Social distancing guidelines during the COVID-19 pandemic call for maintaining a distance of 6 feet between yourself and other people.

A campaign launched in partnership with the Detroit Police Athletic League and U:Link — a collective of governing agencies at seven Michigan public universities including the University of Michigan — wants to ensure that the physical distance does not translate to social isolation.

The campaign, called 6˚ of Separation, encourages people to commit to checking in on six people on the 6th, 16th and 26th of each month through the end of June.

“Our community needs timely, factual information we can trust as well as safe and caring human contact during this unprecedented test of our willingness to love our neighbors as ourselves,” said LaSonia Forte, associate director of state outreach in the Office of the Vice President for Government Relations.

Forte said the campaign launched in April after a March conference call between the Detroit PAL and U:Link members, along with Ashleigh Johnson of Poverty Solutions, Jade Burns, assistant professor of nursing in the School of Nursing, and Diana Seales, a Ph.D. candidate who works at the Ginsberg Center and teaches in the Semester in Detroit program.

Besides U-M, Michigan universities in U:Link include Eastern Michigan, Oakland, Wayne State, Michigan State, Grand Valley State and Central Michigan.

To date, more than 1,000 people have visited the Detroit PAL website to pledge to connect with six people three times a month.

The website provides a script for people to use in making a phone or virtual connection with others. It also includes links to information on living and food assistance, managing stress and symptoms during COVID-19, and free health and educational resources to keep families active and engaged.

Those who take the pledge are encouraged to purchase a 6˚ of Separation T-shirt and share photos of themselves in their shirts on social media using the hashtag #CheckingInSavesLives. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of shirts will benefit the small business CreateMyTee and the nonprofit Detroit PAL.

“My hope is that faculty and staff members at U-M campuses reach out to members of their networks, especially those that have been devastated by this pandemic,” Forte said. “These contacts can be loved ones, family or friends. Anyone you think can use support and comfort right now.”

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