The newest coronavirus strain, COVID-19, has reached pandemic status. Similar to SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) from 2013, COVD-19 induces respiratory complications. Those 65 years or older or immunocompromised are at highest risk for complications from the infection. Younger, healthy individuals, including infants, are often asymptomatic or result in minimal and mild symptoms. Due to the currently rapid rate of infection, our hospitals are suffering shortages of PPE (proper protective equipment), medical supplies, medicines, and even medical staff. It is highly likely that we will all be exposed to this virus at some point, but to ensure we have the capabilities to adequately treat and care for those that become ill we need to slow the current rate of infection. As such, this week’s blog will provide precautions that everyone should take in order to minimize the impact of this virus.
Listed here are some basic steps that everyone should be taking to prevent the transmission of COVID-19. A group effort is needed to slow the transmission of the virus, so remember, we’re all in this together!
- Stay home as much as possible (known as social distancing or self-isolating). Because symptoms may take several days to develop, unknowingly infected individuals may continue spreading the virus in the community unless they self-isolate. Limit unnecessary visitors in your home. When leaving is necessary, maintain a 6 foot distance (or about 2 arms lengths) from those around you.
- Wash your hands often and especially after touching things such as doorknobs or sinks outside the home. Be sure you’re using the proper technique and scrubbing for no less than 20 seconds for it to be effective.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces, since the virus can live for several hours to days on surfaces like cardboard, plastic, and certain metals.
- Avoid traveling in publicly confined spaces, including cruise travel, non-essential air travel, and even public transit such as buses and trains when possible.
- Avoid touching your face, especially with regards to your eyes, nose, and mouth. It can prevent you from introducing the virus into your system.
Other than age, risk factors for complications from COVID-19 include chronic lung disease, moderate to severe asthma, heart disease related complications, and compromised immunities. The most common symptoms are fever, shortness of breath, tightness in the chest, and coughing, and generally appear 2-14 days after exposure. Emergency warning signs that may require immediate medical attention include trouble breathing, persistent pain/pressure of the chest, confusion or inability to arouse, and a bluish tint to the lips or face (This list is not all inclusive). If you experience these symptoms, call your doctor immediately. It is important that you call first, as your doctor may request specific precautions prior to your arrival to avoid viral transmission from you to others, or vice versa. For active medical emergencies call 911 and be sure to notify the dispatch personnel that you or your loved one has a suspected case of COVID-19.
If you are caring for or living with someone who may have coronavirus, there are further steps you should take to prevent the spread. These include;
- Using separate bathrooms if possible.
- Avoid sharing personal items, including dishes, towels, bedding, etc.
- If facemasks are available, have those infected wear them while in the same room with others, including yourself. Note: Facemasks can prevent transmission of the virus by those already infected through the air but are not guaranteed to prevent contraction by an uninfected person, meaning do not buy/use them unless you likely have COVID-19. The excessive purchasing and use of facemasks has already led to shortages in healthcare facilities like hospitals.
- Wash your hands, laundry, and household surfaces frequently and thoroughly.
COVID-19 is a novel mutation of coronavirus. It can be transmitted through animal-to-human and human-to-human contact and spreads easily and sustainably within communities, making social distancing and other precautions all the more important. Coronaviruses are primarily spread through respiratory droplets, hence the necessary 6 foot distance from others. Unfortunately, you can also contract COVID-19 by touching a contaminated surface and then your own mouth, nose, or eyes. Although the virus can live on certain surfaces for days, our food products that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient, refrigerated, or frozen temperatures should not contain any active virus.
Patients confirmed positive for COVID-19 should be isolated either in the hospital or at home depending on the severity of symptoms. How long someone is sick or shedding the virus varies, meaning that releasing someone from isolation should occur on a case-by-case basis and in consultation with doctors, disease prevention experts, and other public health officials whenever possible. As a general rule, one should isolate themselves for at least 14 days after the last exposure to any possible COVID-19 case. Keep in mind, symptoms may not present within an infected individual for up to 14 days if at all. If asymptomatic after 14 days CDC guidelines suggest you can no longer spread the virus unless re exposed. Infected, yet asymptomatic individuals are known as carriers. While they appear unaffected they are still able to transmit or “carry” the virus to others.
Although certain states have mandated specific stay-at-home restrictions, including Oregon and Washington, a national lockdown is currently not being enforced. It is recommended to remain in your home as much as possible, but you are still able to shop for essentials, like groceries, prescriptions, etc. There is no need to stockpile groceries, toilet paper, etc. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends buying only what your family needs for a week. Grocery stores will not be closing and therefore, over-purchasing food, water, and other necessities only leads to shortages for others in need. Deliveries are not being disrupted but stores do need extra time to restock due to staff shortages and increased demand, so most store hours have been reduced.
While there has been discussion within the government of providing stimulus checks to citizens, this decision has not been finalized. As such, if you receive any correspondence, verbal or written, claiming to be able to get you that money now, it is a scam. Do not provide them with any personal information. The Federal Trade Commission has more information about these scams on their website.
Non-essential places like theaters, salons, and gyms are closed until further notice. Schools around the country have closed for the remainder of the year or converted to online curriculum only. Many are being asked to work from home or can no longer work at all. Social gatherings with people from outside the household are no longer allowed and playgrounds, state parks, and campgrounds have all closed.
Due to the drastic changes many of us are facing in our daily lives and routines, it is not abnormal to experience an increase in stress, anxiety, and fear, which is why it is integral that we remember to take care of ourselves and eachother. To prevent these feelings, we recommend the following;
- Take breaks from watching, reading about, or listening to the news and social media. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting, so limit your exposure.
- Take care of your body. It is helpful to take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate when these feelings of anxiety come on. Eat healthy, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep, and avoid drugs and alcohol.
- Go outside! You are allowed to take walks, go for bike rides, and walk the dog, but restrict it to your own neighborhood while maintaining a 6 foot distance from others.
- Make time to unwind. If you are stuck at home, utilize this time for activities you enjoy or even to find new ones!
- Connect with others. Talking with others about your feelings and concerns can alleviate much of the stress associated with them. Although we must physically distance ourselves right now, we still have access to eachother via phone, video, email, letters, etc. and socializing is important in maintaining mental health.
- Try to keep a somewhat regular schedule. Wake up at a normal time, eat your meals regularly, and go to bed at a reasonable time.
- Call your healthcare provider if stress is preventing you from completing your daily activities for several days in a row. If you, or someone you love, are feeling overwhelmed to the degree that you want to harm yourself, please call 911, SAMHSA’s Disaster Distress Helpline (1-800-985-5990), or text TalkWithUs to 66746.
For more information, please visit the resources listed below. The link to Oregon’s specific coronavirus webpage is included below, and contains information regarding what is and is not allowed in light of the recent executive order mandating a shelter-in-place policy in Oregon.