In less than a week, our world changed. 

When the state’s secretary of health and human services texted me late last Monday night, asking me to call her, I had no idea what was about to unfold.

COVID-19 hit swiftly, as pandemics do. I listened as people complained about being inconvenienced, not fulling processing what was occurring. Others pondered what would happen if schools closed. They worried about our small businesses and hospitality workers. They debated the need to work from home. Some asked what they could do to help. 

A handful asked: “What’s the deal with toilet paper?” 

I’m still trying to figure that one out.

Here’s the thing. Just as our world changed in one week, it’s going to change again over the next week. And the next. COVID-19 is in front of us, not behind us. And we are all going to have to do our part to respond. We are all going to be inconvenienced. That’s our new world order.

In turn, we have to be flexible, kind, compassionate, nonjudgmental, and generous. And we need to find joy in small things because that brings us to life. Joy is a choice.

While the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, the Governor’s Office, and Wake County Human Services are leading on this critical challenge, the city of Raleigh is working closely with these and other city mayors and organizations to address our residents’ needs. 

Here are other actions being taken by the city:

  • The Office of Emergency Management and Special Events is working with event organizers to reschedule events such as the Dreamville Festival (now August 29) and other large gatherings.
  • The Office of Economic Development and Innovation is convening groups such as the Small Business Alliance, the N.C. Restaurant & Lodging Association, Downtown Raleigh Alliance, Midtown Raleigh Alliance, and Hillsborough Street Community Service Corporation to brainstorm ways we can support our small businesses. We are working on creating dedicated parking in front of restaurants that will provide takeout services.
  • The Raleigh Convention Center staff is working with groups on conference and community cancellations and postponements at both the center itself and the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts.
  • The communications team is working to distribute information from trustworthy sources.
  • We are working with the county to determine how we might provide staging areas for food distribution.
  • Raleigh water will not turn off any water and sewer services to people who cannot pay their bills.
  • We are suspending ordinances that prevent deliveries to grocery stores, nonprofit enterprises, and other businesses, so there might be noise at inconvenient times.
  • We are working with and advising our nonprofit and corporate partners of immediate and long-term needs.
  • And we are looking at ways we will conduct future city council meetings. For now, all district council meetings, boards and commissions, and city council committee meetings will be canceled until April 15. However, we are asking staff to provide options for virtual meetings.

In thinking about last week’s turn of events, I’m stunned at how quickly life can change. I’m sure all of you are, too. Part of me feels that this is surreal, like I’m caught in a bad movie. Part of me is energized by the impressive work done by our health professionals and their calm, deliberate nature while dealing with a crisis. 

And the other part of me worries about the economic impact of all of this, especially on our most vulnerable. 

I also thank all city, county, and state officials working on this unprecedented crisis.

Some things all of you can do:

  • Buy takeout and/or gift certificates from your favorite local restaurants and retail shops.
  • Check in on your neighbors. If you’re healthy and able, run vital errands for at-risk residents (those over age 65 or with secondary health issues).
  • Volunteer to babysit for critical-need workers, especially those in the health care field.
  • Send cards and thoughtful notes to isolated people in senior housing and nursing homes.
  • Make a donation to your favorite charity.
  • Most of all, be kind. 

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