Story at a glance
- Coronavirus cases are on the rise in the U.S.
- Flu season has also begun.
- Experts give advice on how to prepare for the wave of new COVID-19 cases.
In the U.S., the coronavirus cases are hitting numbers not seen since the spring. As winter approaches, experts are warning that this third wave of COVID-19 in combination with the flu season could be the worst we have seen yet.
“There is a growing sense of behavioral fatigue, and a real need for segments of the population to get back to work,” says Albert Ko, the chair of the department of epidemiology of microbial diseases at Yale School of Public Health, to The Atlantic. “I think the resurgence is going to be worse than what we’ve seen in the summer.” And if that does end up happening, it’s best to go into it with a plan, leaning on everything we’ve learned up until now.
Although the current COVID-19 cases may not be rising in your area, you can get prepared for a time in the future when it may go on the rise or any other kind of emergency happens that would limit your access to resources. “It’s always a good idea to keep essentials readily available in an at-home emergency kit,” writes Syra Madad, who is an infectious diseases epidemiologist in New York, for Business Insider.
Some essentials may include a first aid kit, hand sanitizer, face masks, gloves and cleaning wipes. It might be good to also store several days worth of canned, dried and frozen food in case you need to quarantine while waiting for test results and need to limit food shopping.
Know what’s happening
News fatigue is real, but it’s crucial to be aware of what’s going on in your area. Local governments may be reporting detailed information about specific counties or zip codes where cases are rising. Check out this article also written by Madad about getting accurate coronavirus information. Follow your local government’s guidelines, but err on the side of caution. Face masks are worth the effort to protect yourself and others.
Figure out how much news is enough for you to keep informed but not get overwhelmed. Avoid getting information from platforms that you tend to get lost in rabbit holes, such as social media, and set expectations for where and how long you will consume news.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT CORONAVIRUS RIGHT NOW
Follow community news
Community-run newsletters and social media can be great to find out about community organized events and services. If you aren’t already reading your local newspaper, find out who they are and where they post COVID-19 information. Some communities have started newsletters to inform their members about what’s happening locally, for example, Epicenter NYC and Coronavirus News for Black Folks by Patrice Peck. Some groups have taken to Instagram to keep people updated on the community fridges and when they are restocked with free food.
It’s important to know what’s happening in your neighborhood and if cases are rising there. “If there’s high levels of community transmission occurring in your area, it’s best to limit contact with non-household members and choose activities with a lower risk of COVID19 transmission,” writes Madad.
Find out about testing near you
If you think you may be exposed to someone with the coronavirus or if you are going out often, you should find out ahead of time where you can get tested and how long it will take to get results back. Urgent care clinics like CVS MinuteClinic and CityMD may provide testing in your area. Check with your local health department to see if there is free testing available.
Also, get a flu vaccine. If you get exposed to the flu this winter, getting the flu shot in advance could make your illness less severe. If there is a chance that you could have flu and the coronavirus at the same time, at the very least your immune system would have been prepped for the flu.
Keep in touch
Although enthusiasm for virtual gatherings may have dipped since early in the pandemic, they are still the safest way to hang out with your friends and keep in touch with loved ones. Research suggests that isolation and loneliness is detrimental to your physical health, in addition to anxiety. “One thing that helps a lot of patients with anxiety is having the opportunity to talk about their concerns out loud with someone they trust,” says geriatric psychiatrist Carolina Osorio to Loma Linda University. “Talking with them about the specific anxieties you may feel is one of the best ways to reduce that anxiety, as well as feelings of loneliness or boredom during isolation.”
Especially if you feel isolated, it’s important to put in the extra effort to connect with others through technology. “What makes this marathon so much worse is the fact that we’re telling you it’s going to get muddy up ahead,” says child and adolescent psychiatrist Harold S. Koplewicz, who is medical director of the Child Mind Institute, to The New York Times. “When thinking about tomorrow — that’s what creates anxiety.”
Make a self-care plan
You should not only take care of your physical health but also your mental health. “Our social, emotional, physical, and emotional well-being is very important,” writes Madad. “The COVID-19 health crisis is stressful, and is taking an enormous toll on our lives in more ways than one.”
You can start by taking note of what symptoms you can keep track of that align with your mental state. For example, you can track where you feel aches in your body, how your mood fluctuates and the state of your general energy levels.
Self-care can be described as the practice of pausing to figure out what your mental health needs are and engage in activities that help restore balance. “Listen to your body, listen to the environment and just let your thoughts go,” says Koplewicz.
If you are looking for a therapist, the Open Path Collective offers affordable sessions and lists several therapists of color on staff. There are also databases of therapists like Therapy Aid Coalition for essential workers and people affected by the wildfires. For more information, check this guide from the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
For up-to-date information about COVID-19, check the websites of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization. For updated global case counts, check this page maintained by Johns Hopkins University or the COVID Tracking Project.
You can follow Chia-Yi Hou on Twitter.
BREAKING NEWS ABOUT THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC IN AMERICA