What is it?
From CDC.gov: Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in people and many different species of animals including camels, cattle, cats, and bats. Coronaviruses are types of viruses that typically affect the respiratory tracts of birds and mammals, including humans. They are associated with the common cold, bronchitis, pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), and COVID-19.
These viruses are typically responsible for common colds more than serious diseases. However, coronaviruses are also behind some more severe outbreaks.
How does COVID-19 Spread?
It spreads between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet) via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. There are theories that the virus may be airborne. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. Studies have shown that this novel (new) coronavirus may remain viable from hours to days on surfaces made from a variety of materials. Here is a chart from the New England Journal of Medicine:
Individuals are usually considered to be the most contagious when they are most symptomatic or the sickest, however, a person can possibly spread the coronavirus prior to showing symptoms.
What are the symptoms and emergency warning signs?
The most common symptoms are fever, cough, chest pain, and shortness of breath. Some other associated symptoms include loss of taste and smell, gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea, and myalgias (muscle aches). These symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure. And they can present in both children and adults – meaning anyone can contract the diseases however children usually present with a milder presentation. If you develop the noted symptoms contact your doctor however if you develop the following seek medical care immediately:
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
- New confusion or inability to arouse
- Bluish lips or face
Who are at higher risk?
The following individuals are at higher risk:
- Older adults
- People who have serious chronic medical conditions like:
- Heart disease
- Lung disease
However, I must stress ANYONE can contract the virus including infants. Recent studies have shown that 20% of hospitalized adults fall between the age of 20 to 44 years of age.
PROTECTION: PHYSICALLY, FINANCIALLY, AND MENTALLY FROM COVID-19
- Socially distance yourself from others. From www.merriam-webster.com: social distancing means “the practice of maintaining a greater than usual physical distance from other people or of avoiding direct contact with people or objects in public places during the outbreak of a contagious disease in order to minimize exposure and reduce the transmission of infection.”
- If your area is under orders to stay-at-home, make sure you adhere to those rules. Do not leave your home unless it is for groceries, medicine or medical care.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Keep your distance from the family who are especially vulnerable like immunocompromised individuals and older people.
- Keep kids CLEAN – they are vectors and can transmit the virus.
- Stay home when you are sick, except to get medical care.
- Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue then throw it away immediately and sanitize your hands. You can also cough in your elbow.
- Wash your hands frequently and for at least 20 seconds. Here’s a great video from John Hopkins: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IisgnbMfKvI
- Avoid coughing into your hands. Clean your hands if you cough or sneeze into them.
- Clean frequently touched surfaces and objects daily (e.g. telephones, counter-tops, toilet seats, sinks/vanities, remote controls, shopping carts/basket handles, train/bus seats, gas station levers, doorknobs/handles, light switches, and cabinet handles) using a regular household detergent and water or disinfectant wipes such as Clorox or Lysol if it’s appropriate for the surface.
- Do not reuse disinfectant wipes on multiple surfaces. Do not dry surfaces after wiping them down – allow them to air dry.
- Wash clothes, towels and bedding regularly… curtains too.
- Avoid public transportation when possible. CANCEL/POSTPONE all nonessential travel, especially air travel.
- Make sure that you have at least a 30-day supply of essential medication prescriptions, testing supplies, and first aid items. Remember that these items can usually be delivered to you!
- Wear masks when you are out and about to prevent spread even with casual interaction.
To combat the spread of the disease, many cities, counties, and states are under lockdown orders. As of today, approximately 95% of all Americans are ordered to stay home. This means many businesses such as restaurants and retail stores have closed or have employees working from home. Only essential businesses such as hospitals, take-out eateries, and grocery stores, for example, can remain open. As a result, many individuals have found themselves out of work and furloughed. As of this week, April 19th 2020, there were 22 million Americans who filed for unemployment insurance. A staggering amount! If you find yourself out of a job or unsure of the security of the one you currently hold, these are the steps to undertake:
- Check to see if you qualify for direct payments under The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Singles, head of households and married couples can qualify for as much as $1,200 per person or $2,400 per couple.
- Apply for unemployment if you are furloughed or laid off. The CARES Act expands current unemployment benefits by offering workers an additional $600 per week in addition to your individual state benefit for 4 months and it adds an additional 13 weeks of unemployment insurance. For example if you qualify (based on income) for New York State’s maximum award of $504 per week, you will now qualify for a total of 1,100 per week for 4 months. This applies to the self-employed, independent contractors and gig economy workers.
- Be proactive and call your creditors to discuss your current situation and make possible arrangements. This includes student loan debt holders who may be able to apply for a forbearance which will allow stoppage on payments temporarily. For example, many insurance companies are offering discounts on car insurance premiums. Also, you may qualify to have your mortgage payments deferred for up to 90 days. Make sure to check all the details with your mortgage broker.
- Keep priority obligations on track. Priority obligations include mortgage, rent, groceries, prescriptions, and utilities. Again, be proactive and call your mortgage holder or landlord and make arrangements if you’re laid off or think you will be.
- Develop an emergency spending budget.
- Stop non-essential spending now which should be easy to do because most places like concert halls, movie theaters, and restaurants are closed.
- BEEF UP EMERGENCY FUNDS IF YOU CAN!
- Identify community resources and government assistance programs if available. Communities agencies may help with food banks, temporary assistance with utilities, etc.
- Reach out to a nonprofit financial counselor to find ways to eliminate debt and reduce financial obligations.
- Obtain disability insurance if possible.
- Reevaluate investment accounts including 401k, 403b. Meet with an advisor and review goals and risk adversity.
- This is a great time to make a will or trust and to update beneficiaries on your life insurance policy and other benefits. Meet with an attorney to start the process if you have not already.
We are in some unprecedented times due to widespread disease including death, and isolation due to lockdowns and social distancing – all these can be a great source of anxiety. My first piece of advice is to not panic or worry because both serve no purpose. Preparation is the key and if you follow the steps noted above and those asked by your local officials, you will be in good shape mostly. Here are some additional steps:
- Meditate – Wonderful to decrease stress and still your mind.
- Have gratitude – If you are stuck in the house with your family, show gratitude that you have a family and a great home. If you live alone be thankful that you have a place to call home and PEACE.
- Exercise – Increases endorphins which makes you feel better.
- Plan for the future – Write that book you’ve always wanted to write or create a business plan for a possible business. This will keep you distracted AND give you something to look forward to.
- Take breaks from social media – I love to be up to date on the current news but too much can increase one’s anxiety levels.
- Stay in contact with your loved ones – Just because we are socially distancing ourselves it doesn’t mean we have to socially isolate. Call that person you haven’t spoken to in years, schedule Zoom virtual parties or even host a book club online. Also, keep in touch with elderly parents or friends. This pandemic can be especially stressful for them so make sure to speak to them on a regular basis.
- Online courses – Take one! Many learning organizations are offering classes. Enroll in a class you’ve longed to take.
- Tap into those hobbies – If you love to read, this is the time to catch up, connect with your children by playing board games, journal or learn new recipes for meals.
With the right attitude, preparation, and adherence to local and health guidelines we will conquer this pandemic and hopefully we will be the better for it.
Love, Dr. Randi