Our Team’s Jigsaw Puzzle Game Has Been Tight During COVID-19
Let me start by saying that I was into puzzles before they became big (#Hipster). I started doing the 1,000-piece ones as soon as the pieces were no longer a choking hazard. As a kid, it was a special time I got to spend with my mom. As an adult, it’s a stress reliever.
When quarantine was looming, I already had an arsenal of about 10 or 12 puzzles that I knew I could redo. But I wanted something new to look forward to — something other than the box of Fudge Stripe cookies and giant pack of Swedish fish I’d just bought. So I went to Target and made my way to the puzzle section (which I could do with my eyes closed).
Imagine my astonishment when there were zero puzzles left. Zero. None. Zilch. I checked Amazon. An overpriced toy store. Same thing.
This had never happened before. COVID-19 was already cramping my style. But this was the rotten cherry on top of my melted sundae. No puzzles? I was DONE.
My mom and I finally snagged a few left on the Barnes & Noble website and resigned ourselves to redoing old ones when these were finished.
Pandemic, Puzzles, And Profits
We were not alone. It seemed like literally everyone in the US had decided to jump on the puzzle bandwagon with an unknown number of weeks (hah — little did we know) at home on the horizon.
The US game company Ravensburger had a 370% surge in puzzle sales in the last week of March/first week of April, 2020. They were selling an average of about 20 puzzles per minute in North America, compared to 7 per minute in 2019.
Other companies saw similar increases. Some even reported an increase by as much as 1,000%.
Puzzle makers across the country struggled to keep up with the massive uptick in orders, partly due to problems created by the need to social distance in warehouses. But that didn’t stop these dedicated companies from committing to fulfilling orders. For instance, the online retailer Puzzle Warehouse went from selling about 1,000 puzzles per day to 10,000 each day — as well as experiencing associated shipping delays — leading them to hire 30 new employees.
The Health Benefits Of Jigsaw Puzzles
It’s not just that people were bored being stuck at home. Jigsaw puzzles actually have therapeutic benefits. Completing a puzzle has been shown to reduce stress — which is something almost everyone needs right now.
Other benefits include improvements in:
- Memory (especially short-term)
- Visual-spatial reasoning
If you have children at home, doing puzzles together is a great way to bond, teach them about collaboration, and get them off of their screens.
The CareContent Team = All In
Alright. Enough jabber about jigsaw. Take a look at how the CareContent team’s puzzle game was on point over the last few months.
We’ll start with Lynette. She may have only done one puzzle, but she made up for it by gifting one to Natalie, taking up arts and crafts, and choosing a super cute one for the one she did complete.
Let’s move on to Nicole. Nicole wasn’t as into the puzzles herself, but her [adorable] daughters were.
Okay, now we’re getting into the serious puzzlers.
Natalie did six puzzles.
This was from Lynette!
And this was from a team gift to Natalie and her husband, Brandon, who got married in 2020.
And now …
Yes, I wrote this article. But I’m going to be completely not humble and give myself the award for #1 Team Puzzler.
I did at least 12, but I didn’t take pictures of them all. Here are some of my favorites:
This is one I ended up hanging in my room.
This is one my family got my mom for Mother’s Day.
My tiny nephew did this one. I guess it runs in the family.
Even my cat, Twyla, got in on the game. And speaking of which, this is who I have to blame …
… for this CATastrophe (look closely):
Thanks, Twy. Thanks.
Happy National Puzzle Day from the CareContent team!
Can You Get COVID-19 Twice Or Not?
Angelina Friedman is a fighter. She survived the 1918 Spanish Flu. She beat cancer. And in 2020, she’s reported to have defeated COVID-19 not once but twice — the first time in March and then again in October.
Oh, and she’s also 102 years old.
Angelina Friedman’s story is inspiring and downright impressive. More than that, though, it begs the question that many have been wondering since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic — can you catch the illness twice?
According to this story among others, the answer is yes. But things get a little more complicated when you consider that some of these supposed reinfections may have been a result of patients being told they were free from the virus — only to end up remaining infected all along. Plus, because a COVID-19 test can’t tell the difference between the live virus and the dead virus, you can test positive for weeks or even months without being infectious.
