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Connections in the Time of Coronavirus

Global stories of caring and compassion.

We are asking the Cornell community to share inspiring stories during these challenging times. Share a brief story (up to 200 words) describing an event, moment, act or relationship that touched you, demonstrating the power of human connection, even in this time of social distancing. Submit using our form.

Stories will be preserved as part of the University Archives.

Man in red shirt and baseball cap, packing boxes of canned food Partnership Feeds Area Families Amid Coronavirus Woes
Cornell Dining
Tompkins County
The coronavirus pandemic has had an obvious impact on families, schools, businesses and health care providers. Less obvious, perhaps, is how it has affected community volunteers and the organizations they serve. Many volunteers are elderly and have been sidelined by the virus, forcing the temporary shuttering of several food pantries in Tompkins County. As a result, approximately 800 households per month may lose food pantry services. To provide immediate local relief, Cornell has partnered... READ MORE »

Three blueberry muffins on parchment paper Muffins for Hope
David Larson, staff
Ithaca, New York
"I am a chaplain to international students, most of whom have stayed in Ithaca. The graduate students are in their off-campus housing, but two are undergraduate students who got permission to stay in the dorms. My wife and I knew they must feel isolated and anxious, so my wife had the idea to make muffins and deliver to them along with an encouragement card. She made the muffins and my job was to deliver them. I texted five students and asked if I could drop them off and they all were happy to... READ MORE »

Cornell Dairy truck with signature Holstein patchwork going down road Cornell Dairy Helps Replenish Local Milk Stock
P&C Fresh
Ithaca, New York
Allan Malek, manager of the East Hill Plaza store, wrote a quick email on March 14 to the Cornell Dairy Processing Plant, inquiring if it had any fluid milk and other dairy products the store could sell, alleviating some of the retailer’s shortages. Within days, dairy plant manager Tim Barnard had delivered three truckloads of milk to the store, along with yogurt, butter, ice cream, and cheese. Everything sold, and Barnard expects to deliver two more truckloads by this weekend. “We had... READ MORE »

Boxes of medical supplies with a handwritten sign that reads, NY get well soon. Department Pride
Chase Webb, PhD candidate
Ithaca campus and Tompkins County
I've just been really proud of how my department (Biomedical Engineering) came together to gather and donated lab PPE to the Cayuga Medical Center. ■

women wearing PPEs in a hospital corridor Giving Thanks for the Support of Friends in China
Ying Hua, faculty
China to the U.S.
Alumni, parents, and friends from across China have mobilized tirelessly to provide support in the form of much-needed protective apparel. The Hong Kong Cornell Alumni Club fundraised for a donation to send 5,000 N95 masks and 20,000 surgical masks to Weill Cornell Medicine. Parents of a student (class of ’23) organized the logistics to send 20,000 face masks to the Ithaca campus for essential workers and 1,800 sets of protective suits to Weill Cornell. Gang Yu (MS’86) facilitated the purchase... READ MORE »

Johnson EMBA Students Visit Vietnam Virtually
Danielle DiDuro, staff
Vietnam and Ithaca, online
When travel restricted the Johnson Metro Executive MBA students from visiting Vietnam in March, leadership members of VinUniversity in Hanoi eagerly developed an in-depth two-day online course to virtually bring Vietnam to Cornell EMBA students. VinUniversity faculty delivered late night and early morning sessions to accommodate the Cornell students’ times zones. "The versatile collaboration on both sides to execute this endeavor in such a short time exemplifies the values of connection... READ MORE »

TheGrandMaDiva Shares Advice
Irene Smalls, BA '71
Troubled times test all of who we are. Putting together Harlem roots, my grandmother's wisdom and low-income resiliency, I post "do it your self" fashion tips as TheGrandMaDiva1. The mantra of TheGrandMaDiva1 on Instagram is "Contemplate, Curate, Create." Fabulous fashioning, keeping our fingers busy during this time of social distancing can help sustain us. ■

loaf of bread with cut slices Erin go Braugh
Sarah Brice, student
Denmark to Connecticut
On the Friday before St. Patrick's Day rather than hopping on a plane to London, where I had been looking forward to celebrating the popularized Irish holiday, I boarded a plane back to New York City. Like many others, my study abroad experience had been cut short. As soon as I landed at JFK Airport, I made my way to the house where I would be quarantined for the next two weeks, as I had been studying in Denmark which had been declared a CDC high-risk zone. That next Tuesday, after a few days... READ MORE »

Drawing upon Our International Strengths
Mardelle Shepley, faculty
Ithaca, New York
When Mardelle Shepley was contacted by Ronald McDonald House looking for translators, she drew on her network of Design and Environmental Analysis (DEA) graduate students. Shepley, DEA chair, is working to connect students and others in the community with families in need of translation services for their healthcare concerns. "It's a nice example of drawing upon our international strengths here to help others," said Rachel Dunifon, interim dean of the College of Human Ecology. ■

Unflinching Generosity between Friends
James Lassoie, faculty
Tompkins County
When Tianjun Hou emailed her former professor, James P. Lassoie, to check-in, he was struck by her kindness. Now living in Shanghai, Hou had worked with Lassoie when she first came to Cornell in fall 2011. "She was an excellent student and a joy to get to know," said Lassoie. In their most recent emails, Hou offered to mail 50 face masks to him and his family. He plans to donate these to local healthcare workers who need the supplies. "I must admit to having a lump in my throat over her... READ MORE »

