‘We can’t live in a bubble’: DC honors COVID-19 pandemic volunteers

COVID-19 hit D.C. resident Wanda Newman hard — not the coronavirus itself, but the effects of isolation and living in a frightened community.

“Honestly, it was not good for my mental or physical health,” Newman said Wednesday morning, during an event to thank those who have volunteered during the pandemic. “I’m a senior, there’s no one home with me as a partner, and I decided I needed to get out.”

Newman stopped by the Capitol Hill Safeway, on 14th Street SE, as the District thanked volunteers.

”I think they stepped up, in unprecedented ways, at unprecedented times,” said Alexis Squire, director of Serve DC — the mayor’s office of volunteerism and partnership.

Since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020, the District has asked for help from volunteers. Squire thanked volunteers, including Newman, who was one of those who volunteered over the holidays: “To help us assemble our PCR testing kits that were distributed across the city.”

”They really understand and value community, and want our community to feel safe,” Squire said. “They care about their neighbors, and especially their health and well-being.”

She thanked Safeway for hosting the event: “It helps when businesses get involved.”

Newman, holding a cupcake and three flowers as a token of gratitude, was glad to help, even during the early stages, as families hunkered down, not knowing how COVID-19 could be spread.

“Being in your house and breathing in that inner air over and over wasn’t healthy, either,” said Newman. “We have to keep living, and we can’t live in a bubble.”

Now, with case numbers declining, Newman said she is sensing a shift in the public from fear to perseverance.

”None of us thought it would continue this long,” said Newman. “There are people who were not getting vaccinated, are now getting vaccinated. I think a lot of people are tired of the isolation.”

Squire said it takes a special person to volunteer. “They showed up for us when we needed them most, and when our community needed them the most.”

Anticipating emergency situations beyond COVID, the District’s Community Emergency Response Team — or CERT — was signing up people willing to help out during a still-unforeseen-crisis, and other volunteer opportunities.

Newman is on standby.

“If I can make a small difference, I’m making a huge difference in the community, overall,” she said.

More Coronavirus News

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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