Still, health experts say reinfection would not be surprising, though most likely rare.
Whether or not reinfection is possible is critical because of its impact on:
- Who is at risk of catching — and spreading — the virus
- Stay-at-home orders and restrictions on gatherings
- How a vaccine will need to be administered and how often
Because COVID-19 is a brand new infection, there’s still a lot we don’t know, including whether or not you can become immune and therefore avoid reinfection. But we do know quite a bit about immunity in general, which may provide more insight into the virus that causes COVID-19.
COVID-19 And Immunity: How Do You Become Immune?
When you come face to face with an infection, your immune system kicks in to protect you. This happens in two parts:
- The innate immune response, which releases chemicals that cause inflammation and white blood cells to kill infected cells.
- The adaptive immune response, causing cells to make targeted antibodies (proteins created by the immune system to fight infections), which attach to the virus in order to stop it, and T cells, which attack only the cells infected with the virus.
The innate immune response is always at the ready to protect you — but it doesn’t learn about specific viruses, and it won’t provide future immunity.
The adaptive immune response does learn, though, given enough time. Studies have shown that it can take roughly 10 days for a person infected with COVID-19 to start making antibodies that target the virus.
So far, people who become the sickest with COVID-19 also often develop the most robust immune response. If this response is strong enough, your immune system may remember the infection, which could protect you should you come into contact with the virus again.
How Long Does Immunity To COVID-19 Last?
Here’s where things get a little tricky. Just like you can remember every single lyric to your favorite song but can’t remember your password to check your cable bill, your immune system remembers some infections well — but it forgets others quite easily.
For instance, measles tends to be pretty memorable. Having it once (or getting the MMR vaccine) usually provides you with life-long immunity.
As for COVID-19, not enough time has passed to know for certain how well your immune system will remember it. One study (which is comprehensive and long-ranging — but not yet peer-reviewed or published in a scientific journal) suggested most people have immunity eight months after infection.
However, one woman from the Netherlands was reported to have tested positive for COVID-19 on April 17, 2020, then negative just a few weeks later. But after a few months — on July 3 — she became sick and tested positive yet again. A man in Nevada — the first confirmed reinfection case in the US — tested positive in April, negative on two subsequent occasions, and positive once again in June.
Clearly, how long your immune system remembers the virus that causes COVID-19 is yet to be determined. However, with countries worldwide confirming reinfections, it seems that you can get COVID-19 twice. And while it does appear to be rare, health experts suspect there may be more cases than currently reported. This is due to labs lacking the time and resources to confirm that it’s rare.
The Bottom Line: Patience And Protection
At the beginning of 2020, there was plenty of uncertainty surrounding COVID-19. Since then, there has been incredible, life-saving progress.
Medical professionals have identified more effective ways to treat those infected with COVID-19, researchers have developed vaccines in record-breaking time, and everyone has learned how critical social distancing and wearing a mask are. (Still, we could probably use a little more effort in that last arena.)
But when it comes to possible reinfection and immunity from COVID-19, time will tell. For now, whether or not you’ve been infected in the past, the best way to protect both yourself and others is to wash your hands, wear a mask, and stay at home as much as possible.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, much of the fight against COVID-19 has been about patience — with science, with each other, and with ourselves. As a return to normalcy becomes closer in reach, stay home, stay safe, and stay patient.
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Why Are People Struggling With The Simple Task Of Wearing A Mask?
On January 22, 2020, a plane landed in Toronto, Canada, carrying passengers from Guangzhou, China, and before that, Wuhan, China — the global epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic.
On the flight was a man who had a dry cough and eventually went on to test positive for COVID-19. However, despite the close proximity on the airplane, all 25 people who sat closest to him on the flight tested negative for the virus.
Was it sheer luck? Divine intervention? Magic? No, no, and that would be wonderful, but no. It was much simpler — the man was wearing a mask.
There are plenty of mask-success stories just like this one, such as the two hairstylists in Missouri who tested positive but didn’t pass the virus onto any of their 139 clients. Why not? Both the stylists and the clients wore masks.
By now, the effectiveness of masks in preventing the spread of COVID-19 shouldn’t surprise you. What might surprise — or frustrate — you is how many Americans are still struggling with a simple task that could save so many lives.
