How Do Communities Stay Connected When COVID Forces Us Apart?

Public spaces bring people together. Both urban and rural communities share a commonality–the collective use of shared spaces available to all members of the community. Public spaces like community centers, parks, and libraries are staple gathering places in every community. Other communal spaces like co-working co-ops and coffee shops bring people together, too. 

When the coronavirus began to sweep across the country, once-bustling spaces became vacant. An eerie depiction of the effects the virus was having on our communities. State-wide shut-down orders were in place. Schools closed and moved to an online learning model. Many workers quickly adapted to remote work. Businesses closed or did curbside pick-up only. Families hunkered down trying to navigate the new reality that was quickly thrust upon us. 

Social distancing is hard when humans are wired for connection. 

Studies have proven that social connection is a pillar to our health. There is significant evidence that social support and feeling connected have many psychological and physical benefits such as:

  • Decreased depressive symptoms
  • Mitigated PTSD symptoms
  • Improved overall mental health
  • Healthy body mass index
  • Healthy blood sugar levels
  • Improved cancer survival rates
  • Decreased cardiovascular mortality

Social isolation has a negative effect on health and can increase depressive symptoms as well as mortality.

Community spaces provide the opportunity for social connections.

Social connections can help us reduce stress, which can keep us healthier. Our libraries, parks and other gathering places do so much to enrich our lives and even improve our health. We need them now, as much as ever. A recent study reports that Americans (and likely people everywhere) are experiencing a significant and sustained increase in depression and anxiety symptoms related to COVID. 

How can community spaces continue to bring people together and provide value in the new COVID world?

Businesses, community spaces, and libraries alike are thinking of ways to adapt to the new normal. How can we stay connected to our customers, patrons, and community, while also practicing safe social distancing? 

There’s no playbook for navigating a pandemic in the modern world. We’re just trying to make our way into the unknown as best we can. The internet gives us the ability to stay connected even when we can’t be physically together. When libraries and other public spaces provide free WiFi, it’s a lifeline for many members of the community.

Bringing people together–online and outside.

Online and outdoor activities (with social distancing measures in place) are a safe way to stay connected. As we enter into the next phase and recognize our need for social connection and support, there are some safe ways we can come together.

Businesses are getting creative with their operations so they can continue to serve customers. Many implemented online ordering and curbside pick-up to ensure a safe experience for employees and customers. As some places begin to reopen, they still offer online ordering and curbside pick-up which helps them get business while reducing the number of people in the physical store. 

Coffee shops add outside seating, appropriately spaced for social distancing, and offer online ordering and curbside pick-up. Coworking spaces are requiring social distancing while ensuring proper sterilization between shifts. 

Outdoor parks have been a go-to activity since they provide an outdoor space that allows for safe social distancing. Outside spaces are great for relaxation, exercise, picnics, and even movies. 

Community centers can offer classes outdoors to maintain safe social distancing. Gardening, crafting, or take-home craft pick-up would be a great idea. 

Public libraries provide immense value to the community through education, resources, programs, and advocacy. They were quick to adapt their services to meet safety precautions–offering online library card registration, curbside pick-up for books, crafts and STEM projects, free ‘drive-in’ WiFi, online storytimes and curbside pick-up for other essential services (unemployment forms, PPE, food, diapers, etc).

Businesses and community spaces recognize the need to stay connected to their customers and patrons. It’s beneficial for the business and for the individual. If you’d like to learn more about how WiFi analytics can help you better understand your customers or patrons, book a demo with our team or contact us to chat.