Jonah Liss starts his own online service, enlisting volunteers to deliver food, medicine and other necessities.
When Jonah Liss heard schools were closing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, his thoughts turned to finding a productive way to fill his spare time.
The 16-year-old junior at the International Academy of Bloomfield Hills had been busy with a rigorous academic schedule and many extracurricular activities. But now, Liss’ goal is to help the community get through the coronavirus pandemic quicker by protecting those most vulnerable.
Mediumize is a platform Liss designed to bridge the gap between those who cannot safely leave their homes during the coronavirus outbreak and those who are healthy and want to help. Liss, who lives in Bloomfield Township, is enlisting volunteers to run errands such as delivering food, medicine and other necessities at no additional cost.
By minimizing potential exposure to the virus, Liss says Mediumize can also mitigate its spread.
“I believe in what we’re doing and think we can make a difference,” Liss said. “It’s important that people aren’t putting themselves or others at risk.”
Liss, an avid investor in the stock market, first noticed the effects the coronavirus was having on the market in China and started to track the virus. When it paralyzed Italy, Liss knew he wanted to do something to help once it reached the United States. He just wasn’t sure what that would be.
As the virus spread and schools canceled, he turned his idea into a concrete plan. With a passion for coding and web designing, he created a website for Mediumize. He had the site up on Saturday, March 14. A few days later, he recruited nearly 60 volunteers, almost exclusively teens. Liss hopes to turn this endeavor into a nonprofit organization. He would also like to see the concept implemented on a national level.
“My grandparents here do not have to use it because they can just call me,” he said. “However, one of my inspirations for expanding the regions Mediumize covers is so my grandparents on the West Coast can eventually use it,” he said.
A lot of businesses are also delivering food, medicine and other necessities. However, some are expensive or can be hard to navigate, especially for those unaccustomed to using the internet. Liss has volunteers who can offer phone support, helping maneuver online ordering as well as other technology-related issues, like telemedicine. The services are free, but delivery volunteers can accept tips.
“I’m not surprised he thought of something like this. It’s what he does,” said his mom, Jennifer Liss, who helped him further develop the concept, with input from friends and neighbors, including U.S. Rep. Andy Levin (D-Michigan). “Jonah comes up with these ideas all the time and then he implements them. The minute he found out he had to stay home from school, he started working on this.”
Currently, the delivery service is available in Berkley, Birmingham, Bloomfield, Commerce, Farmington, Milford, Pontiac, Rochester, Royal Oak, Southfield, Troy, Waterford and West Bloomfield. These locations reflect the geographical locations of volunteers, most of whom are Liss’ classmates.
Eliza Faigin, a senior at West Bloomfield High School, knows Liss through BBYO. When she heard he was looking for volunteers, she immediately signed up.
“I feel like it’s my job to do what I can to help those who are at risk or could use the support. It’s up to us to help our community in any way we can,” she said.
Some of the people Liss consulted with voiced concern about the safety of teens going out in public. “We’re making it safe,” said Liss, explaining that because his age group seems to have the lowest mortality rate associated with coronavirus, students are the best candidates to do this type of work.
Liss acknowledges that despite the age of the volunteers, they could still be unknowing carriers or contract the virus while out in the community. Therefore, those offering assistance must not show any symptoms of COVID-19 or exposure to others with symptoms. Further, they cannot live with someone who is in a high-risk group. Every day a volunteer is assisting, he or she must send Liss a video of themselves taking their temperature. He expects these helpers to wear masks and gloves and disinfect all items purchased.
“No single thing is perfect, but at the end of the day, this is safer than sending a high-risk person out in public or sending a person with symptoms of the virus out either,” Liss said. “Those receiving a delivery can also customize what precautionary measures are taken to meet their comfort level.
“If you order something on Amazon, you don’t know where the package was or who handled it. Here, there’s personal contact with the delivery person.”
Katie Darr has used Mediumize a few times so far. Once she had groceries delivered to her 83-year-old mother and once had groceries delivered to herself and her husband. Both are working from home and inundated with work.
“We think it’s such a great program and we’re encouraging all our neighbors to try it. These are scary times and it’s nice to have something positive coming out of it.”