A Long Winter Crip Survival Guide for Pandemic Year 4 / Forever

Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha and Tina “constant tt” Zavitsanos grieve over the neglect of disabled, immunocompromised, and chronically sick people under the ongoing pandemic and offer a long winter crip survival guide to hang out in outdoor spaces with other disabled folks (https://www.tinyurl.com/longwintersurvival).

The activists share feelings of social isolation, despair, and rage that sick/vulnerable people feel towards the environments that are progressively made less and less safe for them. With “masks optional” policy in public places (including New York University!), and the Feb 1 decision of the Biden administration to officially end the COVID “emergency” in May 2023, the pandemic feels like “the era of fascist eugenics stretching out forever.”

The authors channel the voices of disabled, black, brown, poor, trans, fat, undocumented, rural, etc. folks who have to not leave their houses for months and years in a row, for whom COVID can be deadly or lead to severe consequences, who can’t afford going to the ER, access Paxlovid or healthcare, get time off work and caring responsibilities.

Meanwhile, being safely in public with others feels like the basic survival need. As Leah puts it, “being with other disabled people in public space is giving me the life I need right now. my mom died in December. two weeks after she passed I got in my car and drove to nyc because being in deep freeze western mass was making me lose it staring at the yellow wallpaper. I met up with Tina and our friends in the park outside their house in Chinatown, LES NYC, we were able to because they had all these hacks for being together safely outside, even when it was around freezing. me and tina and g hung out and we ran into friends spontaneously- josephine was wheeling by, al came through. we laughed, talked shit, gossiped, argued, listened to each other, asked questions. this was what i was missing- the liveness of being in public space, period and as radical disabled people, the random synchronicity of who you run into.”

As has always been the case, disabled folks can’t trust governments and institutions to figure out their lives and access for them, so Leah and Tina share their own lived experiences of crip gatherings in the “forever winter” of COVID. The comprehensive list of resources they put together includes tips on propane heaters, camping batteries, heating pads, furs, blankets, firepits, canopies, lighting, air purifiers, etc., i.e. how to stay warm, comfy and safe while sharing the precious presence of others.

The guide is written in a conversational language and is open to suggestions from anyone (write to longwintersurvival@gmail.com).

—Sasha Kurlenkova