In addition to the COVID-19 outbreak’s effect on public health, people are very quickly realizing that it will also impact how we live our day to day lives. We spend so much time with others at work, school, church, classes, and entertainment activities–such as concerts or sporting events–that life is certain to change due to the need for social distancing and self quarantine.
If you and your family are concerned about making the adjustment, Patients ER is here to help. Here are some steps you can take, events you can partake in, and ways to spend your days as we adjust to life in the wake of COVID-19.
COVID-19 is highly infectious. Though most infected people will experience only minor symptoms and may not ever realize they’re sick, it’s important to minimize the spread of the virus to reduce stress on medical capacity.
The first challenge your family will face in adapting will be learning how to effectively maintain a quarantine. Just a few simple changes will help you, your family, and your community reduce the transmission of COVID-19.
- Wash your hands. One of the most common ways that COVID-19 infects people is through hitching a ride on your hands to your nose or mouth when you touch your face. Luckily, it’s susceptible to plain soap and water. Washing for just 20 seconds with hot or cold water defeats not only COVID-19, but also flu and cold germs. Talk to your family about the importance of washing your hands several times a day, especially after going outside or using the restroom.
- Handle packages and outside items with care. Ordered something from Amazon, or unloading a car full of groceries? COVID-19 might be coming in with you. Studies have shown that it can survive hours or even days on a variety of surfaces. Don’t worry–there’s no need to wipe down your cereal boxes with bleach. Washing your hands several times a day and keeping them away from your nose and mouth is enough to reduce the chances of transmission. If you want to take extra precautions and have sanitizing wipes on hand, you may also want to wipe down outside items with sanitizer. Another option is to let the box sit for a day or two if you can live without what’s inside for a while.
- Stock up, but don’t hoard. COVID-19 might be unprecedented, but it’s not a hurricane. Supply lines will be stressed but remain active, and no one will be losing power or water due to the virus. Plan your shopping for reduced trips outside but not total isolation. You may want to check your local grocery store to see if they have specialized hours or curbside pickup. Some grocery stores will have early hours for seniors to shop. It’s wise to go in the morning when there will likely be fewer shoppers. If you’re concerned about getting too close to others, delivery services are still available for most grocery stores. Remember that this is a community problem, so we all need our share of supplies. Think of things you might need if you’re home sick, like some easy-to-make meals and tissues.
- If you go outside, keep your distance. Person-to-person transmission happens when someone coughs or sneezes, and someone else breathes in the moisture droplets of others. As gross as that sounds, it’s easy to avoid even if you’re around a person who hasn’t learned how to cough into their elbow. Staying six feet away from any rogue sneezer will keep you away from the worst of it.
- Be kind. We’re all in this together. Since many of us will catch the virus without knowing for sure that we have it, quarantine is about keeping you from infecting others as much as it’s about keeping you safe. Be thoughtful; share resources. Make sure people have what they need to weather COVID-19. Also, please remember to be kind and thankful to anyone working in grocery stores, medical facilities, and delivery services during this time.
- Be kind to yourself as well. It’s important to remember that your mental health is just as important as your physical health. Being isolated and unsure of the future can easily weigh on anyone. If you’re experiencing overwhelming feelings of anxiety and worry, you’re definitely not alone. Practices like guided meditation, breathing exercises, Yoga, creative outlets, and staying in touch with family and friends are all tools that you can use to keep a healthy outlook and remain strong to support yourself and others. If you or anyone you know is struggling and needs assistance now, you can call the suicide hotline at 1-800-273-8255.
For more information on self quarantine, check out our full-length guide to the Importance of Self Quarantine During COVID-19.
Adjusting for Kids
With many schools closing for a month and mulling over staying closed for longer, kids are experiencing a unique disruption to their schedule. While it may start out feeling like a long spring break, the length of the quarantine may require some special tactics to keep everyone safe and active.
- Don’t forget structure and routine. Big disruptions like this can make people forget their usual daily activities. Encourage your children to follow a typical schedule. Things like keeping meals at a regular time will help give a sense of structure. If your child’s school offers remote learning, set aside a regular time period for studies and work.
- Explore online. Internet service providers are ramping up their infrastructure to prepare for the expected increase of internet use. While your kids probably don’t need any encouragement to use the internet, encourage them to use it for learning. Stream an educational documentary or download some audiobooks. The Houston Public Library has a large selection of digital readings, and anyone in the State of Texas can register for a library card online for free. Many theaters and bands are hosting special events on their sites to entertain people stuck at home as well.
