COVID-19: Local Groups Step Up to Help (Plus Updates)

Market Square, Knoxville, Saturday Night, March 14, 2020
Market Square, Knoxville, Saturday Night, March 14, 2020

As we continue through these early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, the toll continues to increase. Using the publicly posted numbers from the CDC (many online sources are using higher numbers that are updated more frequently), confirmed cases jumped from 3,487 at mid-day Monday, to 4,226 by mid-day Tuesday, or about a 21% increase overnight. Nationally, confirmed deaths from the virus climbed from 68 to 75, or about a 10% increase.

A thoughtful look at the increases underscores why it is critical that we follow health and government recommendations for social distancing (and isolation when possible). At that pace (and there is no reason to expect it would not escalate), we would quadruple infections by this time next week and double the number of deaths. Please practice social distancing recommendations.

Word also came that the state of Tennessee has 74 confirmed cases, most of which are in central Tennessee. The majority of those cases are among people 18 to 45 years old. While the state reporting system said Knox County now has two confirmed cases, the Knox County Health Department said that is not the case and that we still have only one.

I know we are all reading a wide range of articles on the topic, and there are a number of good ones. One that a couple of friends brought to my attention, and which speaks to the urban nature of this blog, ran in the New York Times today: Can City Life Survive Coronavirus? I assume it is outside their paywall. It raises the issue of dense populations being a perfect breeding ground for a pandemic such as this. Many of the people who choose to live in cities do so for the social engagement, which is precisely what we’re being encouraged not to do.

Another article shared with me, The Crucial Math Behind Social Distancing, is written by University of Virginia physics professor, Lou Bloomfield. One sentence gives a stark takeaway: “From a statistical point of view, every time you keep your distance from others during this crisis, you are saving lives,” which underscores that you are doing the opposite if you fail to keep distance as much as possible. I’m including Dr. Bloomfield’s video below.

Nationally, discussion is underway for the provision of an economic stimulus package in response to the virus. Details are still emerging, but one talking point is the possibility of quickly getting money into people’s hands in the form of at least one payment of $1,000, and possibly that amount will be repeated for more than one month.

I’d encourage everyone who can spare all or some of that money to begin making plans to distribute it to causes or people you know who have been more adversely affected than yourself. We could really put a lot of money where it is needed. Secretary of the Treasury Mnuchin yesterday reportedly said we could be looking at an unemployment rate of 20% before this is over. If true, that would put it very near the unemployment rate during the Great Depression of 24.9%.

Finally, I’ve put together a list of groups and people who are helping in various ways. There is no way to make an all-inclusive list, but below are some of the ones I could quickly identify. Please investigate them and see if you might be able to help. Please be certain that any group or cause you support is legitimate and can deliver the help it claims in a safe way.

Delivery Assist 865 I can vouch for this one. My friend Bruce McCamish and a large group of volunteers are doing grocery pickup.

Fresh Market Special shopping hour for at-risk citizens, 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m., M-F (note that other grocers are doing the same thing, Food City is devoting 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m.) Food City is also hiring 2500 new associates.

Yassin’s American Dream Free Food for students who would otherwise get free or reduced-price school lunch.

Knoxville Supply Run FB group to help those who can’t go out for supplies.

Pandemic Help Next Door I believe this is for the Lindbergh Forest Neighborhood and requires joining Next Door.

Wallace Paper Company will apparently create digital postponement notices like this one free of charge.

Knoxville’s Downtown Hilton Free lunches for school children who have lost theirs. Pick up location is at the Starbucks entrance on Walnut Street.

Knox County COVID-19 Response Fund Cooperative effort with United Way, which has dedicated $50,000, and the Alliance for Better Non-Profits. All money goes to local non-profits that are working to expand services in response to the virus.

Next Step Initiative I can endorse this group as well. Their center has been closed, but they are “cooking and hitting the streets of South Knoxville to feed our friends that don’t have homes. We had to close our day center but we’re giving out socks, Narcan, water, first aid bags, wet wipes, conversation and more. We’re in need of supplies. Mostly 16 oz to-go containers with lids (bowls or cups) to give out hot food.”

Knox County Schools This link will take you to a website with great information about food being served by Knox County to students out of school during this crisis. It also has great information about other school issues for parents as we wade through the closure.

Disaster Relief Services The Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA) program provides unemployment benefits to individuals who have become unemployed as a direct result of a presidentially declared major disaster.

Sapphire Sapphire will sell gift cards during their closure, with 25% of the proceeds going to their workers.

Sapphire, Part Two This site is soliciting donations. All money goes to the Sapphire staff. It is legit, for sure.

West Family Businesses Tommy Trent, Earth to Old City, Preservation Pub, Scruffy City Hall and Lost Tavern digital gift certificates proceeds go to the employees of the businesses.

KUB is suspending utility disconnections for people who fall behind on payments.

Senior Directory East Tennessee is offering food and medication delivery to seniors.

French Market is offering a free lunch for any local restaurant employees, Friday, March 20, from 11 – 3.


Local Media:

Compass (to which I would encourage you to subscribe if can afford to do so) has removed their paywall for Coronavirus Coverage.

WUOT has compiled a list of services.

WUTK I heard from Benny Smith (Station Manager) who said they are focused on giving accurate information including closings and cancellations, and they are “an Emergency Alert System reporter, so we hope we can keep coming in to relay EAS info from Feds, when needed.”

Knoxville Page Buy local gift cards to nine different local businesses (more to be added right away, and yours can be added by emailing me at

If you have other options to help, or information about groups that are helping, please feel free to add them in the comments.


Please follow instructions and limit the damage this virus is going to cause. The lives of people you love depend on it.