Basketball court set up with people sewing at socially distant tables Surgical Mask-sewing Effort
Community volunteers
Bartels Hall, Ithaca
A basketball court in Bartels Hall stirred to life with a new, urgent mission and two dozen volunteers. Beginning early Tuesday morning, stationed at sewing machines on tables spaced apart to observe safe social distancing guidelines, community members launched a coordinated sewing effort to produce surgical masks for Cayuga Medical Center in Ithaca. The hospital, like many others across the country, is facing looming shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE). Carol O’Driscoll, director... READ MORE »

Back of bronze statue in the foreground and building with columns in the distance Building Community During Times of Struggle
Martha E. Pollack
Ithaca, New York
President Martha E. Pollack sent the following message to the Cornell community March 26: Dear Cornellians: Like all of you, I have been adjusting in the last weeks to our shared new reality, in which the mandate of social distancing drives new patterns of daily life. It feels like a very long time since I last attended an event, shook a hand or worked in my office at Day Hall. Phone calls, email and Zoom have replaced in-person interactions. And, like everyone in our community, I am... READ MORE »

Boxes with medical supplies and a handwritten note that says, NY get well soon. Campus Community Donates Essential Medical Supplies
Cornell campus community
Ithaca, New York
As hospitals across the country try to manage a surge in coronavirus patients while also facing a global shortage in the protective gear needed to treat them, the Cornell community has banded together to donate crucial medical supplies to local health care providers. “We have a lot of people working on the entire university effort,” said Frank Cantone, director of Cornell’s Office of Emergency Management, who has served as point person for the collection. “It’s easy to focus on a lot of the... READ MORE »

Regaining My Family During COVID-19
MB (Marybeth) Mitcham, staff
Facebook Group Chat
"When I was a child, my family designated every Friday and Sunday nights as family nights. Liberally fuelled by homemade pizza, popcorn, and ice cream, we would ruthlessly compete in board games, play instruments and sing together, and gleefully engage in labyrinthine conversation and debates. Over the years, my siblings and I grew up, added new family members to our cadre, acquired professional responsibilities of our own, and became generally busy adults. Our previously regular family... READ MORE »

Silver laptop computer Home, But Not Alone
Julia Levy, BA '05
While we can't physically be together to gain energy from each other, we can still connect, thanks to the power of technology. When most of the U.S. went to stay at home, I launched a series of five free online gatherings each week for anyone in my network, including Cornellians! Here are a few highlights: "Lunch with TED" to watch and discuss a TED talk, tour museums virtually, a side project panel with General Assembly, a pop-up podcast chat, and a matzah ball soup class. I plan to continue... READ MORE »

Ariel view Sibley Dome with Cayuga Lake in the distance MRP and the Sack Lunch Bunch
Kate Flaherty, graduate student
"Planners tend to be social. Every weekday during the semester, you can find many students in the Department of City and Regional Planning masters program eating lunch together in Sibley Dome. When the university closed down, we wanted to re-create that casual drop-in lunch experience, so we set up virtual Zoom lunches every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. So far, it's been a success and it's been really nice to continue to see each other's faces while we are social distancing!" ■

Hands on a laptop keyboard Scientists Collaborate on COVID-19 Research
J. Nathan Matias, faculty
Ithaca and the world
For J. Nathan Matias, assistant professor communication at Cornell, cooperation is a priority among a community of social scientists and also of students. Working with Alex Leavitt from the Facebook health team, Matias created the COVID-19 social science research tracker, which brings together social scientists and their COVID-19 research projects into a central location. This international list tracks new research about the coronavirus, including published findings, pre-prints,... READ MORE »

American flag with Legion seal in center Caring for Veterans
Travis Ehrenberg, plans to apply to Cornell
Morris County, New Jersey
"I am a sophomore at Delbarton High School in New Jersey. Having gone from a student-athlete to a stay at home teen during the coronavirus outbreak has given me a lot of time to think about the values my parents have instilled in me. My father is a police officer, and my mother was an officer in the military. My mother is currently the Vice Commander of American Legion Post 342 in Chester, New Jersey. I am a member of the same Post as a Son of the Legion. There are about 100 veterans in our... READ MORE »

screenshot of Go Fund Me page with hospital scene as an image Med Student Raising Money for Needed Supplies
Annaclaire Brodnick, BS '14
Chicago, Illinois
“As a current fourth-year medical student, I know firsthand the importance of personal protective equipment such as masks, face shields, and gowns when treating vulnerable patients. These precautions are not only to help protect yourself but also to help protect other patients or people from becoming patients. Chicago is being hit hard by COVID-19. I’ve set up a fundraiser to help get these needed materials to front line health workers as soon as possible. However, the abroad distribution and... READ MORE »

Art Therapy for Families
Vanessa Greenlee, staff
Kennedy Center, Washington D.C.
Children's author Mo Willems is the Education Artist-in-Residence at the Kennedy Center. When schools canceled mid-March, he began a Lunchtime Doodles video stream, weekdays at 1 p.m. EDT. "A therapeutic, beautiful way for children to connect with a caring adult outside the home," says Cornell employee Vanessa Greenlee. When children are busy and happy, adults and can comfortably focus on work and caring for loved ones. There were so many views in the live stream the first few days that the... READ MORE »