Drive-through Coronavirus Testing

COVID-19

See information on the worldwide quarantine here

The Continuing Widespread Pandemic

     Quarantining for coronavirus has dragged on for much longer than anyone ever expected. Before the first breakouts in Washington, I was skeptical that school would even be cancelled. Now, five months later, each day feels the same at home, and cases haven’t gone down to a safer rate. They’re only slowly decreasing, broken up by sharp spikes of cases in America as the general population carries on with their lives like a pandemic isn’t running rampant. That would be fine and all, except that there’s a disease killing millions that’s running rampant. 

     With the way that some people are ignoring methods of prevention, the virus only stays longer, slowing the modern world and disrupting society even further. Had people followed strict prevention methods like quarantining, social distancing, and sanitizing materials, there is no doubt that cases would be much more obsolete. This is evident in other countries, like New Zealand and almost all of them in East Asia (which includes China). Unlike America, they had all prioritized the development of a test to identify any infected people, enforced the isolation of patients, and extensively traced anyone they had been in contact with. 

     Prevention is the most important part of flattening the curve to 0 daily cases for all countries, next to treatment and mentality. With the importance of keeping yourself safe and healthy, I feel the need to emphasize basic methods of staying safe in addition to the basic necessities of social distancing and quarantining. 

Image by Fusion Medical Animation

Washing your Hands and Wearing Masks

     At a time of mass disease, the community as a whole is paying more attention to hand washing, stress at home, and keeping their surroundings germ-free. While it's good that hand sanitizer is selling off of shelves, it's more important to constantly wash your hands. According to Matthew Freeman, a professor of epidemiology and global health at Emory University, "hand washing with soap for 20 seconds is one of the single most important practices to protect yourself, your family, and your community."

     The water rinses the microbes away with the oil and dirt. Your hands touch everything, including yourself. Connecting with the outside always had a chance of contagion, so regularly and properly washing your hands (and not touching your face!) is a good first step to minimizing any disease. By rubbing your hands together, you provide friction to remove disease microbes with soap working to break down oil and dirt on your skin. 

     According to CDC, it's important to wash your hands:

  • before, during, after preparing food

  • before eating

  • before and after treating wounds or sickness

  • after using the toilet

  • after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing

  • after touching an animal or handling pet food

  • after touching garbage

     During COVID-19, it's especially important to wash your hands:

  • after being in a public place and having touched a frequently-touched item or surface (like door handles, tables, gas pumps, shopping carts, or electric cashier screens) 

  • before touching your eyes, nose, or mouth

     To wash your hands the right way according to CDC,

  1. wet your hands with clean, running warm/cold water, turn off the tap, then apply soap

  2. lather your hands by rubbing them together with soap on the backs of your hands, between fingers, and under nails

  3. scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds (you could hum the Happy Birthday song twice, the ABC's, or the choruses of Dolly Parton's Jolene and The BeeGee's Stayin' Alive)

  4. rinse your hands under clean, running water

  5. dry your hands with a clean tower or just air dry them

     Remember that while sanitizer does work to reduce germs, they don't get rid of all types of germs/bacteria, and might not remove very harmful chemicals like pesticides or heavy metals. They're a temporary solution compared to a more concrete solution of washing your hands. 

     To use hand sanitizer the right way according to CDC,

  1. apply the sanitizer to the palm of one hand (the label may have information about the amount)

  2. rub your hands together

  3. rub the gel over all surface area on your hands and fingers until they're dry (this should take about 20 seconds)

     When out in public places, the most important accessory you need is a mask. Over the past couple of months, research has proved that wearing masks prevent the spread of coronavirus. There is a significant amount (about 30-45%) of positive-testing patients that didn't show symptoms of disease (called asymptomatic spreaders), and studies have proved that they play a major role in spreading the disease.

     To prevent this, the obvious steps to prevent them from spreading are encouraging asymptomatic spreaders to wear masks, and social distancing/quarantine. Since researchers know the disease travels by droplets of bodily fluids carrying the virus (that can spread through coughing and sneezing) it is even more necessary to wear a mask. Recent well-done studies show correlation between wearing masks and decreased risk of transmission.