Early August projections predicted the COVID-19 death toll in the US could reach nearly 300,000 by December 1 — but consistent adherence to mask-wearing could save around 70,000 lives in that same time span.
Despite their effectiveness in saving lives, some Americans remain adamantly against any type of face covering. In May 2020, a survey of over 4,000 adults in the US revealed that only about 60% of respondents always wear a mask out in public — and over 17% rarely or have never worn a mask in public.
Because of the possibility of both pre-symptomatic and asymptomatic transmission, everyone should wear a mask when out in public. Health experts predict that if just 80% of the population did, it would do more to reduce COVID-19 spread than a strict lockdown.
Unfortunately, we’re not even close to that level of mask-wearing, leaving many of us wondering — why on earth not?
Masks have been called an infringement on freedoms.
In June 2020, former Major League Baseball player Aubrey Huff posted on Twitter that he was done wearing masks inside any business. “It’s unconstitutional to enforce. Let’s make this BS stop now! Who’s with me?” he wrote.
Thousands of people called him out for disrespecting his community, putting others at risk, and considering dying preferable to wearing a mask. However, Huff stood firm in his beliefs — much like many other Americans who claim they’re being forced to forfeit their freedoms by being required to don a mask.
In Michigan, nearly 700 protesters gathered to protest mask-wearing. In Florida, anti-maskers ran through Target telling other customers to “take their masks off” and yelled that they weren’t “going to take it anymore.” There was even a store security guard shot and killed by customers after he asked them to put on a mask before entering the building.
In the land of the free, Americans value their freedoms, and some have felt distressed, indignant, and even morally outraged at the concept of wearing a mask.
Some have compared this reaction to the ban on smoking cigarettes inside restaurants. Both ask people to do (or not do) something that can be damaging to someone else’s health.
The difference is, while the smoking ban is permanent, masks requirements won’t last forever (hopefully). Plus, not one law or court has supported masks being unconstitutional.
Masks have been associated with weakness.
Similar to how some teenagers flaunt driving without a seatbelt (Note: seatbelts save lives), there are people who feel that masks make them look weak. One study showed that people think of wearing a mask as “shameful” and “not cool.”
Unfortunately, they’re not the only ones. President Trump has publicly ridiculed mask-wearers for appearing weak. Just 2 days after mocking his opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, for wearing a mask at the first presidential debate, President Trump himself was diagnosed with COVID-19.
This diagnosis came after a largely mask-less event for the President’s Supreme Court nominee — what White House officials believe to be the cause of more than a dozen positive cases among attendees.
As public officials continue to not only refuse to wear masks but also downplay the seriousness of the virus, it only furthers the dangerous mindset of masks being weak.
Men — who have a higher risk of dying from COVID-19 — are more likely to shun masks for this reason. To some, the mask is a symbol of vulnerability, and putting on the mask is equivalent to admitting they’re scared of this deadly virus.
However, whether or not you choose to admit it, this is a scary time in history, and we are vulnerable. Denying that only puts you and others in harm’s way.
Messaging around mask effectiveness has caused some confusion.
The beginning of 2020 was a whirlwind. One day, Americans were eating at restaurants, hosting parties, and walking around with no concept of wearing a mask.
Within 3 months, masks went from unnecessary to recommended for anyone who goes out in public. Because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) initially advised not wearing a mask if you’re healthy, it left many people feeling confused or even wronged when guidelines were changed.
To add to the confusion, while major health organizations like the CDC and World Health Organization (WHO) emphasize the importance of mask-wearing, plenty of high-ranking national leaders have been seen in public not wearing a mask.
The message has been muddled, to say the least. Unfortunately, this has left space for people to make up their own minds instead of listening to expert guidance.
Months ago, it was unclear what role masks would play in the transmission of COVID-19. Now, we know about the high probability of asymptomatic transmission, and everyone is advised to wear masks in public.
Masks can be slightly uncomfortable.
Unlike in other countries, Americans have never been asked to wear masks in public until now. While it is more widely accepted in east Asian countries, people in the US aren’t used to wearing a mask if they’re ill — and some are having a hard time adjusting to the physical aspect of this safety measure.
