking about setting up zoom calls and my old yoga studio in Dallas, I took their first online zoom facilitated drop in class and it was funny cause the other figuring out how to meet, how to mute everyone and how to run a class where they can like see the teacher and whatever. That's a great way to keep your local studios and local gyms going. My gym here is doing, um, online programming for all gym members and they're streaming workouts twice a day on Instagram live for anyone. So it's cool to see, um, the different ways the different gym and studio businesses are adapting to this. But if you can, you know, either your existing gym or studio or you know, maybe you're feeling stuck at home and you've never done yoga before, I look for a local studio that you can do a $10 drop-in pass or something. Um, just to keep supporting them, too.

Kurt (17:39): Yeah. And as a quick follow up to that for things that you're already paying for, um, continue to pay for if you can, right? Even if you're not using it, even the company is like emailing you or calling you, telling you, "Hey, we're going to pause this." Child care for, uh, my son, we've decided to, you know, we're going to continue paying for it even though we're not using it. He's home with us every day, but we're just going to continue to pay. Uh, and they're providing a lot of online, you know, things that, um, like, like activities and stuff like that. But even if they weren't, you know, if you're just in the position where you can, it's already a monthly expense. Um, you know, so we just decided to keep it going as if it was, you know, everyday, normal. And then one of the other things that we've been doing is like you mentioned, looking for things that are new that we want to try that we could do. Like my wife Donna, she's signing up for online, um, like dance classes essentially. Yeah. So it'd be cool. Yeah.

Amberley (18:42): Yeah. I signed up for an online like portrait drawing class. Uh, someone on the Gatsby team shared, they'd taken a watercolor class at this place in California and they're moving toward online classes. So yeah, that's something that I've always thought about doing anyway. So I saw the link and was like, well, sounds like a good time to do it. So those classes are moving online. Um, and we'll talk about this more in the coping episode, but I think it's important to draw a distinction between that sounds fun and relaxing and like a good opportunity to do that versus like forcing yourself to find a way to be productive in a multitude of ways right now. Um, and again, we'll talk about that next time, but she wanted to drop that since we're talking about stuff like that right now.

Kurt (19:34): Yeah, that's, yeah, that's a very good point. And, uh, I was saying that I want to do virtual "Paint and Sips". That's cause I just thought about that because you brought up painting. I thought that'd be fun. You know, like the wine and painting classes. Yeah.

Amberley (19:49): Yeah. All right. Um, another one is-- and I'm not sure how much this is going right now, uh, but at least a few weeks ago, it was a pretty big deal, at least here in Austin as fostering an animal from a shelter. You know, they're not getting, they're not getting the same foot traffic. Um, they're not, a lot of them have their doors closed, like the shelters here in Austin are close to the public, um, and have sort of a skeleton crew of volunteers and staff, um, doing what they need to do. But, um, for the most part, they're trying to get as many animals as they can into foster homes in this time. So if you're bored at home and feeling lonely, um, it could be a good thing for you and an animal that needs a home. Um, and I would check with your local shelter, rescues or, you know, whatever those are, because they're all handling it differently in terms of whether they're even still facilitating foster, whether they're still facilitating adoption. You know, I don't know what each individual different, uh, shelter and rescue group thing. Uh, but it's definitely a way to help out those organizations.

Kurt (21:07): Yeah. That's another one that I love. I mean, giving blood too, that's like, oof, but yeah, fostering animals, fostering pets. Like there's a lot of animals out there that could use a foster home and we're not going anywhere. Right. So there's no better time really than right now.

Amberley (21:23): Yeah. My, uh, my neighbors brought home a cat to foster like just a week or two ago and I think it's already, it's already sounding like a foster fail, but

Kurt (21:36): Ah, ha I love a good foster fail. Yes. Yeah. We're actually looking for, uh, we should, we should do some fostering. It's a bit tricky. We have so many animals, but yeah, as long as they're friendly with like kids and dogs and cats and other barnyard animals. Yeah.

Amberley (21:52): Well, I'm an expert in foster failure now. I got into my third year before I failed.

Kurt (22:01): Wow, these are all, uh, awesome things so far that we've talked about and actually that basically runs out my list, those are most of the things that I've seen going on. Um, do you have any other things that people should, you know, uh, people can do to help out? How's your list looking?

Amberley (22:18): Uh, just a couple. Um, my next one is pay for local news, uh, and pay for news in general. Um, whether you've been meaning to support a news org or if you already do, uh, consider branching out. I mean they're doing a lot of legwork to cover all of this right now and we took a Saturday afternoon, not last Saturday, Saturday before just to like look at, um, which ones are we already supporting, what support do we want to expand? Um, what new sources do we consume that we're not necessarily supporting yet? Uh, and I just personally think that's really important, especially cause I have a lot of journalists, journalists, friends from back in my DC days.

