Re: CoronaVirus mitigation
From: Raines Cohen (
Date: Sat, 7 Mar 2020 09:02:01 -0800 (PST)
On Thu, Mar 5, 2020 at 12:58 PM Mena Quilici <menaq20 [at]> wrote:
> What, if anything, are you changing to mitigate the spread of the
> Coronavirus in your community?  Are you making changes in community meals,
> adding additional chores such as wiping doorknobs, etc?  Do you have plans
> in place to take care of members who are ill or on quarantine?  It’s a big
> discussion item here as the virus spreads in Washington State.

Mena -

Those are great questions, and I'm sure your community is not alone in
asking them. There's been some parallel recent discussion on the CohoUS
group on Facebook, and a few folks sharing what's going on in their
communities, including talks given by health professionals living there.

We're continuing the conversation with two Coho/US web chats in the next
two weeks (details at bottom of this message), looking at community
responses and how to best handle on ongoing work of finding, educating,
greeting and welcoming new members at times like these.

But below please find some of my thoughts and plans around the challenges
facing us.

In my very own home community, one member asked whether we should suspend
hosting outside guests and events for a time, and while the person who
brought it up later labeled their own commentrr as "paranoid", this is
coming from someone with a life experience of actually being right about
significant forces out to get them, and a partner with multiple risk
factors, so it is getting serious consideration as our shared understanding
of the issue evolves. What extra steps will really make a difference in
protecting our most vulnerable members? Is it safe to share meals with kids
in schools, working adults in caregiving professions, and seniors at risk
of complications?

Ann Z., your insights on this thread are right on point with my philosophy:
anything we do now in response to the current crisis really should be an
amplification and re-affirmation of established policies, systems, tools
and relationships that help keep our communities safe and healthy for
everyone. Use this as an opportunity to identify gaps and missing links to
be filled in, and better understand the vulnerability of our neighbors and
their extended families, and how we can help keep each other safe, now and
into the future.

I know I've stepped up my habit of running community napkins and kitchen
towels on a "Sanitize" superheated wash cycle with vinegar added, but is
that enough? While we have some good community clean-up processes using a
vinegar solution on surfaces, some reports I'm reading call for something
stronger. Should we be bringing and washing our own dishes and linens
separately? Should shared machines get a special pre-cycle run for our most
vulnerable folks to reduce risks?

Even more important than the individual procedural steps: How can we build
on our resilience, support and connection, rather than default to fear and

Our connection and awareness of each others' expertise, capacities,
connections and challenges in community should be a strength to build on,
not something to sacrifice for the illusion of safety.

In the midst of the growing tragedy, I am greatly relieved to hear new data
(as always, subject to change) coming out of China and US health
authorities over the last 48 hours, combined with guidelines just published
yesterday by the City and County of San Francisco, that indicate that so
far, "community exposure" (people diagnosed with CV not linked to presence
in countries where the disease originated and spread widely) seems only to
be showing up among those sharing a cruise ship recycling water and
recirculating air, and among family members sharing close quarters for
extended periods, or a nursing home sharing staff performing shared
laundry/housekeeping and direct body services, NOT with the kind of brief
exposures from transient interactions like we might have at common meals,
or in our Common Houses.

Of course, in the absence of widespread testing here, we don't know for
sure. So far, it looks like simple strengthening of personal and community
hygiene routines leads to enormous reductions in the spread of COVID-19
(aka Corona Virus)... and helps in lots of other ways as well. The
guidelines I've seen call for cancellation of large (over 50 person)
events, not small gatherings where people can take the steps to create
(literally) safer space and support each other.

In our East Bay Cohousing regional organizing, we've held off from
scheduling some or our regular local events as we come to a greater
understanding of what's safe... but now are planning a gathering this
Thursday night with the head of the Global Ecovillage Network (GEN) who
will be in town from Findhorn in Scotland, and offering the option of
joining remotely via Zoom so we can keep the in-room crowd small and spread
out, and make it easy for people to fully participate without the risk of
spreading or catching anything. We've got a special camera/microphone setup
that lets us sit in a circle yet have remote participants be able to see
and hear everyone clearly.

To foster further conversation along these lines, Coho/US is hosting two
webchats over the next two Thursdays (Details below) to provide a forum for
further discussion and sharing of your concerns and solutions from your
community; if you can't make either Zoom call, conversations will be
recorded and published afterwards.

Coho/US Volunteer and Cohousing Coach

 currently self-isolating while caring for an out-of-town family member,
planning extra precautions for the trip home, made a little easier by so
many big-event and business-travel cancellations that I will likely have a
whole row to myself on the plane, and super-cheap last-minute fares with no
penalty for change or cancellation.

P.S. Ann, I've got to ask what RISQUE stands for. We had "A Community
Design Committee" (AC/DC) and a "Kitchen Finance Committee" (KFC), and now
I serve on the "Holy Rollers" accessibility task force. Sometime perhaps we
should do a gathering to compare funny committee names and acronyms.

Upcoming Coho/US WebChats (see link at bottom):

Thur, Mar 12, 2020:
Keep Cohousers Healthy:
a conversation facilitated by Coho/US Communications Director Karen Gimnig

As communities listen and respond to current events, it seems like a good
moment to come together online and talk about how cohousing interfaces with
public health concerns.

* What practices do communities use to stay healthy?
* How do we take action as a community in the face of individual
differences when the stakes are high?
* How do we balance the competing needs for safety, connection and mutual

We’ll gather on zoom in our usual way for a time of sharing and discussion.

* What is your community doing?
* What is working? What isn’t?
* What are the ways in which living in community makes us resilient?
* What are the unique concerns and resources that come with living together?

Bring your questions and answers.

Thur, Mar 19, 2020:
Open House Options
with National Cohousing Open House Day coordinator Raines Cohen
and Coho/US Board member Alan O’Hashi

An Open House is a great way for a community to share the good news about
cohousing, which is why we do one on a national scale each spring (this
year, Sunday April 26 or near then).

This year we’re thinking some communities may be looking for some
alternative approaches to sharing with others.

In this WebChat, Raines (at Berkeley (CA) Cohousing) and Alan (at Silver
Sage senior cohousing in Boulder, CO) will share some ideas, including an
example of a tour video. Bring your ideas too, the more the merrier as we
get creative in the face of challenges.

All WebChats are held at the same time: 5pm Pacific, 6pm Mountain, 7pm
Central, 8pm Eastern

Connection details (and videos, afterwards) are on the WebChats page on

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