Edit: Updated 8/4/2020, to reflect the improved flow of good information in Australia.
Maybe you feel helpless right now. Maybe you’re frustrated and upset and angry, and you want to channel that into something.
Heavy exercise is an option. Physical labour, if you’ve got a yard that requires tending.
Failing that, I have a few suggestions:
1) for scientists
If you’re involved with medical research – not COVID-19 research – I strongly urge you to see if you have any RNA extraction kits, specifically for automated platforms, that contain unopened reagents or unused cartridges. Specific focus on those that target sputum, swabs, blood, serology (I’m dumping every keyword out of my head onto the screen here). These are urgently needed. I cannot possibly state this strongly enough.
I know that these are expensive items, and research so often runs on a shoestring, and I have no idea how remuneration would be handled. Whatever you can spare. Maybe even what you can’t. Please contact the testing facility in your state and see what they need.
Addendum: This applies even if you’re not in Australia! Kit shortages exist worldwide. Here is a shot of scientific community in action. Make it happen. Spread the word.
2) for communicators and critical thinkers
Edited: since I first wrote this, the situation has changed, at least in Australia. Information as a whole is flowing more smoothly, and tends to be in more agreement across multiple sources. I certainly feel less pressure to communicate and translate than I did. We seem to have a higher testing capacity, although it still has to be restricted according to certain triage criteria.
My cynical soul is cautiously optimistic.
I think part of this has been the push for action from the state premiers of NSW and Victoria, since those states were hit the hardest; this ended up dragging federal representatives, kicking and screaming, into some semblance of a rational response. I can’t say that for certain – that’s just what it looked like from the outside. My attention span for the minutiae of Australian politics is… limited.
I still have some concerns, but they’re no longer towering, overwhelming infernos.
The maxim “people can’t make good decisions without good information” still holds, and if you have concerns about the information you’re getting (and I don’t mean odd blips of one or two people in the data, that’s all being managed on the fly; mistakes happen, they are corrected, another mistake happens; these are not usually enormous in magnitude), it’s still worth digging, curating and filtering.
I’m not sure if it’s worth arguing with the conspiracy theorists about 5G, because holy shit, that is a giant pile of horse puckey, but if letting such flat out silliness stand unchallenged is not something you can do, what the heck. Go to town. Be the voice of reason (and possibly justified snark) for people reading over it.
Honestly, anyone in this category is probably already doing all this, and maybe needs to take a break from it (like yours truly). But if you’ve got the mental batteries, we need to widen that net.
3) for SCUBA divers
Here’s an odd one. In Australia, we’re not there yet, but we may end up in a situation where we need oxygen cylinders faster than we can fill them. If you have a cylinder, consider loaning it to the cause. It obviously will need to be O2 cleaned and there will be an issue with valve fittings (I’m really hoping some enterprising person will turn up with a sterile 3D printer and solve this one), but the more cylinders we have that are filled and ready to go, the easier it will be to keep the supply coming.
Probably steel or aluminium is fine. If anyone knows otherwise, correct me.
These are pricey items, and it’s hard to let go of them knowing they’re going to be disassembled (and I’m assuming that you’ll get them back eventually), but oxygen is still the major treatment for viral pneumonia. Maybe you could save lives.
(I’m going to look into how to organise this, but it may take me a bit. If we’re lucky, we won’t get to that point, because refitting dive cylinders is an extreme endgame, but I was asked by someone who was trying to outline long term logistics, so I figure it’s not utterly implausible)
4) for Australians
Australia experienced appalling catastrophic fires this summer, and the bushfire smoke was suffocating and awful. In order to cope, a fair few people in New South Wales and Victoria got their hands on P2 masks – both the disposable kind from Bunnings, and the machine washable cloth sort where you replace the filter.
P2 masks are functionally identical to N95s, and healthcare workers are in desperate need. There simply are not enough to go around, and it’s only going to get worse.
The temptation to keep a hold of your stash is strong, and understandable.
But if you do get sick, you’re likely to need medical treatment. You want your doctors and nurses to be wearing masks, because otherwise, they could act as vectors. They could catch your illness and pass it on. They could carry disease from other patients and give it to you (which may matter, even if you already have it, because of the increase in viral load. I’m not sure on this one, but caution is certainly indicated).
Your own best interests are served by passing these on, especially to GP clinics, nursing homes, palliative care sites, and the at home doctor service, as these groups don’t have access to the dwindling national stockpile.
Also, cloth masks need to have the filters changed regularly; the masks themselves need to be swapped over and washed regularly as well. Without the reusable filters and without being changed, cloth masks significantly under-perform disposables. Best not to wear them for more than an hour at a stretch.
They must also fit correctly.
Please, please consider donating your masks. Healthcare workers are risking their lives every day to take care of us.
Alternatively, if you are handy and you would like to make masks, it’s actually not too hard to find filter material to include as an insert. There’s a good Twitter thread on that here (with limitations acknowledged).
5) for everyone
Do you know any doctors? Any nurses? Hospital staff currently pulling ludicrous shifts?
Reach out. Ask if they need a hand. Do they need someone to do a grocery run for them and leave it on the front porch? Do they need someone to walk a dog? Maybe they just need a friendly ear, or a tupperware container full of casserole.
We need them to stay upright and functional, which is the rational argument. The compassionate argument is that they are all going through a lot right now, including cleaners and receptionists, and many of them are taking huge risks. We should take a moment to appreciate that.
While I’m on that, it’s been noised about, but remember that people involved in essential supply lines are also out there in the community, facing the risk of transmission and also copping a shitload of abuse they don’t deserve. Be kind to retail workers, shelf-stackers, and yes, Centrelink staff. If you’re frustrated and scared, try to remember that’s not their fault.
Maybe reach out to some of them as well.
There are a tonne of community groups popping up all over the world where people are asking for what they need and offering help. Community is an empowering thing, which is an odd thing to say from someone as profoundly anti-social as I can be at times, but it is. We all need to know we’re not alone, especially when we’re forced by circumstances to maintain physical distance.
All this helps.
I’m a bit tapped out, folks. References may come later, and I’ll add to this when my brain starts working again.