COVID Companions: One WC Smith Community Manager’s Response to the COVID-19 Crisis

Claire Ruppert, community manager at WC Smith’s Frontenac and Clarence House apartments, was concerned.

When the COVID-19 crisis began to take hold of the District, she was worried that some people would not self-report and not be able to self-quarantine as a result of not accepting help. She also wanted to assure her residents, most of whom live alone, that there was no need to conceal symptoms for fear of stigma or because the logistics of quarantining pose too great a challenge. The entire community is eager to assist, she knew, management and neighbors alike.

Prompted by these concerns, Claire launched a program for her residents called Covid Companions, a program that allows residents to volunteer to be a “companion” for others in the community during the COVID-19 crisis.

“CCs” check in daily with one another briefly by phone or email. A companion asks how their CC feels physically and emotionally. If a CC becomes infected with coronavirus, they might ask their companion to keep a log of their symptoms and temperature. Should an emergency need arise, CCs can alert Claire, who can help with many of the problems self-quarantining residents may face.

Claire initiated the program to help make management aware of quarantined residents’ unmet needs for food, supplies, and services. Allowing affected residents to properly self-quarantine while still getting needed goods and services helps prevents the spread of coronavirus in the community. She also wanted to comfort those who feel frightened or lonely, regardless of their health status, and perhaps increase the chance that residents who may develop symptoms that require urgent medical attention get the care they need.

Since the program began April 6, 72 residents have volunteered to be a Covid Companion (out of 208 apartments).

Following Claire’s lead, and helped by materials she developed as a model, other WC Smith property managers have started their own Covid Companion programs for their communities.

The program has also garnered national, and international, attention. A Facebook group created for people who are “voluntarily single” asked her permission to post about the Covid Companion program on its page. That post caught the eye of a woman in the Philippines, who lives in a 25-tower condominium complex with her elderly mother and contacted Claire for her materials.

Read more about the program in this Q&A published by the Forest Hills Connection: