There’s no way to know what the next few weeks will bring, but we do know that the degree of closures and cancellations in Columbus is unprecedented in our lifetime. Kids are home for 3+ weeks, the workforce is likely to be disrupted, and the economy is sure to be affected. There are community resources in Columbus that can help, and plenty of other activities to enjoy!
All events in the area have been cancelled, and it’s recommended that everyone stay at home when possible. But life has to go on to some degree, so if you have to be out and about for work or other reasons, be sure to follow precautions as recommended by the Ohio Department of Health. Other illnesses are still going around the area, including strep and influenza, so even if you aren’t at risk, it pays to be vigilant about your health and wellness.
Free resources in Columbus during closures and cancellations
If you have questions or need help with resources, call 2-1-1. Operators will help connect you to resources and social programs.
CAP4KIDS has a comprehensive list of community resources available during the coronavirus crisis. Resources include city services, food assistance, emergency housing, unemployment benefits, educational resources, mental health assistance, and fun activities.
If you’ve been laid off because of the COVID-19 pandemic, file online for unemployment benefits at unemployment.ohio.gov. If you don’t have access to a computer, you can call toll-free 1-877-644-6562 (excluding holidays) Monday through Friday 7 AM – 7 PM, and Saturday 9 AM – 1 PM. If you have questions about whether you qualify or how it’s calculated, see the questions and answers here. Please do not call until you’ve read through the questions – overwhelming the call center with phone calls will slow things down for everyone.
Although Premier Allergy Premier Allergy & Asthma has closed its offices temporarily, the staff is on standby to answer any questions from patients AND the public (for free obviously) about the virus, symptoms, the difference between symptoms for coronvavirus, common cold, allergies or flu, etc. They have set up an email address COVIDquestions@ohallergy.com and people can DM them on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. Dr. Shah and many others on his staff are board certified allergists and immunologists, so they are experts on viruses.
Fares will not be charged on COTA routes until further notice. Customers are to enter and exit all vehicles from the rear door to increase social distancing efforts. Please direct any further questions or concerns to Customer Care at 614-228-1776. Please limit your trips to essential travel only.
AEP Ohio is temporarily suspending all disconnections for non-payment. We know our customers are concerned about their families and ensuring they have reliable electric service allows them to focus on staying healthy and well. We are committed to doing what we can to help our customers, our employees, and the communities we serve navigate this uncertain time.
Free internet service for low income customers for 2 months
Comcast is offering free internet service for new low income costumers for 2 months, and faster speeds for Internet Essentials users. Low cost computers may be available for purchase as well.
Charter-Spectrum: Free Access to broadband and WiFi services to households with students
Charter-Spectrum announced Friday it will offer free access to broadband and WiFi services to households with students who do not already have the services. free broadband and Wi-Fi access will be available for 60 days to households with K-12 and/or college students who do not already have a Spectrum broadband subscription at any service level up to 100 Mbps.
U-Haul: Many college students have been asked to move out our campus housing for 30 days to their permanent home or other residence. U-Haul offers 30 days of free self-storage to college students impacted school closures. The free month applies to new customers with college IDs and is a limited-time offer.
Food and Grocery Resources in Columbus
Restaurants and bars are closed, but many have stayed open for carryout and could use your support if you have the money in your budget to purchase a to-go meal. Many will even bring the food outside or to your car for you in order to reduce the number of people inside. Support Columbus Eats has a list of local restaurants offering carryout and pickup. Some offer delivery, or you can order through UberEats, GrubHub, or Door Dash. While they are working hard to keep this up to date, closures and changes are happening daily, so check the restaurant website or Facebook page for the most current information. #ComeTogetherCbus
Meals provided for school students
Schools are making 1-2 meals per day available for students. Many families count on school meals to meet the needs of their children, and school cancellations can cause families to run out of food and the resources to purchase extra food. While all schools will handle the process differently, the trend seems to be having grab and go pickup options available at various locations to prevent crowds. Check with your local school district. Delivery may also be available for certain situations. Some may require registration to ensure they can meet the needs, while others may not need registration. Note: this may not be available during the regularly scheduled Spring Break. Click here for Columbus City School food pickup locations – these are available to anyone under the age of 18 – they do not have to be a student. COTA rides are free for anyone (please follow precautions).
