Tips for Covid-19: Assessing Risk of Activities During “Re-opening”

As regions around the world “re-open” after quarantine in response to Covid-19, many are faced with decisions about how and where they will spend time at work, with extended family and friends, and at outdoor activities; who they can safely spend time with, and even how their children will return to school in a few weeks. When deciding the best plan for you or your family while reducing risk of contracting or spreading Covid-19 (especially in regions that are experiencing a surge in cases, or anticipating a second wave), there are several things to consider:

1. What are the local provisions where you live? Are masks required? Are there other limits or restrictions for entry into public places, or to travel destinations? What is your level of comfort as it relates to risk (this is important!)?

2. What is your or your family’s specific health situation? Are any of you considered to be at increased risk for negative health outcomes of Covid-19 (e.g., elderly, immune-compromised, diagnosed with a respiratory illness, or someone employed as an essential worker)? The World Health Organization (WHO) provides recommendations on how to navigate decisions for this group.

3. When thinking about your employment options, what can you personally accommodate in terms of reducing risk (i.e., are you able to support virtual learning students full time at home this Fall while working full time)? It’s important to remember that your emotional well-being should be thoughtfully considered here.

4. Are you able to access testing for Covid-19 disease, or antibody testing? How often?

The level of risk each family is willing to assume will depend on the questions above, as well as personal preference. The infographic CovidRisk_Distancing developed by the Texas Medical Association, is a helpful reference in making decisions that ranks various activities from 1-9.

There will likely be a lot of discussion about what to do, and perhaps a little anxiety, too; it is important to understand that there is no “perfect” solution, and that the transition from quarantine to re-entry will likely be uncertain at times, and may require retracing your steps to ensure you and your family stay safe.

Managing Feelings of Loss and Grief

The Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in tremendous loss for many people around the world. Such loss has presented in a variety of ways: loss of income, loss of healthcare, and loss of life and loved ones.

Loss, or the fear of loss, can bring about bad feelings and symptoms of stress and anxiety. These feelings can range from mild to debilitating, or completely unbearable. This is normal even when not living through a pandemic; behavioral, emotional and mental health conditions occur in 1 in 5 people in the US, and 1 in 4 globally, according to the World Health Organization.

It is important to identify healthy ways of coping and practicing self care to address these symptoms, and know that continued support may be necessary long after the obvious triggers are gone. There are many options for care and in many settings; finding a healthy method that works for your personal situation will increase your chance for success. This Healthline article is a great resource to help figure out what type of support might work best for you, based on how you’re feeling.

If you are faced with grief now or in the future, it’s important to understand that there is no “right” way to grieve. Grief is different for everyone and the intensity of emotions brought on by the experience can change over time, and sometimes even moment to moment. When supporting someone else who is grieving, take your cues from the person as to what would be comforting or helpful to them. If you aren’t sure, ask – and be specific.

The National Institute on Mental Health has representatives available via phone or online chat; additionally, several mental and emotional healthcare providers offer several options for receiving care and support, and within various insurance plan models. Some trusted websites are listed below.

Penn Counseling Pracheta Trivedi – , M.Ed., LPC, Counselor

Jacqueline Cahalan, PhD, Licensed Clinical Psychologist

The Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation

Tips for Covid-19: Maintaining a Healthy Diet: In Quarantine, and After

For many across the country, the experience of quarantine and social distancing has gone on for several weeks. Even at SBRC, we are scratching our heads at dinner time, trying to think of new, creative ideas for what to eat! Many families are making all their meals at home, while others are using curbside pickup and delivery options from their favorite local restaurants. Coupled with what for many has resulted in reduced physical activity, we thought it would be a good idea to review some tips for maintaining healthy eating habits during the Covid-19 pandemic. In this article we will focus on nutrition; advice on food safety can be found here.

It is important to consider your personal health conditions (or those of the people you prepare food for) when making food choices. One should carefully consider levels of sodium, sugars and cholesterol in foods; this should be considered across all meals consumed in a day to reduce risk, and is especially the case for patients with high blood pressure, diabetes, autoimmune diseases and other diagnoses. Think carefully especially when ordering out, where there is less control over ingredients. Alcohol consumption should be carefully monitored as well. The United States Department of Agriculture has released a useful phone app on it’s website called the MyPlateApp to help families design a plan that meets their food preferences, health goals, and budget.
MyPlateApp

And don’t forget to drink plenty of water!

One final note: Smoking is well known to be significantly associated with many negative outcomes, including respiratory disease and cancer. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that indoor smoking poses significant health risks, especially for young children and people with asthma:

2ndHandSmoke

Tips for Covid-19: Treatment – A Note on Drug Development

We are following the news as it relates to products being created to combat the Covid-19 pandemic. This include development of new drug therapies to treat symptoms of the disease (and potentially reduce the risk of death), vaccines to prevent getting the disease in the first place, and diagnostics (i.e., tests) to understand if a person has the Covid-19 or has developed immunity after having been exposed to the disease. Some of these products are being developed “from scratch,” while others are already approved therapies for other conditions and are being assessed to understand how they might treat Covid-19.

What’s important to understand is that each of these products must be tested thoroughly to ensure safety for use in all types of patients affected by a disease, including adults, children, infants, and persons who are managing other conditions (i.e., have comorbidities). Some of these tests occur in a laboratory, while others are done as clinical trials. We may learn that some therapies are safe and work very well for some patients but are less safe or effective in others.

Additionally, the development process for drug therapies in particular requires time. Time is necessary to not only figure out all that is needed to create a product, but also to assess how effective the product is at doing what it’s intended to do, and to understand what side effects might result from its use. This is even the case for products that have already received regulatory safety approval for another condition (i.e., has another indication). In times of global crisis, there is an opportunity to move more quickly than usual; however, the safety of the population at large is the priority. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has developed a useful infographic on the drug development process:

DrugApprovalProcess_Infographic_edited_legal

There are many research scientists, public health professionals, manufacturers and health care providers working around the world to develop all the products we will need to combat Covid-19, and understand their effects. We salute them all!

Yours in health,

Fanta Waterman PhD, MPH