Last Friday night, Susan Logue walked onto the back deck of her townhouse in Mount Airy to enjoy the weather.
The neighborhood she lives in, part of an array of homes near Back Acre Circle, has a lot of properties with second-floor decks in the back. That got Logue thinking about how to practice social distancing while still checking in on her neighbors during this coronavirus pandemic.
“I have a friend in North Carolina, and she sent me a picture where they had all joined together around the fences,” Logue said. “And I thought, we’ve got decks and we’ll be at least six feet apart, and I thought we could catch up that way.”
So when Logue wandered onto her second-story deck Friday, many of her neighbors slowly started to gather onto theirs for a “happy hour” while social distancing.
Some of those neighbors included Ashley and Ian Speelman, who designed some signs thanking first responders and others for their work during the pandemic.
Ashley already worked from home part of the week before the pandemic worsened, as she works at a youth advocacy nonprofit in Washington, D.C. When she did go in, she would drive to the Shady Grove metro station and then take the train.
“I didn’t realize how much I would miss that two-hour commute into the city to meet with my colleagues,” she said from her deck.
The Speelmans and others thought it was important to see each other, especially with the recent news of an outbreak at the Pleasant View Nursing Home nearby.
“It’s been a really rough week for our town,” said Jen Long, who has lived in the neighborhood for 15 years. “So it’s nice to have a sense of solidarity, and be able to breathe and escape from what our reality is for a bit.”
At the Park Place Apartments complex near Waterside Drive in Frederick, Bill Martin also organized an effort to ensure solidarity during uncertain times.
Martin led an outdoor sing-along for dozens of the complex’s residents Saturday evening, featuring tunes like “God Bless America” and “Sweet Caroline.”
He said the complex is already a tight-knit community, and that neighbors still like to socialize while keeping their distance, he said. Fran Denmark is one of the residents there, and said shortly before the sing-along that she was looking forward to the gathering.
“The whole development is filled with wonderful people,” Denmark said. “It’s got people who are just nice as can be.”
As Martin led the sing-along with Park Place residents coming out to their balconies of their condos, Terri Kemmerer was walking her dog.
Kemmerer said social gatherings like the sing-along are important as people remain isolated.
“It’s a lot of people that are going through depression, and just being able to be with your neighbors from afar, it’s important to know this soon will end,” she said. “It’s showing us how important being together and relationships are right now.”
Former Emmitsburg commissioner Elizabeth Buckman is the founder of Emmitsburg Cares, a group that coordinates community efforts through social media. She encouraged residents to also directly check in on their neighbors.
“We’re all just working together, to let people know we are available to help them,” Buckman said. “Unfortunately, not everyone has social media, but if we take care of neighbors who don’t have social media, then that takes care of itself.”
Burkittsville Mayor Debby Burgoyne said she and other town council members have also been checking in on neighbors, but in a unique way: walking through town, while maintaining social distancing guidelines.
That way, neighbors can come onto their porch or out their front door, while maintaining a safe distance, Burgoyne said.
“It’s also that personal touch with everybody at a distance ... I think it’s very important,” Burgoyne said.
“There are no cook-outs and that kind of thing, but everybody is kind of pitching in and looking out for one another,” she added.
Back in Mount Airy, Alex Thomas recorded some drone footage of people hanging out on their decks last Friday.
“It seems like such an innocent thing, let’s all go outside and chat with our neighbors on our back decks,” Thomas said. “But we’ve been cooped up for weeks ... so this a great idea to keep our social distancing, but still be able to see each other.”