It’s now been one full week since the implementation of Governor Cuomo’s order that all but the most essential of New York’s businesses must transition to remote work or temporarily close in order to flatten the curve and protect our health and safety. It’s trite to say that these are trying times, that it’s unprecedented. All of that is true. We are all facing entirely new challenges to the way we live our lives and carry out our work but we are all in this together.
It’s easy to become burdened by the constant barrage of news updates, the weight of uncertainty seems difficult to bear. In the midst of all of this, New Yorkers are rising to the occasion. Say what you will about us, but New Yorkers have some experience with pulling together in times of crisis and doing what is right. There are bright spots to these dark times, and that is what I would like to focus on today.
Have you heard the story of the lady shopping at Wegmans who, about to take the two cartons of eggs that she normally buys, realized that she’d be taking the last of them so offered one to another customer? When she went to cash out, she learned that the other customer had paid her grocery bill. Kindness matters.
Donations to the COVID-19 Community Support Fund, a joint project of the CNY Community Foundation and several partner groups, topped One Million Dollars this week, and the fund has already begun to give grants to struggling local non-profits that are affected by the pandemic.
Local manufacturer, Tessy Plastics, gave its employees each $2,000.00 to help ease the financial pain brought about by Covid.
School districts across the country have been forced to adapt to an entirely remote way of providing services to their communities. Teachers have stepped up in a major way, and while it’s not perfect and there are hiccups and frozen video streams – they are giving our kids their best and continuing the learning that was abruptly interrupted when schools were suddenly closed down. It’s hard to measure the importance and the impact that a livestreamed social studies class can have on kids (and teachers!) who are missing their peers and routine. Not every kid has a computer or access to the internet, but schools made it possible for kids to pick up technology devices to bridge those gaps. Schools also play a critical role in ensuring that kids have access to breakfast and lunch each day. Some schools have drive-by pickups, some are using buses to deliver meals to the students at home. This is extraordinary. Think of this when your school budget is up for a vote next time. Think of the videos that teachers and staff at some schools have put together and sent out to the school families, giving a glimpse into their lives at home, and sharing greetings to the students who they are missing. Teachers and school staff change lives every day. When everything around us is changing, they are the constant that we can rely on.
Our medical professionals are hampered by a shortage of personal protective equipment, but New Yorkers are taking action to meet this need. Contractors, salons, dentists and doctors whose practices are only handling emergency cases – all have come forward with donations of masks, gloves, and other gear to be used where it is needed most. Local lacrosse helmet maker Cascade has shifted production to make face masks. Individuals are sewing masks and donating them to hospitals and emergency workers. This is ingenuity and this is New York.
New Yorkers are finding creative ways to adapt. Can’t take you child to ballet class, or your yoga class is cancelled because the studio had to close? Instructors are turning to video conferencing methods to continue to engage with their students and give them that little bit of normalcy that is so terribly needed.
We rely on truckers to deliver necessary goods to grocery and other retail stores whose shelves have been wiped out by shoppers. Day and night, their rigs travel from warehouses to retailers, carrying the sanitizing wipes, toilet paper, and fresh food that is depleted almost as soon as it arrives. With many restaurants closing or reducing service to take out only, those drivers sometimes struggle to find a place to eat while they’re on the road. New Yorkers have again jumped into action, setting up roadside stands to offer a hot meal to these men and women.
Neighbors are helping neighbors, too. There is a roadside stand in Camillus where you can get necessities that you need or drop off things that might be needed by others. We are shopping for our elderly and immune-compromised neighbors, leaving bags of groceries on doorsteps for no-contact delivery.
Restaurants across the state have been hard hit by the mandated shutdowns, but we are ordering delivery or curbside pickup even from fine dining establishments. They have created modified menus, some offering special family size meals at reduced prices. Diners are showing their support by buying gift certificates to be used at a future date, and by ordering from local restaurants frequently, all in order to give these establishments the best chance to survive and keep staff employed. These are the places we all turn to when we need a donation for our charity raffle, and now we have the chance to return that favor.
It’s not all sunshine and roses (but wow, do I ever appreciate a sunny day now when I get one!). I think it’s fair to say that our stress levels have been higher than normal. Some of us feel despair. We have record numbers of people now eligible for unemployment and all of us are feeling a fair degree of uncertainty. The mental and emotional toll is significant. When Governor Cuomo established a toll-free crisis hotline, mental health professionals from across the state volunteered to give their time taking calls from people who need a friendly ear and a shoulder to cry on. Some need more than that, and these volunteers connect them with additional services. We are here for each other.
These are just a few examples of the positive things that are happening all around our great state. When the worst of situations occurs, we have the extraordinary opportunity to show our neighbors and our state the very best of us. We are, in increasing numbers, doing just that – from at least a distance of 6 feet.
Jennifer B. Granzow
Ms. Granzow holds a JD from the Syracuse University College of Law. Her practice is concentrated in the areas of business and corporate law, real estate, economic development, and government relations, with an emphasis on grants and public funding.