If you wish to help with the distribution of food items, please contact your local school district to see if they need volunteers.
With a goal to end childhood hunger, The Lunchbox passes out emergency food bags to children in the summer and during school closures. If you need food for your family while schools are closed and don’t have transportation for the school lunch food programs or food pantries, email firstname.lastname@example.org or send a message through Facebook.
Blessing Boxes are outdoor cabinets in public places that are stocked with non-perishable food items, basic toiletries, baby supplies, and anything else that might be considered a blessing to someone who finds themselves in need. Items are anonymously donated and anonymously received. A simple rule applies – Leave what you can, take what you need. There are 38 Blessing Boxes around Columbus and about 20 more that go by other names
Find locations of Blessing Boxes around Central Ohio below or at this link.
Food banks are always a major player in preventing hunger, and in times like this, many more families may find themselves needing the assistance of food banks to get through the weeks. There are many food banks and food pantries located throughout Central Ohio. If you need assistance finding one, check with your local churches or call 2-1-1 for a list of community resources. Food banks may also be able to assist with pet food and baby care needs. No one should be ashamed to need assistance from a food bank. Find a list of food assistance options for counties served by the Mid-Ohio Foodbank.
If you wish to help in your community and have the means, please consider making a food or monetary donation to a local food bank. Many food banks are able to provide up to 3 meals per every $1 donated.
Shopping at Grocery stores
When possible, shop online or for order pickup at local grocery stores to avoid unnecessary outings and public contact. Shortages for various food and home goods (stop buying excessive quantities of toilet paper!!!!!!) are likely, especially in the beginning. Focus on purchasing what you may need for at least 2 weeks if you have the extra money in your budget. Focus on nutritious foods that have a good storage life, such as frozen/canned vegetables and meats, and fresh produce that won’t go bad quickly (apples, oranges, melons, potatoes, onions, squash, kiwi, carrots, and more). You may want to purchase shelf stable dairy products if you go through a lot of dairy, or freeze a gallon or two of milk (open and use some out of the container first to allow room for expansion). Eggs and cheese have a long fridge life as well. Dried goods, prepackaged food, and canned goods are also great options. Don’t feel the need to attempt to store 1+ months of food at this time, as grocery delivery and pickup are likely to continue to be available throughout the course of the pandemic. You DO NOT need 4 months worth of toilet paper, bleach, hand sanitizer, or bottled water. Please be courteous of other shoppers and only purchase what you actually need so that others can purchase normal amounts of these items.
If you wish to shop online and pick up in store or have your groceries delivered, we’ve gathered a list of Columbus grocery stores offering parking lot pickup and home delivery. Some services are free for your first 3 orders, so check them out and avoid the stores!
Due to people rushing to stock their homes, available time slots for grocery pickup may be pushed back by 1-2 days. Stock is also low on a lot of items, whether you shop in-store or online, so be prepared to substitutions and out of stock items.
Be a good neighbor
While we should practice social distancing, we should also pull together with our communities. Please check on your neighbors to see if they have access to food, medicines, and basic household needs. It is especially important to check with relatives and neighbors who are elderly, disabled, home bound, or at risk for other reasons. Even if you cannot help directly with their needs, you may know of someone who can. Use social media for good!
At Home or Safe Activities
Everything is basically closed, but you don’t have to sit at home and stare out the window. We have some ideas for you to make the most of your time while your social life is slow.