Kurt (23:12): Yeah. Yeah. No, it's, I mean it's just we need to be informed and it's again, something that I wouldn't have even thought of. I'm so glad that you brought it up. Yeah. Like you take for granted sometimes, like how, how easy access to information can be, but when it comes to the local area information, there's nothing like local news.

Amberley (23:35): Yeah, yeah. I've been relying a lot on, yeah, the Texas Tribune and y'know, looking at your local, then also like I've been listening to The Daily and supporting the New York times and I'm just looking at it on your super local level, your state level, your national level, and beyond.

Kurt (23:59): Mmm.

Amberley (24:02): And then my last one, I can actually just sort of wrap up all into one, which is, um, for businesses and things that aren't necessarily able to translate keeping up their, um, inflow into pickup or takeout or whatever it is, a lot of them are putting up independent, um, GoFundMe's or putting up links to general local funds. Uh, like one of my friends was furloughed from Alamo Drafthouse and you know, they have a fund that they're putting up and promoting. Um, some places like especially coffee shops and stuff in the area are putting up like virtual tip jars. So if you do an online pickup order and you can also contribute to the virtual tip jar, or if you don't want to go get something, you can just do the virtual tip jar. And then a lot of people are just straight up Venmo going money to friends and contacts in their networks who are expressing that they need help. So if you have some extra cash, you're lucky enough to be in that position. I'm just, you know, keeping, keep an eye out for friends and people in your network who are asking for support.

Kurt (25:31): Yeah, it's funny. This is something that we've been doing. I didn't really think of as like a tip, but yeah, absolutely right. Like help out anyone in your community who you can, who you know, you know, is in need. Uh, and it doesn't have to be a lot, right? Like even a couple dollars is more than no dollars. So, yeah.

Amberley (25:53): Yeah. And, uh, we'll also talk about this a lot more in the next episode, but another important thing to caveat to this that, uh, I meant to mention at the beginning I forgot, is you and I both are lucky enough to already have remote jobs that are relatively stable--

Kurt (26:16): Very privileged.

Amberley (26:16): Very privileged to be in that position. So we're primarily giving these recommendations and ideas to people who are in a position to do so. If you're not in a position to do any of these things, um, that's okay.

Kurt (26:37): Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Uh, you ha, yeah. Yeah. Take care of yourself, right? This is tough times. It's very uncertain times, weird times, right. It's not something I, uh, we've experienced in I guess the modern area, the area where we're globally connected. Um, and to have something this wide spreading, it's pretty, I feel like this'll be one of the things that people talk about for a very long time to come. Yeah. This is, this is our walking uphill both ways to school, like in a snow storm. This is, and not to make light of it, this is a very serious situation, but like in 30 years from now this is definitely going to be like, Oh well you've never had to be inside for like half of a year cause there's a pandemic. So it's pretty interesting.

Amberley (27:38): Yeah. It'll be interesting to see how it's, I was talking to my partner last night, it was like they're the handful of things in your life that you-- like I've been thinking over and over again of like, this is one of those things that like goes in the history books of kids that are, you know, later going to like read about it and it's, I don't know, every once in a while I'm having that moment of realization where it's just like you like feel like something very small in something historical and it's just a weird time.

Kurt (28:16): It definitely is. Yeah. And, and with that, you know, if you have a, I just, something else I want to think of, but if you're listening to this and you have any tips or ideas or things that you're doing, I mean, feel free to share them with us for sure. But like even a tweet or a thing, you, you'd be amazed. Uh, Amberley just ran off five things that, you know, never even crossed my mind to do. And some of them are things that I can definitely do. And, uh, you know, you never know. So you might, you might be sitting on a gold mine for somebody else to be able to help someone and they just haven't thought about it. So, yeah, tweet it out, share it, write a blog post. Do you know, do whatever you can if you're in a position to,

Amberley (28:58): Yeah. Uh, yeah, the thing that I would want to close on is, um, two things. First, reach out to the people in your life who are doing sort of the most clutch critical jobs at this point. Um, nurses, doctors, healthcare providers, grocery store workers. Uh, be very, very kind to your delivery folks. And like Kurt was saying, you know, this is not a time to be tipping at your normal rate. Uh, make sure you show your appreciation to them and reach out to them and check in on your people. Like make an extra effort to check in. Especially, you know, people who maybe live alone or that you don't talk to as often. Just to let them know that you're thinking about them, and just connect with them. Watch out, watch out for all your people.

Kurt (30:02): That's it. Watch out for your peeps and another yeah, yeah, exactly. Yeah. And you know, some people too, uh, being caught indoors, especially for extroverted people can be a lot, um, to take in. So if you know that you have some friends or family who are particularly used to having a bunch of people around, definitely reach out to them.

Amberley (30:24): All right, well we'll be back soon talking about the other side of this, which is how we can all deal with this. Yes.

Kurt (30:34): Uh, yeah. And that'll be real soon. So stay tuned. Thank you for joining us.

Amberley (30:38): Yeah. Thank you. Be well, everyone. We mean it.