There’s no way to know what the next few weeks or months will bring, but we do know that the degree of closures and cancellations in Ohio is unprecedented in our lifetime. The good news is that things are starting to reopen. The wary news is that we don’t know what effect this will have on community spread.
There are community resources in Columbus that can help you through this time, and there are plenty of activities, virtual and in-person for you to enjoy. Check out our weekend events calendar for things to do every weekend!
All gathering events in the area have been cancelled so far, and it’s recommended that you continue to maintain proper distance from those outside of your family. But life has to go on, 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. Some of the basic recommendations include maintaining 6 ft distance, wearing masks, and frequent hand washing/sanitizing. Most importantly, if you or someone you have been in recent contact with are showing any symptoms, you should remain home or call your healthcare provider for guidance.
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.
Find a whole section of resources regarding job loss, business assistance, home and utilities services, healthcare, food assistance, internet access, wifi, and more.
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.
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. COTA requires customers to wear masks beginning Wednesday, April 15. Masks can be either medical or homemade and can include scarves or bandanas. They must fully cover the nose and mouth.
AEP Ohio is temporarily suspending all disconnections for non-payment. We urge customers to make every effort to keep their accounts current during the period when disconnections are suspended. If you anticipate problems paying your electric bill, please contact us so we can work together on a plan. You can learn more about payment options and assistance programs here.
Comcast extends assistance, including free Internet service for low income families
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 has extended the offer of free 60-Day Spectrum Broadband Internet & WiFi through June 30. This offers 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. Customers who live in a Spectrum market and do not currently have broadband, should contact Spectrum at 1-844-488-8395 to sign up. A free self-installation kit will be provided to new student and educator households.
Additionally, Charter will not charge late fees or terminate service for residential or small business customers who notify the company they are facing financial difficulty related to the coronavirus pandemic through June 30. Charter also will keep Spectrum WiFi hotspots across its footprint open for public use during this time-period and as always, does not impose data caps or hidden fees.
Older Adults: Staying Connected
To help ensure that older Ohioans stay connected while staying at home, Ohio Department of Aging Director Ursel McElroy announced a new service today that will provide a daily check-in by phone for Ohioans age 60 or older.
Ohio Department of Aging’s Staying Connected program provides a daily check-in by phone for Ohioans age 60 or older. Older adults can sign up for a daily call for a predetermined amount of time. When participants answer the phone, they will be asked to respond via touch-tone to confirm that they are OK or to access live support.
If no one answers after three attempts, a call is then made to an alternate contact (if provided) or to non-emergency services. The service can be canceled at any time.
“Especially during this very challenging time, we encourage older Ohioans to sign up for the Ohio Department of Aging’s Staying Connected phone program. This program will help reduce isolation and support the health and well-being of older adults in our state,” said Robert Cornwell, Executive Director, Buckeye State Sheriff’s Association.
Eligible Ohioans can sign up at aging.ohio.gov or by calling 1-800-266-4346.
Staying Connected is not an emergency response service, and participants should always use 911 or their emergency response system if they are injured or in need of emergency assistance.
Food and Grocery Resources in Columbus
Restaurants and bars have continued to offer carryout through the closures, and can reopen outdoor seating on May 15, and indoor seating on May 21. Carryout is still the safest way to order from restaurants. Many will even bring the food outside or to your car for you in order to reduce the number of people inside. Check out this huge list of restaurants offering carryout, delivery, and curbside pickup throughout Columbus.
If you plan to dine out, please check the restrictions and requirements for each restaurant you plan to frequent.
Pandemic EBT Plan
Governor DeWine announced that the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (OJFS) has received approval from the United States Department of Agriculture for its Pandemic EBT plan. The Pandemic EBT program was included in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act of 2020.
The approval will allow OJFS to distribute SNAP benefits to 850,000 students across Ohio who relied on free or reduced-price meal programs when school was in session to have access to a hot, nutritious meal. The benefits will be mailed directly to students, and families do not need to apply to be eligible.
Families will receive approximately $300 to purchase healthy and nutritious foods to feed their children. These benefits amount to more than $250 million that will go to our grocery stores and other eligible retailers.
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. 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 at CCS. COTA rides are free for anyone (please follow precautions).
We will update when we find more about summer food programs.
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.
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 proper 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
Things are reopening, but if you are high risk or concerned about being in public, you may choose to continue to stay home. 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.
Now that we are heading into summer and warmer weather, you should spend time outdoors everyday. 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. Plant flowers – most nurseries are offering curbside pickup.
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. The Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks trails are open, as well as many public gardens. 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
- Stuck at home? On demand and Virtual Events and Entertainment
- Virtual tours, on demand videos and live streams for kids
- Fun and Free Educational Resources for Kids
- Community resources and activities in Columbus during Coronavirus cancellations
- Ultimate guide to Columbus restaurants with pickup and delivery
- Ways to get cocktails, beer, and wine delivery in Columbus
- Food freebies, delivery, and cheap eats in Columbus
- Pre-order Farmers Markets goods from vendors offering pickup/delivery
- Farmers Markets in Columbus (and the changes for 2020)
- Farm delivery and CSA’s in Columbus for local produce, meat, and dairy
- Schools and restaurants offering free lunch for kids
- Freebies for healthcare workers and frontline employees
- Senior shopping hours in Columbus stores
- Skip the stores: Grocery pickup and delivery in Columbus
- DIY Take and Make Kits in Columbus
- Virtual offerings with the Wexner Center for the Arts