On Saturday afternoon, pediatrician Dr. Paige Perriello was part of a team of healthcare professionals that drafted an open letter to Gov. Ralph Northam regarding the need for more medical supplies and how communities could help each other with said supplies. The letter garnered hundreds of signatures from other medical professionals in less than 24 hours. Today, she along with Drs. Kathryn Laughon, Bill Fox and Art Saavedra, have collaborated with the resource site Support Cville to include links for an initiative called “Equip Cville.”
“Innovative grassroots efforts are going to be what gets us through it,” Perriello said. “In Charlottesville, we are fortunate to have a very robust grassroots community.”
Since the declaration of COVID-19 as a pandemic, grassroots organizing has come together in Charlottesville in many ways.
By last weekend, Charlottesville resident and WillowTree employee Margo Bulka had created the Support Cville website, which serves as a conduit for community members to give support or receive support in ways ranging from donations to available funds to virus information.
Over the course of a week, Bulka collaborated with Jordy Yager, the digital humanities fellow at the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center, to co-create the site and engage the Charlottesville community on- and offline.
Bulka has been managing the site on the back end while Yager has been providing content through working with local nonprofits and leadership.
Bulka said that the site has seen 8,000 unique visitors within a week.
“The reality is people are typing in supportcville.com,” Bulka said. “That is a substantial portion of the greater Charlottesville population.”
Del. Sally Hudson, D- Charlottesville, also has assisted with the efforts. She also cites the collaborative and helpful nature of the Charlottesville community that was strengthened by the hardship it went through three summers ago from the buildup and aftermath of the Unite the Right rally in August 2017.
“A lot of the networks that we are leaning on here are outgrowths of organizing from the ‘Summer of Hate,’” Hudson said. “Our community has developed a lot of muscle memory around mutual aid and comm organizing. In a crisis it’s been those same people who are thrown into action.”
Hudson explained how residents of various backgrounds and abilities have consistently lent their most suitable abilities to various efforts.
“The best part is that everyone is very low ego. We immediately plug into where everyone is most useful given our talents,” Hudson said.
For her personally, at this moment, Hudson said she is lending her organizing abilities and being a “tech junkie by nature.” She also cited being a state-level representative with access to state-level resources.
“Charlottesville is a really energetic and innovative community. We have gotten used to solving problems locally in hopes that it can bubble up and scale up on other levels.”
Meanwhile, the latest efforts to ensure robust medical supply access can enhance doctors’ ability to continue their work.
“There’s a lot of groups that have supplies, and we just need to get them to the right people and that’s really what we are trying to do,” Perriello said.
In the letter, solutions were offered up such as closed schools and businesses donating any safety equipment or sanitization products to those on the medical frontlines who need them for themselves and their patients. Perriello said there has been a growing concern for those in the medical field, as the threat of the virus continues and cases increase, on how supplied they will be to continue their duties and help curb the infection spread.
Perriello said the group of doctors that began the letter have been pleased with the Northam administration’s response to COVID-19 so far, and hope that this initiative will inspire others to model it.
“We are thrilled that the schools have gotten shut down and there’s been a good focus on social distancing from the governor’s office and it was really just a call for innovation and hopefully what we can show over the next couple of days as we roll out what we are doing here is to show other communities how to do that,” Perriello said. “I hope we can be a great model to amplify how communities can do this across the state.”
It’s a sentiment Hudson echoes, as well.
“Charlottesville is a really energetic and innovative community,” Hudson said. “We have gotten used to solving problems locally in hopes that it can bubble up and scale up on other levels.”
While Support CVille may connect the community online for how to help or be helped, Bulka said it will be “vital” for healthy residents to find offline ways to help the medical professionals in ways that can “lift them up.”
“As Charlottesville becomes more impacted by this and we see these individuals demanded upon in a way they’ve never been, we should make sure to reach out to those people for anything they may need help with … offer to watch their pet, drop meals off at their front steps,” Bulka said. “Whatever we can do to help that population, so they can focus on the matter at hand.”
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