The coronavirus has impacted every single Texan’s life in some way. From local governments extending stay-at-home orders, to children and their parents adjusting to school closures, and to a record number of Texans filing for unemployment assistance, we are living in a time in which we are all collectively frustrated and uneasy about what tomorrow could look like.
These days, people must stay aware of regulation changes and orders from the government in order to ensure safety and to not violate a new law.
But it has not been the government donating masks or offering curbside meals; communities themselves are doing that. Living during a pandemic, it becomes ever more clear that our government has limited resources to quickly and directly help those on the front line. But it’s also clear that we can turn to businesses and our neighbors for support and supplies.
As hospitals became frantic for necessary supplies to treat patients and remain safe, it has been businesses and individuals showing entrepreneurial spirit and becoming at-home manufacturers in order to help their communities. It is people that we know and can trust who are stepping up and filling in the gaps where the government and bureaucracy cannot.
There have been so many examples in the past couple of weeks to show how businesses big or small are helping their communities. Google last month pledged $800 million to assist small- and medium-sized businesses, health organizations, and governments that show partnership in their COVID-19 response plans. They have also partnered with Magid Glove & Safety to provide 2 to 3 million face masks for the CDC Foundation.
Closer to home, the I-Create Lab at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi has begun using its in-house laser cutter to create face shields for locally operated Driscoll Children’s Hospital. Alcohol distillers like Austin-based Tito’s Vodka, have started to produce hand sanitizer that they intend to give away for free in order to meet that need for every day Texans.
The Lady Cans, a Central Texas Girl Scouts robotics team, which normally prepares for competitions, have been using their access to 3D printers to produce face shields and headbands for Texas Oncology and Hospice Austin. They have already made 100 masks, and plan on making and donating more. And there have been Austin-area sewing groups coming together to sew cloth face masks that can be worn over the N95 masks hospital personnel must wear, allowing those on the front line to get extended use out of the mask.
Texans have a history of standing tall when their communities need them. Looking back at the summer of 2017, Hurricane Harvey brutally disrupted the Houston area, and it was businesses and neighbors that stepped up. They’re showing similar compassion now. Local business owners like Gallery Furniture owner Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale, who opened his stores during Harvey as temporary shelters, has offered curbside free meals to seniors and children during COVID-19.
In times like these, people want to use their skills and resources to help their communities. Group texts from colleagues and friends asking if you need a mask or offering extra groceries so an immunocompromised person doesn’t have to go outside show the compassion that we innately have.
Our local, state, and federal officials do not have the capacity to do we can do for our neighbors, and what our neighbors can do for us. We can remember this time not as an example of government failure, but as a shining model of community-building. Our relationships will come out of this stronger, and the help we offer now will build a sense of community that can weather any unexpected event in our futures.