I don’t know anything about public health. And none of us know what the world is going to look like after COVID-19. Especially as loved ones and people around us get sick.

But we do know that civic health relies on vibrant communities, deep social connections, and face-to-face engagement. Good civic health looks like people making meaningful connections with their neighbors, public officials, and contributing to governance decision-making. Whether breaking bread or debating a local ordinance, our civic life thrives when we’re looking other people in the eyes, hearing their voices, and being in their presence. But given the speed and spread of the novel coronavirus, the basic tenets of how we gather and engage in our civic, social, and communal life are already shifting, at least temporarily, but for now, fundamentally.

If doing our civic duty requires unraveling the very social structures we take for granted in our society, from work to school to leisure, and that traditionally have served as a foundation of civic engagement efforts, what will become of our civic health?

We don’t yet know the answers. But as we physically isolate ourselves, the need for public engagement will simultaneously be at an all-time high, both for public health and democratic health. The health of our communities will depend on individuals taking responsibility to limit the virus’s spread. When schools close and offices go remote, those already most vulnerable in our communities will be most affected, including those structurally and historically marginalized and disenfranchised. Many lower-income children rely on their schools for food and medical care; for seniors, often already insolated, a visit from a social worker might be their only human contact with the outside world. Not all workers can work from home, or use sick days and health insurance if they fall ill. Political, civic, and social engagement will be crucial to help address all of these threats.

Read the full article about civic society in a time of social distancing by Hollie Russon Gilman at Stanford Social Innovation Review.