Physical Distancing and Social Togetherness
Now that CT has opened up quite a bit, and our COVID numbers are low, we wanted to take an opportunity to go over a few points to keep everyone safe while also nourishing the soul.
This has been a trying time, and it is hard to know how it will evolve or resolve. Regardless of whether you thought that the pandemic would last 2 weeks or 2 years, no one can be fully prepared for the emotional and mental toll that isolation can have. At this point into the pandemic, we want to shift our thinking slightly. We should think about physically distancing and social togetherness. Despite the economy and our towns opening up, COVID virus is still very much present. As we have sadly seen from other states that didn’t do as well with their initial quarantine and social distancing, they are experiencing record numbers of new cases a day. The warm weather, the enticing aromas from restaurants, and the lack of many new COVID cases leave us with a false sense of security. The physical distancing recommendations remain. We can, however, become very creative with getting together and nurturing those important social relationships.
At each visit, we try to inquire about how patients are social distancing. The answers that we receive are all across the board. We respect that everyone needs to make a personal choice about their safety based on many different factors in their lives, but we can all take certain precautions to hopefully reunite with our loved ones and friends while staying safe.
Recently, our calls pertaining to patients with direct COVID exposure have increased significantly. Some of that is to be expected as the rules loosen a bit, people travel, and the town opens up. On the other hand, most of the exposures could have been lessened with improved physical distancing measures without sacrificing social togetherness.
Get Real/Get Uncomfortable
Before the state started opening up, it was “easier” to figure out what to do. For instance, some families made a pact with a neighbor family and decided that they would act as a single-family unit and distance together. Both families could be more reassured that they were appropriately social distancing as a unit. Now that families can go to restaurants, salons, camps, daycare, stores, and vacation…..the lines are blurred. To continue with this analogy, your previous neighbors (with whom you made a pact) may not be taking the same precautions as you now. It is uncomfortable to talk about, but you really need to be very honest and clear with other individuals about what you are doing and what their exposure may be when interacting with you. To make this less uncomfortable, just assume that each individual carries some risk and make sure that your interactions include physical distance. You can still get ice cream with those neighbors, but maybe you sit on the grass distanced from each other rather than be closer together. Each family is going to have their own definition of what physical distancing means, and you really need to define that prior to making plans with families.
Remember the mandatory 2-week quarantine
If you are directly exposed to an individual who has COVID-19, then you MUST quarantine for TWO weeks REGARDLESS of whether the test is positive OR negative. We can’t stress this enough because one needs to think of this with travel plans, work, etc. Quarantine means that the individual stays in the house and doesn’t leave. They should ideally be separated into another room depending on the appropriateness and patient’s age.
If your family member who is quarantining in your house tests positive, then EACH member of the family MUST quarantine for two weeks. You must also INFORM each individual that you may have exposed them.
If schools are opening up and kids will be potentially exposed, then why do we still need to distance?
If school has any chance of succeeding outside the home, then we have to stay extremely vigilant now. Each day that we are more casual with our social distancing, the less of a chance that we will have to safely move forward and get to some of the things that we love. Physically distance now to reap the rewards later.
What is school going to look like?
School is going to look DIFFERENT. Is this a negative different? It depends on your perspective. For students who found the distance learning to be a positive for them in terms of their academic and social situation, then school may not seem right with all the changes. For students that suffered emotional distress and academic challenges without school, school (in any form) may be more helpful than staying home. There are many children who rely on schools for meals and a safe haven. Not everyone has the benefit of their home being more safe and nurturing than school. We all need to SHIFT PERSPECTIVE. None of us as parents or pediatricians wish that we had to make these type of changes with school. There is a sense of loss, and it is important to acknowledge that. After we cope with those initial feelings, we must forge ahead. Instead of comparing this upcoming school year with past school years, it may be better to think of it as an entirely different entity. We have to make the most of the situation that we have right now…..with the hope that our efforts will pay off and we can gradually incorporate aspects of school that make it wonderful. We really need to stay positive for our children. They are looking to us to show them the way. Stay positive, promote resilience, validate feelings and then find a way to shift their negative thoughts into a potential positive.
There is controversy among many individuals regarding wearing masks. In this case, opinion matters very little. Science has proven that masks reduce transmission of germs. The masks provide protection for others by reducing their germ transmission, and it also provides the individual some protection from other’s germs. It is crucial to wear a mask to keep hospital admissions and fatalities at a level that can be safely managed. The mask is a SIMPLE but POWERFUL defense. Show compassion and kindness for others that may not be able to wear a mask for a variety of reasons. Keep these individuals safe. Do your part to combat this illness. Kids adapt very quickly to masks for short periods of time, and adults should follow along. Community cooperation is crucial, as it is the best method we have to keep everyone safe.
(taking your mask on and off in a room is equivalent to not wearing a mask because droplets stay in the air for a certain period of time. Keep the mask on until you are outside and properly distanced)
Mitigate your Risk
Nothing in life can be completely without risk, and COVID is a prime example. Every day in our lives, we make choices to mitigate the risk to stay safe with what we are doing. People wear seatbelts, kids wear bike helmets, etc. We often do these things without even thinking about it. COVID is new to us, so it takes effort to mitigate risk. We have to work at it. That being said, think about each situation that you are in and decide whether you can lessen your risk. The simplest solution is to provide physical distance between yourself and another person. Breathing, talking, laughing, sneezing, yelling all carry with them significant risk if an individual is standing too close. Respiratory droplets can be transmitted through air and potentially infect someone that is not at least 6ft apart. A second solution to mitigate this further would be for both parties to wear a mask. And finally, a third solution would be to enjoy being with this person outside rather than inside. This is the type of thought process that will help us all to make safe and appropriate decisions.
Six degrees of separation
Our society and our world seem quite big. We can go weeks without seeing a neighbor or bumping into a colleague outside of work. We forget, however, that we are connected through relationships with other individuals. When you expose yourself to one person, you are exposing yourself to all of their contacts. If that person is making good decisions, then there is little risk. Poor choices, however, can affect hundreds of people. It is very difficult to impart these truths on our children, especially our teen children who are naturally supposed to stretch their wings and test the limits. We have to do our best to let them know that their freedom and ability to move freely among different places and people depends on their commitment to safety now.
It is difficult to navigate the changing recommendations as we learn more about COVID. Please reach out to us. We are here to help you make the best decision for your family.
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