Best case scenario

Can we please celebrate the heroes? And can we find a way to help? I'm up for the challenge. Also, 9 other things worth your time.

I’m hearing two things from readers pretty consistently now:

  • Can you please find a way to celebrate the true heroes on Understandably?

  • Also: I want to find a way to help. Can you help us figure out ways to do that?

OK, let’s start with a group that might one day be an iconic story, when we get to write the history of COVID-19: the people sewing makeshift masks at home in droves to make up for shortages that doctors and nurses are dealing with.

The NYT ($) spotlighted them yesterday:

At the White House’s urging, manufacturing companies are beginning to ramp up their production of masks. But it could be weeks before the new supplies start rolling off the assembly lines.

In the meantime, some of the void is being filled by legions of sewers, called to duty in a matter of days via social media and word of mouth, their skills no longer taken for granted or dismissed as a mere hobby.

They are working in living rooms, at kitchen tables and inside shuttered storefronts. They are making masks for America, much as a previous generation manufactured ammunition and tended “victory gardens” during World War II.

I love it. Good timing, too, since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reportedly on the verge of recommending that everybody in America ($) wear masks in public.

Another example: Not too far from me, a local resident decided she wanted to raise money to buy meals for doctors, nurses, and other hospital workers. It took off fast.

Since starting the group in Summit, Curran Darcy has helped raise more than $32,000 while growing to more than 1,000 members. When the group began last week, more than $20,000 were donated in the first 24 hours.

“I just knew I’d have no trouble at all raising money or finding volunteers to help,” Curran Darcy said. “We were all hurting and wanted to do something."

Money, cottage industries—whatever it takes.

I think a lot of us are going to have the chance to act as heroes. On our own, it won’t be enough. But working together—not even coordinated with each other, but people just stepping up?

Best case scenario, it might make a big difference, and ultimately improve our lives and relationships with each other.

Here’s one more from our own community. I was talking with an Understandably reader named James Talbot in the United Kingdom, who told me about a small thing his company is doing—who knows, it might turn into something big.

A woman he’s connected to on LinkedIn mentioned that some nurses working in intensive care units now are isolated from the rest of the world during their shifts, because they have to keep their PPE on at all times.

It’s hard even to use a telephone while you’re wearing some of this stuff, never mind pay attention to patients and monitors at the same time. Talbot said he realized that one of his company’s headphone designs—these ones, called HeadBones X—might be a solution.

They’re designed to sit on the temporal bone in front of your ear, so you can listen to music but also hear the world around you. The idea here is to connect them to an iPad so a nurse inside the restricted area can use Skype or Zoom to communicate with people outside.

Talbot gave a few of these to the ICU at a nearby hospital, and it seems they were a hit. Now, he’s working on more donations, and maybe a plan to give one set to a hospital for every two main products he sells on his company website.

Efforts like these important to share right now.

Speaking of which: another call to action. If you find stories like this, either add them in the comments, or please, email me and let me know about them.

The best way to do that is write to, and maybe put “heroes/helpers” in the subject line so I don’t miss them.

My dad called

Before I get to the day’s news, I have to share this. My dad called yesterday morning after reading Tuesday’s edition of Understandably, and asked if I remembered my own experience.

It turns out that I personally have had a magnet-stuck-up-the-nose story, just like Dr. Reardon, the subject of yesterday’s lead.

I was only a bit under two years old at the time—and my dad, as he explained, managed to get the magnet out by using another magnet, without having to go to the hospital.

Separately: a reader named Kimberly Ho Schoelen wrote to tell me that the story reminded her of 30 years ago, when her daughter came home from preschool with a note explaining that she’d stuck a rock up her nose, and asking her parents to talk with her about it.

“Taped to the school's small notepaper was the rock (a small pebble) with "Exhibit A" written next to it,” Schoelen told me. “While a serious matter, there was no way that my then-husband and I could keep a straight face.”

Have faith that we’ll get through all of this. Hopefully, we’ll find a few things to laugh about, too.

7, sorry, 9 other things worth your time

  • Grim milestones upfront: More people have now died in the U.S. from COVID-19 than the 9/11 attacks, and at least another 100,000 to 240,000 more are projected to die—even assuming we do everything right. This is from President Trump’s briefing yesterday. This is a time to be united and vigilant. (The Washington Post, $)

  • Laid off workers at GE are protesting, saying they want their company to retool to produce ventilators, and hire them back to work on them. (CNBC)

  • I don’t know if this will really take off, but there is talk of a rent strike, starting today. (Associated Press)

  • Aircraft carrier captain’s SOS letter: the captain of the USS Theodore Roosevelt wants to offload his entire crew on Guam and quarantine them, as COVID-19 spreads aboard. This is amazing and unprecedented. (Bloomberg)

  • Meanwhile, there’s now an outbreak at the Marine Corps basic training depot in Parris Island, S.C., and a sitting member of congress who is also a reservist has been called up in the National Guard. (Washington Post, $, Military Times)

  • Good news: The colleague I mentioned a week ago who was on a ventilator in NYC is off it now and recovering.

  • With homebound Americans baking more than ever, yeast sales are rising. (Sorry, couldn’t help myself). (Business Insider)

  • NBA executives are clinging to hope of arranging a one-site, fan-less, 16-team playoff and a five-to-seven-game regular-season prelude, according to multiple NBA sources. (New York Post)

  • Finally, this first person testimony:

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