So how are you doing? And I mean that literally...How are you physically and emotionally? For most of us, the world as we know it right now is uncharted territory, locally, nationally and globally. Our immediate focus and foreseeable plans, our ability to think about what we are doing and who we are doing it with has been turned on its edge in a way that none of us envisioned on New Year’s Eve 2019 when our biggest national upcoming challenge looked like the rancor of the Presidential Election 2020. And yes, I believe there is still a plan to have an election, most likely Joe Biden vs Donald Trump. Plans for spring break, high school and college graduations, weddings have all been imploded or exploded depending on how you look at it. This is not what we thought “March Madness” meant at all! Instead of brackets for the NCAA, we are talking about “flattening the curve” of new COVID-19 cases (more on that later) and the terms “COVID-19” and “Coronavirus” are on our minds and part of our daily conversations. Even “shelter in place”, once a term of fiction books associated with disaster novels and movies, has become a part of daily news briefings as governors announce new states daily that have implemented these plans or should expect to shortly.
Because these conversations are impossible to escape, they also promote stress and anxiety in even the most practical individual. Part of this is due to the constant barrage of information, not all of which is factual and some of which is, at a minimum, embellished to make it more sensational. One thing is clear: the Coronavirus is here, it is highly contagious, but for the majority of people who get it the experience will be mild. The best things you can do for yourself and for those around you is to try to stay healthy, well rested, boost your immune system and minimize your contact with others. This is even more true if you are a high risk individual, meaning that your immune system is compromised, you have underlying health conditions or are an older adult.
So let’s talk about what we do know right now , what things we don’t know and won’t know for awhile, and take a moment to pause and be grateful for where at least most of us are right now. And if you are not in that place, my heart goes out to you and yours.
What we know
The Coronavirus, or COVID-19 (named after 2019, the year in which this version of the virus first appeared in China), was declared a world-wide pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) on March 11, 2020. This New York Times glossary is very helpful in explaining many of these terms that are now part of our daily lexicon.
It is NOT the Chinese virus or the China virus. Using either term is xenophobic, inaccurate and discriminatory. The first known cases of COVID-19 were identified in China last year but variations on the Coronavirus have been known and studied for years, just not the COVID-19. In fact the SARS virus several years ago was a different type of Coronavirus.
“Social distancing” has become a new way of life for most of us in the United States in an effort to reduce the speed of the spread of the COVID-19 virus or, as you may hear it described, to “flatten the curve.” What these refer to is an effort to keep people from gathering in groups since the virus spreads so easily and quickly. In the United States, we have been asked to keep groups to a size of 10 or less and, in those states where “shelter in place” is in effect, we are essentially being asked to stay home with just our families or those we live with unless we have jobs that are considered essential. San Francisco created a pretty thorough description of what this means which you can view here and which other entities have referred to since then. Included in this is keeping a distance of 6 feet or more from others if you do need to go out. Failure to do things like social distancing and shelter in place hastened the spread of the virus in China initially and more recently in Italy which as of March 24, 2020 led the world in the number of confirmed cases (63,927) and death (6,077) and whose healthcare system is bursting at the seams as it tries to grapple with the crisis. As of March 26, the US totals have climbed to over 80,000, an estimate that is uniformly acknowledged as understated and still climbing (see data discussion below). It is efforts like those described above that are trying to reduce the rate of increase in our country and “flatten the curve” as described below.
“Flattening the curve” focuses on reducing the rate at which the virus spreads with the hope that the US healthcare system will be better prepared to manage the more severe cases that arise as they inevitably will. Right now there are real and valid concerns that we do not have enough ICU beds and there aren’t enough ventilators to cope with the Coronavirus handle the likely volume of cases as this virus spreads. While most young people seem to suffer little in the way of ill effects from this virus those who are older and/or who have underlying health conditions or compromised immune systems are much more at risk. It is also clear that before you actually know that you have the virus you are already spreading it to others.
Practice social distancing, stay home as much as possible.
Remember that by far the majority of people who actually get this do not ever feel very sick and in fact may never know that they had it. If you do get it, here is an article that explains the symptoms: NY Times, Coronavirus Body Symptoms. However, it is very important to try not to spread it to anyone else because others may not be as fortunate as you and it is extremely contagious, much more contagious than a cold or the flu.
Get exercise including going outside to do so, but keep your distance from others outside of those you live with (recommended distance is 6 feet).
Here are some practical tips that I have collected from a variety of sources that may help you to stay healthy. They are based on the premise that COVID-19 works on the lungs, particularly by clogging them up with thick mucous, is highly contagious, and can remain viable in droplets on a variety of surfaces including hair, skin and solid surfaces from hours (hair and skin) to days (metal and plastic):
Support your immune system by getting enough sleep, eating healthy foods and doing things that will help reduce any anxiety because that will make your immune system stronger . Here are some resources that may help with stress and anxiety:
There is no evidence at this point in time that this variation of Coronavirus, COVID-19, can be shared with animals or transmitted by animals to humans, according to the CDC. As described in a previous blog, coronaviruses have been around for a long time and other variations have had different characteristics. It is always wise to wash your hands well after handling animals of any type, especially after cleaning up their excrement.
In this very surreal period, which I have likened to being inside a Salvador Dali painting, I think it is especially important to make sure that we each take a few moments every day to feel grounded, and I mean that literally. Feel the earth under your feet (even my favorite Thunderbird). Be thankful for the fact that maybe we have the bonus of extra time with family, that our daily schedules are not as packed as usual, we are having actual phone conversations with people we care about possibly even video calls (if not, why not?). I live in suburbia and have seen families out walking with their children that I have never seen before because we all have such packed schedules! We have a neighborhood! My favorite yoga studio has made the extra effort to make classes available through Zoom because if there is anything we need it is the mental and physical benefits of yoga right now. My office is now also a home yoga studio and my puppies join me as office and yoga-mates. It’s been interesting! Try to find some humor in our daily lives, even in the fact that there is no ice cream on the shelf in the grocery store...one way to diet! Laughing is so healthy. And we as a society (including some male members of my family) will be much better about washing our hands going forward and get to use cleaner airplanes and cruise ships.
And above all, take care of yourselves and your loved ones. Stay healthy and strong. Happy spring!
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