I propose a special checkbox: "I'm a researcher/programmer/scientist/engineer/professional doing some work towards COVID response". Available on any site in the SE network.

This could be a problem with D3 library making some COVID visualisation (on Stack Overflow), or a math problem related to epidemic modelling (on Mathematics Stack Exchange), or a medical problem directly (on Medical Sciences Beta Stack Exchange), etc.

On every site in the network, there will be a visible tab or menu bar link called "COVID" (for example, next to the Active / Bountied toggle), where people can help specifically those who are stuck solving an urgent problem related to COVID.

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    Or people use the search bar, write "covid" and press return. – Tom Apr 15 '20 at 18:06
  • @Tom the question itself can be nothing related to COVID on the surface. "How to do X in D3.js"? – leventov Apr 15 '20 at 18:07
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    Of course, the question asker will only write "How to do X in D3.js" without any background and the question will be received positively. – Tom Apr 15 '20 at 18:16
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    There are indeed some sites on the network that have tags related to covid-19 and I believe this should be the preferred way to mark a question as being related to covid-19 instead of coding a one-off control just for this. See money.stackexchange.com/questions/tagged/covid-19 and travel.stackexchange.com/questions/tagged/covid-19. In addition, there is no reason to label something as related to covid on Stack Overflow as Tom already mentioned. – Kodos Johnson Apr 15 '20 at 18:20
  • Ok, well, they can. However, such a feature also directs attention. Me typing "covid" in the search box on SO and a toggle visible to everyone (even those who didn't have this thought before) are two different things. – leventov Apr 15 '20 at 18:20
  • @KodosJohnson "In addition, there is no reason to label something as related to covid on Stack Overflow as Tom already mentioned." - I didn't understand this. No reason except for achieving results faster and having a difference between an answered and an unanswered question. This can be a sort of automatic bounty. – leventov Apr 15 '20 at 18:22
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    Ways to declare urgency on a question have been proposed before, and haven't been well-received. – Spevacus Apr 15 '20 at 18:23
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    @leventov What I meant by that is that Stack Overflow content should not have any connection to current events or anything outside of programming. It is purely about solving programming questions. – Kodos Johnson Apr 15 '20 at 18:25
  • @KodosJohnson who decides "should"? – leventov Apr 15 '20 at 18:27
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    @leventov It is pretty widely agreed upon by most members of the community. – Kodos Johnson Apr 15 '20 at 18:28
  • @KodosJohnson has this agreement been reached considering the current world reality? – leventov Apr 15 '20 at 18:28
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    You can't ram a feature request that has previously been negatively received through by citing the current pandemic. – Spevacus Apr 15 '20 at 18:30
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    Cross-site duplicate ---- also this from the MSO FAQ. – EJoshuaS - Reinstate Monica Apr 15 '20 at 19:40
  • Also, many sites (like The Workplace) that are accepting questions advising people with pandemic-related problems already have a tag for it, so the checkbox would be redundant. – EJoshuaS - Reinstate Monica Apr 15 '20 at 19:43
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    The current world reality is that any measure intended to prioritize some set of questions will be misused immediate by homework vamps etc. – Martin James Apr 15 '20 at 20:24

I understand your request to be related to questions that are not obviously directly linked to COVID-19 (as then a tag would do), but questions that are to be seen as urgent because they are being faced by people on the front lines of fighting COVID-19 and presumably deserve as quick an answer as humanly possible. I can see the possible value of this, but I see several major arguments against:

  • Stack Exchange has never been for urgent issues. If you are researching COVID-19 (or anything of public health importance), you presumably have access to a support network, team, or budget. Use it! If you need an urgent coding job or an urgent late-night server maintenance call, help a professional stay afloat by hiring them!
  • Such a bit would be easily abused. There's no easy way to verify what someone says here. If I flag a Special Checkboxed question as "not really from a COVID-19 researcher", how should the moderator handling the flag adjudicate the matter? Many people who post here don't provide enough information in their profile to do a background check, and even the details that people provide can be easily falsified.
  • Even discounting intentional abuse, this could lead to time-consuming and endlessly debatable arguments as to what roles are truly COVID-19 ones and which are not. Most people would probably agree that a graduate student working on gathering data on COVID-19 morbidity for a study is a front-line worker, but what about a supervisor at a face-mask manufacturing plant? How about a drill extraction worker who works for an oil company that sometimes sells fuel to ambulance companies?
  • When the crisis is over or has reduced to the point where such an "urgent bit" is no longer needed, what becomes of it? Will it be removed? Will it be renamed the Zombie Apocalypse Urgent Box, the Get Meth Off Our Streets Urgent Box, the Kids Taunting Happy Fun Ball Again Urgent Box, or whatever happens to be most appropriate to the next crisis?

If your site supports Community Ads then an avenue available to you within existing functionality is suggested by this answer to What GIS Stack Exchange avenues are available to enlist community support for Emergency?:

  1. Place a community advertisement by following the instructions at a per-site Meta question like Community Promotion Ads — 2020 to create an advert as an answer.

    • Be sure to use the question devoted to your site and the current year because the Q&A that triggers community ads gets made anew each year.

    • Have that answer link to a page of requirements/resources related to the emergency. This could be as simple as a list of links to questions that you deem important to COVID-19 response.

  2. Use Social Media (e.g. Twitter) to advertise that answer so that it can be quickly upvoted to the necessary 6 and beyond.

To see an example of the Community Ad posted by @MarkC after The Philippines was devastated by typhoons Hainan/Yolanda in 2013 see https://gis.meta.stackexchange.com/a/3441.

Consider using a chat room for any open-ended discussions like what to do in an emergency that requires skills found at your site to assist its resolution. That part of a Stack Exchange site is ideal for asking anything that is insufficiently focused or off-topic for the Main and Meta sites.

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