     An easy test for the effectivity of your mask is to hold it up to a light: the less you see through it, the more effective it is. According to Johns Hopkins University, it's also better to have thicker, more densely woven cotton fabrics, and to find a good balance between fit and breathing. This is why N95 medical masks (which need a fit test and seal check) are more effective than homemade masks. 

Managing Mental Health in Quarantine

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     If you need to calm down, relax, or fall asleep under stress, you can try the 4-7-8 breathing exercise. It’s meant to activate the parasympathetic state of putting your body in a state of rest, a calm and relaxed state.

     You breathe in for a count of four, hold the breath for a count of seven, then exhale for a count of eight. With 4-7-8 your respiratory rate drops to about three breaths a minute, with the breath hold allowing carbon dioxide to increase to balance out the body’s pH. This exercise works along the same way that people that are hyperventilating should breathe into a paper bag so they build up carbon dioxide in the bag. 

     Some people really struggled with quarantining and disconnecting from the public and friends, but there are some benefits of some alone time. Solitude can help you gain clarity, to clear your mind from distractions from the outside world. You can also boost your creativity, renew your energy by resting, and reduce stress by staying in a calm area. 

 

     Because there’s still weeks (and possibly months) of quarantine remaining, here are some things you can do to manage yourself in solitude:

  • Disconnect from media: go offline and put down your phone to connect to your own energy

      over others

  • Find a new hobby or just something fun to do by yourself, from sketching to taking a bath

  • Journal your thoughts: writing your thoughts and feelings can be helpful for self-connection

  • Aromatherapy: clinically proven to help you relax, focus, balance, and revive

 

     To stay connected to the outside world while inside, you can:

  • Call your loved ones

  • Talk face-to-face with friends through a screen (Zoom, Skype, FaceTime)

  • Watch movies, or finish that tv show you’re halfway through

  • It’s the perfect time to get into some good literature, so invest in some reading time

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     School is starting online, so wearing masks won't be a problem over Zoom. However, cases in Benton county have only just reached 350 active cases and is one of the only counties in Washington state that haven't been approved for Stage 2, so it's still imperative that that anyone going in public spaces needs to wear a mask or face covering, social distance, and have sanitizer within reach. Better yet, just don't go outside unless absolutely necessary to protect your community, and if that's not enough to convince you, do it so you can hang out with your friends and go outside like normal!

     Since anxiety can impact your lifestyle in surprising ways and be a root of physical issues, there should be a heavy emphasis on acknowledging and untangling anxiety. There are ways to recognize possible symptoms of anxiety before attempting to deal with it.

     The most common symptoms are feeling light-headed or restless, having a fast/random heartbeat, experiencing shortness of breath, dizziness, nausea, or hot flushes. Surprising symptoms from released stress hormones are chest pain, muscle aches, headaches, and odd behavior, sleep patterns, appetite, and concentration levels. 

     Most people will experience anxiety at some point, but prolonged anxiety will take its toll on your body and mental health. If you feel dread, fear, or loss of control, while avoiding situations that other people find manageable, you should seek help to find the cause of and lessen your anxiety. You can talk to the crisis text line, SAMHSA, and other help lines. 

 

     To deal with feelings of anxiety, you can:

  • Write your thoughts: noting symptoms/thoughts can help you understand why you’re anxious

  • Take a break: set some time out of your day to simply relax without worrying

  • Strive for a healthy lifestyle: exercising causes your brain to release endorphins (that can improve how you feel), and eating healthy with a diet full of vitamins and minerals can keep your brain and gut healthy; also, avoid caffeine, as it can cause anxiety

  • Ask for help: anxiety isn’t something you have to deal with alone, and talking about it to a person you trust can help

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     In a time never before experienced by people in these generations, it can be difficult to manage your anxiety and mental health. Being away from people you’re used to being around can result in disconnection, and you can be inclined to ignore social distancing because of this. However, there are ways to stay positive and stay sane in the months of quarantine and stay connected to friends, family, and teachers during social separation.

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