“Party of four please!”
I don’t know about you, but I’m having a hard time keeping up with the amount of people I can hang out with in the midst of this epidemic. A week ago, the CDC simply recommended canceling large events and mass gatherings for two months, then yesterday the White House instructed America to keep the gatherings to groups of ten or less. Last night our Governor closed all dine-in restaurants and bars at 5pm until further notice…. take out only.
“What’s the goal of all of this distancing?”
The CDC defines social distancing as “remaining out of congregate settings, avoiding mass gatherings, and maintaining distance (approximately 6 feet) from others when possible.” The virus seems to be primarily spread through respiratory droplets of an infected person. If you are in close contact with this person (less than six feet for ten minutes or more), there’s a good chance you will contract the virus. The CDC says it may be possible to pick up the coronavirus from countertops and door knobs but that doens’t seem to be the primary vector for transmission… Hence the distancing.
It seems to me that most people think we are going to stay in solitude in our homes until the virus is completely eradicated thereby escaping the contagion completely… not really. Oxford’s Our World in Data project explains:
“While the total number who get infected might not change, the containment measures intend to avoid an outbreak trajectory in which a large number of people get sick at the same time.”
Therefore, staying home and distancing yourself from others is crucial to “flatten the curve” and lesson the number of cases seen daily, weekly and monthly. The goal of this is to reduce the death toll and slow the number of people who contract the virus. This will help our hospitals, medical centers and urgent cares be able to safely take care of those who become ill with the virus as well as those who need medical care for other reasons, like accidents, heart attacks, cancer surgeries, etc.
Many hospitals have tried to prepare by stockpiling extra supplies and training staff in COVID-19 triage procedures. Unfortunately, some hospitals are already showing strain. Vital supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) are either depleted or set to run out in a matter of days and certain medications made only in China are in short supply. Other hospitals that have been inundated by the virus, like Italy, set the example of what can happen to a hospital system that isn’t prepared for this type of outbreak: not enough ICU rooms, negative pressure rooms or ventilators, and moving critically ill patients out of the ICU so that “sicker” patients can take their place.
“Isn’t this just another flu virus? I’m used to those!”
I hear many people minimizing the situation by saying the coronavirus is just another “flu” and all of this extreme social distancing is off-the-charts insane. I think the gravity of this new virus can be difficult for some to comprehend because we only have our first hand experience to compare it to, and that is our experience with the yearly flu. When people compare the coronavirus to the yearly flu, it normalizes this virus thereby minimizing our concern.
On average, our typical flu season lasts about three months time. Since we can predict the virus type and the season, about 40% of the population receives the flu vaccine prior to the season even starting. The yearly flu season is well-studied and well-prepared for. Epidemiologists can predict where it comes from, when it’s coming and how severe (or not) it will be. Last year 34,200 people died from the flu. In contrast, we don’t know how long this virus will last or even exactly where it came from. We are in the process of studying it while it is causing severe illnesses and deaths. Instead of studying it in a lab, we are studying it on the battlefield.
“What if I need to see my Nurse Practitioner or Doctor?”
If you are mildly ill, the CDC wants you to stay home and call your healthcare provider. If you don’t have a nurse practitioner or doctor, Telemedicine companies like LoginClinics are a great place to start. In fact, the White House and private insurance companies are now covering telemedicine services given this epidemic. LoginClinics’ providers are certified in telemedicine and are able to quickly triage your symptoms and perform a medical evaluation over the internet securely. If everyone with mild respiratory symptoms sought in-person care, it would make the treatment of critically ill patients more difficult. Plus, you would be putting yourself at risk for picking up the virus if you didn’t have it.
The take home message? Stay home if you are mildly ill. Call your nurse practitioner or doctor if you have both a fever and a cough, or use certified telemedicine platforms like LoginClinics. If you develop severe symptoms like shortness of breath, unremitting fever, weakness or lethargy, seek care immediately. Older patients and individuals who have underlying medical conditions or are immunocompromised should contact their nurse practitioner or doctor early in the course of even a mild illness.
If you do not have access to a primary care provider, or don’t have the broadband capacity for a telemedicine visit, contact the Wake County Health Department, or any other North Carolina County Health Department here.
“Can I go to the grocery store?”
Sure, but try to do so not very often. I recommend planning ahead and using grocery store pick up services at Wal-Mart, Target, Lowes or Harris Teeter if you can. These systems are overwhelmed too, so give them a couple of days to prepare your order. Amazon’s Prime Pantry delivers to your home in two days if you are a prime member. There are also other food delivery services like Rastelli’s for meat, Sunbasket, Hello Fresh and Blue Apron . If you can, I recommend shopping local and using Just One More Bite or The Lemon Tree .
“Can I go out to eat?”
No. That would cause a lot of exposure and compromise the group number and distance rule. If you have an urge for chinese food, pizza or sushi, call your favorite restaurant and schedule a curbside pick up, or use delivery services like Uber Eats or Grub Hub.
“What should I avoid until further notice?”
- Gatherings indoors of 5 or more people
- Handshakes and hugs
- Getting close to people who do not reside in your home
- Public places like movie theatres, restaurants, gyms, churches
- Public transportation
- Playdates for your kids
- Nail Salons
- Nursing Homes and Assisted Livings
- Birthday parties, weddings and other celebrations
“What can I do?”
Go outside- spring is upon us! If you see your neighbors, stop and chat with them but reserve the hugs and handshakes for another day. Take your dog or kids for a nature walk. Play tennis, soccer, or basketball in your driveway. My daughter rides horses at an outdoor farm so she has been having fun doing this over her break.
Make a list of things you can do inside your house- you know, that list that you never get to like cleaning the baseboards and reorganizing your closet? Here’s some of the things that are on my list for the next two months:
- Go through clothes and package them up for donation
- Paint my daughter’s room
- Clean and organize my garage
- Organize and clean out my attic
- Daily Unwined on White virtual yoga
- Plant trees outside and mulch the garden beds
- Family game nights
- Read through my book list in double time
- Watch the Seinfeld series from beginning to end, but only 1 per day
- Buy clothing and accessories from Arrow Tree Boutique – delivered for free!
- Quarintine myself in my bedroom with my husband 😉
- Distance learning with the kids
Coordinate with your neighborhood or street to offer a front porch book and game exchange. Our street has a closed facebook group that we use to maintain a sense of community as well as communicate information and needs. I put a bunch of books outside on my porch, took a picture of them and posted them in the group. This way, we have our own internal book and game exchange.
And most of all, don’t panic or worry. Find the positives in the social distancing- more time for your spouse, kids and home. More time for things that you’ve placed on the backburner that just never seen to get taken care of. This too shall pass, but in order for it to pass with the least severe impact on our nation and healthcare system we need to stay distanced, but still stay engaged.
About LoginClinics- Founded by Jaclyn Qualter, a nurse practitioner and health care mentor, in September 2019, LoginClinics provides its fee schedule on its website at www.LoginClinics.com along with FAQs on how to use the online service. More information can be found on its social media www.facebook.com/TelemedicineNC or @loginclinics on Instagram.
Author: Jaclyn Qualter, Founder, Nurse Practitioner and Healthcare Mentor