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Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Washington University Grads Start Doordash-like COVID-19 Support System

Posted By on Tue, Apr 14, 2020 at 6:14 AM

click to enlarge Yoav Kadan and Marissa Turkin are two of the founding members of Covaid. - COURTESY COVAID
  • COURTESY COVAID
  • Yoav Kadan and Marissa Turkin are two of the founding members of Covaid.


As apps like Doordash and Shipt save us from braving the outside world, some St. Louisans cannot afford the luxury of delivery services. A website called Covaid has answered that problem.



Yoav Kadan and friends Marissa Turkin and Stephen Yoffie got together on March 19 — two days before St. Louis issued a stay-at-home order — to figure out how they could help their community during the COVID-19 epidemic. The three recent Washington University grads and aspiring physicians soon came up with the idea of a free delivery service for those most vulnerable to the disease.

"We saw a need in the community. Some people, like the elderly and immunocompromised, simply can’t afford to leave their homes, since getting the disease could result in serious complications," Kadan says. "Others are also in quarantine due to having the disease or having been exposed to it, so they need a way of obtaining food and supplies without endangering public health."

The website originated as "Support Your City," a site where St. Louisans could visit and request help from volunteers in their area. After typing in a ZIP code, volunteers in the area pop up on the screen along with the services they can provide. For example, Turkin's services listed are grocery and medication pickups, academic help and emotional support.

click to enlarge From left: Debanik Purkayastha, Stephen Yoffie and Jeffrey Li. Purkayastha and Li coded the website while Yoffie is a medical student in New York City. - COURTESY COVAID
  • COURTESY COVAID
  • From left: Debanik Purkayastha, Stephen Yoffie and Jeffrey Li. Purkayastha and Li coded the website while Yoffie is a medical student in New York City.

The organization now has gained two members outside of Missouri with Jeffrey Li of Pennsylvania and Debanik Purkayastha of Maryland. The two new members coded the website and helped it evolve to its current name.

Yoffie is now attending medical school in New York which has made the virus personal for him.

"While attending classes online, we’re also getting real-time updates about the dire situation on the wards. I felt even more stressed knowing that the fourth-year class graduated early to aid in the efforts," Yoffie says. "Yet, every moment of this crisis has been filled with people willing to step forward and help others in their community. Even in these dark times, people are striving to bring in the light."

Now with more than 1,100 volunteers, the group hopes to grow and serve more cities in the future. The organization is teaming up with other mutual aid groups in Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis and Charlotte. They are also due to receive a $1,000 grant and mentorship by The Rally Fund in order to help grow the organization.

"You don’t need a medical degree to make a difference in your community," Kadan says. "This is a time of great uncertainty, and we hope to make living through a pandemic just a bit more manageable for people who are in need in the St. Louis community and around the country."
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