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Coping amid COVID -19

Tracey Columns, Tracey's Blog, Uncategorized

Where to even begin? When I wrote my last column my husband and I were on the brink of beginning a long awaited, 24 day adventure in Mexico City and Oaxaca. We had Spanish classes scheduled for the mornings and in the afternoons we would explore the rich culture and interact the warm and friendly people of Mexico … and then along came COVID 19.

We left the states just as this lethal virus was beginning to make its way around the  globe. While aware of its presence, it felt so far, far away from us. We had our eye on it. I had packed hand sanitizer, Clorox wipes for the plane and other surfaces, and we always practice good hand washing hygiene whether at home or abroad. But to be painfully honest, we were in full on, fun mode and we didn’t give it much thought.

However, by about day seven of our trip, we wised up. Being an early riser, I was reading the New York Times every morning on my iPad. Slowly, the reality of what the spread of Coronavirus actually meant began to sink in. Here was a disease that put elderly people at risk. ( We’re both over 65. They were talking about us? That was a shocking dose of reality.) It could live on surfaces for up to a few days. (Navigating daily among 20 million Mexican citizens, we were brushing up against people, opening doors, etc, whenever we left our apartment.) People without any symptoms were carriers. (Whoops.)

We knew we would be cutting our trip short and quickly learned our decision was fully supported by some reliable, knowledgeable resources who happened to be just an email away. Both of our daughters work in public health and my son’s partner is a medical student. (Well, he was a medical student. His university has now shut down for the remainder of the year, which will prevent him from graduating on time.) After a few exchanges with these level headed sweeties there was no doubt we had made the right decision. 

We finally managed to get a direct flight to SFO. Once home, we immediately began self-isolation for obvious reasons; we had been in a foreign country, passed through two  huge international airports, and flew on a plane home.  

But once we were safely back in our home, I still had concerns. As of March 16, the denial about the virus among some members of our community was surprising. I had read the following posts on Facebook: “We’re in Humboldt, behind the Redwood Curtain.” (You know, like that mythical barrier we all joke about was going to protect us?) And this, “We don’t have any active cases so we’ll be ok.” (That’s just not how this virus works.) The most frighting opinion of all?  “It’s a political hoax.”  (Nope, was scientific data pouring in from all over the globe.) My other concern was the refusal among some people to protect themselves and the rest of us by failing to practicing social distancing. (No, this was NOT the year to go to the bars on St. Patrick’s Day!)

Our fears were eased when, on March 19, Humboldt County Health Officer, Dr. Teresa Frankovich, issued a ‘Shelter in Place’ order for our county. This struck me as a wise and proactive decision on the part of our community leaders. The order meant people stayed home except for essential services, business, medical appointments, and travel.  California’s Govenor Newsom soon added a state-wide shelter in place. Our immediate futures looked dismal but necessary.

As both Newsom and Frankovich noted, this order was “protective of our most vulnerable and of our healthcare system.” I, for one, am very grateful it is in place.

For those of us the higher risk groups due to age and/or other health related concerns at any age, our task is to stay put as much as we possible can. This sounds challenging, boring, and lonely, so lonely, but it is absolutely necessary if we are going to stop this virus.  

That said, we can still go out for walks, do yard work, take bike rides, and enjoy other forms of exercise. We just can’t do it in a pack and we must stay six feet apart from one another.

We can stay in touch with others by phone, email, or other on-line tools, like Skype and Facebook. (After some FaceTime with my kids and grandkids I feel like a new woman!)

Now is the time to ask for help from friends, family, neighbors, community health workers, etc. I know this can be extremely difficult for many of us to do but it’s absolutely crucial. Seriously, sit down and make a list now … pretty please?

Still wondering if all of ‘fuss” is necessary? Here’s one more helpful tidbit my daughter relayed to me after she was on a conference call with medical professionals from throughout the entire state of California: “If you feel like you are over-reacting, you are doing the right thing!”

It’s a lot to think about, isn’t it? But by taking active steps towards your own well being, you will actually feel more empowered and more in control. This in turn will lower your anxiety. 

We are all in this together and by joining forces, by altering our normal routines and behaviors, we can squash this invisible menace!