We are fortunate that this virus has struck during nicer weather rather than in the cold of the winter. The sun is finely visiting us again, the temperatures are mild, and being outdoors is healthy! Fresh air and vitamin D are excellent at keeping you healthy and happy! Sit outside instead of the couch to scroll on your phone. Read a book or magazine. Have a picnic in your yard or on your porch. Clean out and plan your gardens. Plant a tree or two. Start seedlings indoor (check package recommendations for dates)
Go for a walk or bike ride! It can be long or short, fast or slow, but going for a walk for bike ride is good for you in nearly every way. Head out in your neighborhood, to a community park, or to one of our amazing Metro Parks. At this time, the Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks trails are open. You can walk for miles in a metro park without running into another person, so it’s a safe and healthy activity for those who are capable of walking in nature. As always, it’s always best to go with another person. If you go by yourself, tell someone the exact plan for your walk (location, time, and expected end time). Cell phone service is not available in all areas of the metro parks, and if you get lost or injured, that information could help locate you quickly. You should also carry water and a whistle if you are exploring an unfamiliar area, or a path that is not well-marked.
Go for a drive!
Gas is still reasonable, so going for a drive in a new (or favorite) area is a great way to kill some time.
Spring Clean and organize
This isn’t fun, but you’ll be so happy once your see progress! Do a full spring cleaning. Start to switch out seasonal clothing. Go through clothing, toys, and household goods to find things that you need to get rid of. Set up boxes labeled trash and donate so it will be easy to get the sorted item out of your house.
Organize the garage, shed, and/or basement. Get out your patio furniture or clean it off.
Complete small diy projects inside your house, like hanging framed photos or art, painting walls, rearranging furniture. Need to borrow some tools? Franklin County residents can borrow tools from ModCon Living’s Free Tool Rental Library with membership.
Do some digital organization. Organize photos and delete ones you don’t want. Clear out your email inbox. Delete or organize folders in your computer.
Revisit or learn a new hobby
If life has gotten busy and you gave up on a hobby, it may be time to revisit it, or pick a new one! Get caught on printed photo albums and scrapbooks, or organize your digital photos. Plan your garden. Make something (cooking, baking sewing, knitting, drawing, painting, or more).
Use your library card!
While many libraries are closed through April 5, you can utilize so many library resources without leaving your house! Sign up online for a library card (if you don’t have one), and you’ll have access to thousands of books, audiobooks, movies, magazines, music, and more! So many people claim they want to take time to read…well many of you have extra time on your hands with the cancellation of most activities! You can read books on your phone or other personal device for FREE using Libby, Tumblebooks learning for kids, other apps featuring media available through the Ohio Digital Library and more.
- Columbus Metropolitan Library Systems
- Delaware County District Libraries
- Pataskala Public Library
- Westerville Public Library
- Worthington Libraries
- Upper Arlington Public Library
- Southwest Public Libraries
- Bexley Public Library
- Marysville Public Library
- Licking County Library System
It’s the perfect time to get in shape for when events are back on! Walk or run outside, do free online fitness programs (YouTube is great for this!), calisthenics and body weight workouts, stretch and more! Get moving and prevent weight gain from being stuck at home! Many gyms are still open, but may not be offering group fitness or childcare options.
Explore a museum – virtually!
Google Arts & Culture has a list of over 500 museums offering online tours and exhibits from around the globe! Explore art and culture from around the world from your couch!
We will be continually be add to this list as resources and ideas are discovered!
Other articles of interest
- Virtual Events Calendar
- Connect with friends and family in a Group Facetime Chat
- Have a FREE Netflix Party with friends in your own homes
- Community resources and activities in Columbus
- Spring Break: at home edition
- Free at home workout options for all
- Stuck at home? On demand and Virtual Events and Entertainment
- Virtual tours, on demand videos and live streams for kids
- Skip the stores: Grocery pickup and delivery in Columbus
- The most beautiful public gardens in Columbus
- Free or cheap events this weekend in Columbus (will show available and cancelled events)