Support groups in Vermont have been helping people connect with friends and loved ones during the COVID-19 pandemic, while adhereing to Gov. Phil Scott’s stay-at-home directive.

The Pride Center of Vermont, for example, is hosting daily virtual community gatherings.

“We are seeing a lot of the same people come every single day,” said Justin Marsh, the center’s director of Communications and Development. “It has become part of their daily routine now. Some sense of normalcy in a time that is so not normal for a lot of us.”

Marsh said they are learning how to create programs and better serve people throughout the state once Vermonts begins reopening and the stay-at-home order is lifted. The Pride Center of Vermont also has extended its regular game nights for women online, using the video app Zoom.

“It’s really taken off,” Marsh said.

At Monday’s briefing on the state’s response to the pandemic, Vermont Commissioner of Health Mark Levine said the Department of Mental Health is creating new online initiatives about the risk to mental health of social isolation and how it can be alleviated.

Levine said he prefers the term “physical distancing” over the more-common “social distancing” because it doesn’t imply the lack of any social connections.

“If we can just be cognizant of physical distancing and trying to remain socially connected, I think that would be far healthier for us all.”

Meanwhile, Gov. Phil Scott asked residents check in on their friends and neighbors.

“Call your loved ones, your friends, your family, neighbors, and check in on them,” he said. “Listen to them and ask them how they are feeling. It goes a long way.”