A Community Effort: Supporting Neighbors and Local Industry During the COVID-19 Crisis

How do you support your community when you can’t leave the house?

This is the question many are asking across the United States as the threat of coronavirus has essentially shut down life as we know it. Restaurants, theaters, casinos, gyms and bars are among the many businesses that have been forced to close their doors in one way or another, and residents of multiple states are being told to stay at home to lessen the coronavirus spread and decrease the impact on hospitals. Couple that with the sudden lack of income for staff who have been laid off or furloughed, and you’re left with a two-headed monster of a healthcare and economic crisis.

That said, even with residents mostly isolated within their homes, affected communities are still banding together to help each other out. In Louisiana for example, Governor John Bel Edwards has issued a stay-at-home order for the entire state, but businesses that provide essential services are exempt. This exemption is allowing many restaurants to continue operating, but the catch is that the food can only be provided through delivery or pick up — dining in is not an option.

But for those who can and would like to help restaurants cope with these incredible challenges, there are businesses and organizations pitching in to make it easier. Local publications are posting the statuses of restaurants and updating the information frequently. In Baton Rouge, there is also the Keep BR Serving campaign, which helps staff cover lost wages when customers purchase gift cards at participating restaurants. In Austin, Texas, Catering2Austin has emerged as a food and convenience item takeout service for locals impacted by the quarantine. And certain delivery apps are doing their part as well, including Uber Eats, which has stopped charging delivery fees on local restaurant orders in the United States and Canada. The Baton Rouge Restaurant Coalition is also teaming up with several delivery services to promote local restaurant deliveries via gift card rewards. Door Dash is also helping out by making no-contact delivery a default choice as the pandemic goes on, keeping customers, delivery drivers and, ultimately, communities safer.

And even though most grocery stores are staying open because they provide an essential service, many must adapt to meet the new demand for pickup and delivery orders. Since March 2, Instacart, Amazon and Walmart grocery delivery services have seen at least a 65-percent sales increase compared to the same time last year. And a delivery app was just released specifically for the bodegas that many New Yorkers depend on for their groceries. But unfortunately, because of the chaos this situation has caused across the country, food orders are being delayed up to a week and even canceled altogether at some grocery store pickup locations.

However, while some industries are being overwhelmed with the new needs and expectations they must meet, others have been able to shift gears more easily to address the pandemic. Tito’s Vodka has pledged to make 24 tons of hand sanitizer, and Lexington Brewing and Distilling Co., which includes Woodford Reserve, Old Forester and Rabbit Hole distilleries, has also joined the growing number of adult beverage companies making the transition. At home in Louisiana, we are seeing breweries and distilleries joining in this incredible effort as well, with Sugarland Spirits in Gonzalez producing and providing free hand sanitizer to visitors who drop in with their own containers. And Broussard-based Parish Brewing has changed its policies to keep customers and employees safer, exclusively taking preorders and delivering to the trunks of customers to eliminate person-to-person contact.

But of course businesses aren’t the only ones being affected by the coronavirus pandemic. By this point we’ve all seen the heart-wrenching photo of an elderly woman staring at an empty shelf in her local supermarket. Focusing on the well-being of those who are most vulnerable and in need can literally save lives. Donations to nonprofits, such as local food banks and Meals on Wheels, are needed now more than ever. And there are also websites such as CharityWatch and Charity Navigator to help individuals locate and assess charities before making donations. And aside from donations, if you know someone in need, you can share information about programs designed to help those who may be struggling to find food as a result of the pandemic.

It’s at times like these, when our mettle is tested, that we truly see what great things we are capable of. Please take care of yourself, take care of your loved ones and, whenever possible, take care of your neighbor, because they’re someone’s loved one, too. After all, if you look out for others, people tend to remember that. Just don’t be the a*$#%@& with a garage full of toilet paper and 17,000 bottles of hand sanitizer, because people tend to remember that, too.

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