COMMENTARY: How coronavirus launched a ‘caremongering’ movement

As the days turns to weeks, the coronavirus pandemic continues to consume us. We don’t know how long this global crisis will last.

Whether it be working at home with kids in tow, dealing with the impacts of a sudden layoff, or forging on in the frontlines at a feverish pace, we are all adjusting to respective new realities. But amid all the uncertainty and chaos, a kindness has emerged.

Normally a rather individualistic society, the novel coronavirus has brought out a sense of community. Ironically, while we are social distancing, we have become more compassionate to those around us — those very same people who mere weeks ago, we may have passed without a glance in our daily grind. We are now not only acknowledging, but also taking care of one another.

Don’t be fooled, though. I’m no fool either, and know that when we say, “We’re all in this together,” some of us are not. I see there are heroes and villains in this crisis. I see that this virus has brought out the worst in some people, too — from the hoarders with crates of Lysol and toilet paper to the vile racist and xenophobic behaviour against Asians.

But this isn’t about them. This is about all the people who are spreading love, not the virus. This is about the people who are making good deeds contagious. Individuals and companies alike are coming together for the greater good.

Just a few short days ago, “caremongering” was something I’d never heard of, because the term didn’t yet exist.

Now, a newly created Facebook group using the moniker has quickly evolved into over 35 local groups serving communities across Canada, including Halifax, Ottawa and Saskatoon, with more than 21,000 members in the Toronto group alone. These groups aim to help those in need and particularly support the most vulnerable and those at greatest risk from COVID-19 within their communities.

Of course, there are our frontline heroes, including the many retired nurses and doctors who have stepped up to the challenge and returned to work, putting their own lives at risk for the sake of their communities. My kultur’D radio show co-host Bee Quammie’s mother is one such hero, among many.

One of the most vulnerable communities in this pandemic is our elderly. But it is not just their physical well-being at risk; with strict visitor restrictions at retirement and nursing homes, their mental health has been put in a fragile state, with isolation making quiet, empty days feel even lonelier.

The Big Brothers Big Sisters chapter in Oxford County has started a unique penpal program to help keep seniors connected despite a clampdown on visitors. Kids and parents interested in writing letters can contact the organization and become a “PanPal” — a pandemic penpal.

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Many companies have quickly pivoted to provide products needed to fight the spread of the virus. Across the country, independent distilleries are swapping handcrafting spirits for making hand sanitizer in the fight against COVID-19.

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