Amberley Romo

What Can I Do During COVID-19

March 21, 2020

In the last week, like everyone else dealing with this situation, I've swung between so many different emotions. Not only is this a weird time, but there's no playbook for the weird time. I'm finding it harder to sleep and harder to focus, with my mind going down a million pathways. On the one hand it's a normal Saturday morning -- I'm here in my house, with my puppies at my feet, and my partner playing Animal Crossing (why is everyone obsessed with this game right now?) There's a combination of the tedium of normal-ish albeit socially distant home life, but there's also the overwhelming weight of everything out there. How do I relate to out there right now? How do I engage with it? What's my responsibility to engage or not engage, and in what ways? See: Plague Dread.

This is just going to be a list of the things:

  1. I've been trying to do personally to help others and cope personally,
  2. I've heard from friends or via the internet that are ideas to help others and cope personally.

Maybe I'll organize it at some point. Right now getting it out of my brain is an achievement.


  • Wash your hands. Obviously, but it has to be said.
  • Stay home as much as possible. Obviously, but it has to be said. There's a meme going around, Your grandparents were called to war. You are being called to sit on your couch. You can do this. Also see this great website,
  • Donate blood. Before things get worse. Blood banks are anticipating a critical shortage as this goes on.
  • Offer to run errands for vulnerable folks. My neighborhood has a Facebook group, but there's also Nextdoor, etc -- people are offering and coordinating running errands for elderly and immunocompromised folks.
  • Get delivery/pickup from local restaurants. Especially Chinese restaurants. Ask them to drop at the doorstep with no contact (some restaurants are just doing this as a policy, which is great), or pick-up. A lot of restaurants are finalizing pick-up orders online to minimize contact, bringing it to the car, etc. Austin has converted paid on-street parking areas into free customer pick-up zones for restaurants that don't have parking lots or drive-throughs.
  • Stop panic shopping / stockpiling. It creates more problems. If you did stockpile, consider donating excess.
  • Build a resource website, maybe. Software can't solve everything, but if you see a need in your community, try to fill it. Me and some Gatsby folks are working on building a Gatsby theme where people can spin up their own city-specific resource sites that index for local support. Check out the (in progress) site for the theme, and the site I stood up for Austin.
  • Venmo money to friends who are out of work. Me and a lot of the people I'm connected with in this industry are lucky to have already-remote and more stable jobs than many other industries in this atmosphere. Use that, and do what you can.
  • Donate money or food to your local food bank.
  • Donate personal protective gear (PPE) to your local ER/clinic. If you're one of those people who panic-bought gloves and masks, donate them to the people on the front lines.
  • Buy gift cards from local businesses. Whether they're open or not. Gift cards / gift certificates will help them keep going right now.
  • Use virtual tip jars. Some coffee shops and restaurants around here, even if they're still doing pickup/delivery, have set up virtual tip jars to support employees. Support your most beloved institutions and the people who make them what they are.
  • Donate to local funds and GoFundMes. There are existing funds and new ones popping up in this time. (Austin list.)
  • Delay non-urgent/elective medical procedures, and urge others to do the same. My guess is these will get cancelled by providers anyway, but try not to take up space in the medical system right now where possible.
  • Take online workout classes. Lots of in-person gyms and studios are figuring out how to stream classes, both free and paid. Support your small gym or studio by, if feasible for you, continuing your membership or paying for online drop-ins if they're offering that.
  • Thank people who are doing the most clutch, critical jobs -- often the ones that put them at the most risk. Let the nurses, doctors, healthcare providers, grocery store workers, delivery folks in your life know you appreciate them.
  • Foster an animal. If you're able to stay home for the most part anyway, bring home a shelter animal. Most shelters are closing to the public and having absolute barebones staff to care for animals, and are making an effort to get as many animals into homes as possible, even temporarily.
  • Pay for local news. Or there won't be local news. I support KUT (Austin's NPR station), the Texas Tribune (a Texas media org based in Austin reporting on public policy, politics, government and statewide issues), The Washington Post (my choice for national news, as a previous DC resident) and The Economist (my choice for broader news).


  • Check in on friends and family. A call, a text, a videochat.
  • Watch comedy, escapist things. We're watching standup and old favorites that we haven't seen in a long time. (Last night was Napoleon Dynamite. It's still... Napoleon Dynamite).
  • Go for a walk. We love walking in the neighborhood, but the last few days we've seen so, SO many people walking. It's a bizarrely heart-warming silver lining to this bullshit.
  • Do virtual movie nights and happy hours. Sometimes I don't know what to say to friends right now, and I'm lucky to have my partner at home, so I still can talk to someone. Remember your friends who live alone, and find ways to emulate normal engagement.
  • Put up Christmas lights. This is a weird one but I've heard it's making people happy. Put up Christmas lights so people can drive and enjoy without contact.
  • Learn something. Lots of people are streaming teaching how to cook things, etc. There's so much online learning now. Pick up something you're interested in.
  • Reconnect with an old hobby. Sort of like the above. I haven't really knitted in awhile, I'll probably do more of that in the next few months.
  • Find a meditation app or meditation podcast. If you've thought about trying meditation, now would be a great time.
  • Create a structure for your day. Whatever that looks like for you. Structure helps us keep a sense of control in our lives, which is sorely lacking right now.
  • Organize your home. Sounds kinda dumb, but an organized, clean space is good for your mental health. Take the time at home to put some care into your space. It doesn't have to be a model home but... we got the time, right now.
  • Check out digital offerings from your library. Now's a good time to check out Libby, and see what ebooks and audiobooks are available through your library.
  • Seek information updates at specific times. Advice from the WHO. I'm not doing so great with this, but it sure sounds like a good idea.

Do you have more? Please tweet me at @amber1ey. I'm maintaining this for myself, if anyone else finds it useful, that makes me happy.

© 2023 Amberley Romo