When staying home is the most helpful thing you can do

JACKSON, Wyo. — Jackson has always been a generous community. Its residents have always shown up when they were needed most, and local responses to the COVID-19 pandemic is proving to be no different.

Still, the Teton County Health Department and the Community Foundation of Jackson Hole are asking residents to exercise extreme caution in their COVID-19 volunteerism. The Foundation and Health Department are working together to implement designated volunteer resources that will keep community members safe and help mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

“We would like to stress that volunteers should be using established community organizations in order to be properly trained, vetted, and assessed for appropriateness, for their own safety and the safety and for the safety of the community,” the Health Department said in a statement. “Limiting volunteering efforts to established channels is essential to limiting community spread of COVID-19.”

Offering to deliver groceries to someone in self-isolation, for example, seems like an easy way to help. But COVID-19 can live on surfaces for hours or even days, and otherwise healthy people may not know they’re carrying the virus. Teton County has a working document of food volunteer recommendations.

Anyone who wants to volunteer for the community is urged to register on the Community Foundation’s website. That way, volunteers can be matched to people and organizations that actually need help, and can rest assured they’re offering all help and no harm.

It’s a work in progress, said Adrian Croke, sexual health program coordinator for Teton County Public Health.

“There’s a lot of work happening right now to figure out how to create a capacity for more volunteers. It has to be done carefully, and unfortunately, that takes time.”

The most helpful thing you can do in the meantime is just to stay home, Croke said. It’s hard to hear and it may feel unsatisfying, but it’s the altruistic thing to do right now, especially as new information has been released recently that suggests older people are not the only ones at risk.

New C.D.C. data show that nearly 40% of hospitalized COVID-19 patients were aged 20-54. The risk of dying is significantly higher in older people, but the point of flattening the curve is to avoid overwhelming hospitals.

There are still things you can do from the safety of your home. The second-most helpful thing to staying home is to donate money if you have it — to One22 and the Community Foundation, who have dedicated accounts to help people and organizations affected by the pandemic. Some residents have begun stockpiling gift cards to help local businesses who are struggling right now. Some businesses are even incentivizing with rewards or giveaways for people who buy gift cards online.

Croke is still optimistic, and hopes the community maintains its optimism. “I really do think we can make it through this,” she said. “We just need to bite the bullet and stay home.”

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