Episode 21

Surviving Social Distancing

Mar 19, 2020


To combat the spread of the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19), six Bay Area counties have instituted self-quarantine and social distancing procedures for over six million people. Judy digs up some ideas for how to survive social distancing while sheltering-in-place.


I’m Judy Gordon, and this is San Mateo Focus.

OK…so times are different in San Mateo even from a few days ago. It’s Tuesday, March 17, 2020 and by the time you hear this on Thursday morning, it’s hard to predict what might have happened. What we do know now is that schools are closed, most parents are either working from home or are being strongly encouraged to work from home. And to make matters more difficult, social isolation means close play with others is discouraged. For families, the reality of parenting in San Mateo has abruptly changed. The positive side of all this is that there are creative companies and organizations who are quickly coming to the rescue. Each day, people are sharing online resources that are available for free now: virtual tours of museums, free access to online learning, and lists and lists of activities. Even without children to feed and entertain in our homes, it’s tough. Yesterday, the County of San Mateo notified us of the shelter-in-place policy that will last until April 7. So now, we truly are all in this together, but we can’t hang out together. It’s not a normal situation for social humans.

Coronavirus traffic on highway 101

The New Normal Highway 101 Afternoon Rush Hour

Right now, the general idea is that we need to isolate ourselves so that the virus doesn’t spread faster than the health facilities can handle. Walks are OK if we keep a social distance from each other. A kindergarten teacher told me that it’s a good time for families to look for opportunities to learn that are different from the classroom courses. If you’re a parent whose routine is to exercise in the morning, then include your older children in a jog or stretching exercise. Provided you don’t get close to others, spend some time talking about good health habits or even as the days get warmer, pitch a tent in the yard and have a sleepover outdoors. Parents with musical skills can use this time to teach them to their children—or learn together. For any of us, this can be a time to start thinking about the history of our family, and start work on a family tree, or tell family stories.

Our current situation is different from other times that everyone is home – like weekends or extended holiday breaks from school. Kids and parents will be in closer quarters, without the ability to congregate with others. Among all of the lists of activities, one of the earliest ones that circulated is called the Giant List of Ideas for Being at Home with Kids. It’s great. Many of the suggestions from the list are easy to do, and most important, will hold some interest. One of the ideas is to watch all the new trending hand washing videos and discuss which ones are good, helpful, and funny. Kids love a good competition, so they can then vote on them, letting the kids do the tallying. If you’ve got paper, crayons, stickers, markers and pens collected together, kids can create their own stash of cards for their friends, grandparents, or neighbors who are living alone.

There is one good thing to the timing of our quarantine on the Peninsula. We’re about to enter one of the most beautiful times of the year, spring. Since everything is moving slower and we’re staying closer to home, take a walk around your yard, and point out the differences that will be happening each week as leaves come back and flowers start to bloom. If you live near one of the community gardens, and are still able to be outside as long as you are not close to anyone else, take a field trip to one of them to show kids what can be grown in a garden, and describe the work that it takes to make things grow. Dig in the ground and identify the bugs and describe what they’re doing. Right now, it’s ok to take walks outside as long as you don’t get close to others, so someone suggested that the kids make a map of the walk that they want to take, and then follow the map, to actually see if it works. The Giant List had lots of recommendations for doing chores together, like going through all the stacked up mail, cleaning out the cars, and organizing the play area of your home.

Adults need to take care of themselves and continue friendships creatively online. I’ve noticed that the conversations on my local neighborhood Nextdoor feed involve people worrying about small business owners and the people who will be left without jobs for an extended period of time. Many people are offering to run errands for seniors or residents who should not leave their homes. There are some remarks about hoarding supplies, and the typical toilet paper jokes, but as a rule, kindness, being thoughtful, and concern for others is prevailing in the posts. It’s really nice to see the true concern our neighbors have for small businesses that are pivoting to make sure that they can stay open and pay employees. It’s not a great time to open a new restaurant, but Chico’s Taqueria opened on 25th Avenue just a few weeks ago. The owner posted that he will stay open for carryout and was received warmly by the neighbors. If you want to support your neighborhood restaurants and order takeout, Here’s the Deal: a San Mateo resident created a Google Doc with all the information that you need to know about restaurants who are staying open for takeout during this time. Look for it, and other helpful links on this episode’s page at sanmateofocus.com.

Okay, that’s all the time we have for this episode. Have a great week. Thanks to Jack Radsliff for the original music to this podcast. If you’d like more information about our sponsor or the topics in today’s episode, go to sanmateofocus.com.