- Go outdoors–safely. Quarantine doesn’t necessarily mean staying cooped up inside. Going out for walks can be a stress-relieving experience without bringing you into transmission distance with strangers. After all, there’s a lot more room to maneuver in the great outdoors. Large open parks are ideal. Remind your children not to touch their face and to wash their hands when they get home.
- Pick up a hobby. Free time is perfect for picking up a new skill. Talk with your children about things they might want to learn more about, like playing an instrument or painting with watercolors. Activities like putting together puzzles or making simple crafts are also great ways to fight restlessness.
For more information on teaching your kids from home, check out our full-length guide to How to Teach Your Kids at Home: An Education Plan for COVID-19.
Adjusting for Adults
Losing access to work can be just as disorienting for you as losing school is for your kids.
- Handling unemployment. First and foremost, we at Patients ER want to acknowledge that this is a very difficult time for people who lose employment based on the current situation. Our heart goes out to those who have lost work or have had their hours reduced. If you need to apply for unemployment benefits, visit the Texas Workforce Commission website. Texas has waived the 10 day investigation period for individuals applying for unemployment benefits. The financial support situation for those affected is still changing daily. Keep an eye on the Employment Security Department page for updates on what they’re doing to address unemployment during COVID-19. 211 is also working to connect individuals with essential resources such as food and childcare. It may also be a good time to update your resume and cover letter template and update your online presence.
- Telecommute (if possible). If your job has some activities that can be done remotely, chances are your place of work has started to consider telecommuting. They’ll probably have instructions about setting up a connection or using any special software, but there’s steps you can take to make the experience easier. Try preparing an area of your home to be your office where you can shut out distractions and focus on work. Getting dressed as if it were a normal day is also a powerful way to ready your mind for work.
- Set yourself up for video conferencing. Many laptops come equipped with cameras, but you may need to read instructions on how to set it up and use it effectively. If your computer doesn’t include a self-facing camera, you may need to purchase a separate webcam. Getting face time with your distant family and friends using apps like Skype, Google Hangouts, or FaceTime can go a long way toward making you feel connected.
- Learn a new skill. Picking up new hobbies isn’t just for the kids. Though this may be a great time to pick up that old guitar again, there’s also the option of learning something to help further your career. Been putting off learning how to use a new program, or have you always wondered if you’d enjoy coding? There are countless text and video tutorials online from sites such as Code Academy and W3 Schools waiting for you. Once you learn these new skills, you can add them to your resume, too.
- Explore streaming services. Everyone knows Netflix and Amazon and the like, but streaming services are more than that. There’s a wide world of podcasts, opera performances, and even zoo-watching webcams out there. Feeling lost without access to the gym? YouTube has more guided home workout videos than you’ll ever need. Cable TV can be repetitive even in the best of times, but streaming can help you feel engaged with choosing what you want to watch. Being able to pause and stop certainly comes in handy when your kids have decided they’re bored.
Adjusting for Seniors
Part of the importance of quarantine is to make our communities safer for our more vulnerable neighbors. COVID-19 can be a frightening experience for seniors, but everyone is coming together to make this challenge safer and easier.
- Use food delivery services. Grocery stores have been experimenting with food delivery services these past few years, and now’s the time for them to shine. Find out if any of your local grocers are offering food delivery. If they aren’t, a larger food deliverer like Amazon may still be available. Many areas are closing restaurants for dine-in service during the quarantine, but allowing them to stay open for delivery. Your favorite breakfast place may still be open for pick up, although you may want to check online or call before you venture out.
- Use the phone. Socializing is an important way to keep spirits up, and it has proven health benefits. These days, practicing social distancing doesn’t have to mean being distant socially. Call or text your friends and family to stay in touch. Consider starting a group chat with family or neighbors to keep each other updated and lend moral support.
- Keep your distance, sanitize what you can, and be overly cautious. If you’re 60 or older, every quarantine procedure goes double for you. While being sure to follow all these rules for weeks or months sure seems like a hassle, there’s no reason to take risks with your health. Try reviewing quarantine procedures every once in a while to keep on top of what you should do, and organize your life to make following the tips easier. You’re more likely to wash your hands if you see a daily reminder. Some people have even gone so far as to rub raw onions on their hands to remind themselves not to touch their face, but maybe a sticky note on the fridge will do well enough.
A New Normal, but Only for Now
No one is sure when guidelines and safety standards will allow us to return to the general public. Estimates from other countries suggest that this won’t just be a few weeks. While changing your routine for months can seem intimidating or even depressing, remember that we’re living in a time where communication is easier than ever. Update your habits as best you can every day, encourage your family to keep active, and everything will seem that much easier. We’re all in this together.