It is true that masks can cause slight anxiety for some, leading to a rapid heart rate, trouble breathing, and feeling hot and sweaty — all of which can be uncomfortable.
However, there are ways to ease mask-related anxiety and discomfort, such as:
- Recognizing what you’re feeling as anxiety and reminding yourself that these feelings will pass
- Taking slow, deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth
- Finding a mask that fits comfortably and works for you
One of the most effective ways to get past the discomfort is actually to wear your mask. Get used to what it feels like while at home, and build up to wearing it for longer periods of time.
Mask anxiety is real — but so is the anxiety that comes with seeing others not wearing masks to keep everyone safe.
What To Say To People Who Choose Not To Wear A Mask
There are plenty of reasons why people disregard mask requirements, but the fact remains that they save lives. The more people that wear them, the more effectively they prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Aside from the general public, let’s remember the countless frontline healthcare workers who have put their lives at risk and their families on hold to treat COVID-19 patients. Refusing to wear a mask increases the burden on them.
Listen to a recent episode of Modern Healthcare’s Next Up podcast (hosted by our CEO Kadesha Smith) featuring Michael Dowling, CEO of Northwell Health in the New York Metro area, once the epicenter for COVID-19 infections. Twenty of his frontline workers died treating COVID-19 patients.
Refusing to wear a mask is like a slap in the face to our healthcare workers. If someone you know and feel comfortable with refuses to wear a mask, this is a good opportunity for a productive conversation. Acknowledge the minor discomforts of wearing a mask, then remind them that masks are not about their safety. They’re about the safety of their most at-risk friends, family, and neighbors.
If they still refuse to wear a mask when you’re together, it’s okay if your social bubble becomes a little smaller for the time being.
If you encounter a maskless individual in public, such as at a grocery store, let a store employee or security personnel know. If the individual is near you, politely ask them to please stand away from you. If they won’t, be prepared to leave. Public shaming and threats are often ineffective, and they can also create a dangerous situation.
COVID-19 has handed the world plenty of challenges — some that are in our control and others that are not. It’s normal to feel frustrated when others around you are not wearing masks. For now, make sure you’re doing your best to keep yourself and those around you safe — and maintain your distance from those who aren’t quite there yet.
As of early October 2020, a poll of 2,200 Americans showed that 92% said they always or sometimes wear a mask when leaving the house.
While this number is undoubtedly welcome news, it doesn’t mean we can get complacent. We must continue to wear masks as well as adhere to all other recommendations, like hand-washing, social distancing, and staying home whenever possible.
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Achieving Herd Immunity Naturally Is Not How To Fight COVID-19
On April 7, 2020, about 95% of Americans were on lockdown. With 42 states under stay-at-home orders amid the COVID-19 pandemic, restaurants switched to take-out only, gyms and salons closed their doors, and schools transitioned to online learning.
Across the globe, it was much of the same — businesses and schools closed, Zoom memberships up.
In Sweden, it was an entirely different scene. Bars and restaurants were still serving customers, and schools remained open for children under age 16. While there was a ban on mass gatherings and visits to elderly care centers, and social distancing was encouraged, life on the streets looked as if COVID-19 was no different than the common cold.
This left people around the world wondering: Why wasn’t Sweden going into lockdown?
The answer is that they were trying to achieve natural herd immunity.
Back in the US, many lockdown skeptics wanted to follow suit. But while it may have been a well-intentioned approach, scientists and medical professionals are increasingly issuing stern warnings that trying to reach herd immunity naturally could be disastrous.
Herd Immunity 101
Herd immunity is when a significant percentage of the population is immune to a disease, whether through a vaccine or a prior illness, making the spread of the disease unlikely. The percentage of people who need to be immune varies from disease to disease. For example, it’s estimated that about 93 to 95% of the population needs to be immune to measles to stop that from spreading. The percentage is unknown for COVID-19, although it’s predicted to be at least 70-80%.
In the case of COVID-19, we can take vaccines off the table (for now). A vaccine is still months away and it will take time to distribute. That’s why some people believe that the best option isn’t to wait around for a vaccine and take preventive measures in the meantime.
The basis of the concept of building herd immunity the natural way is through antibodies. Antibodies are proteins that the body develops after having already been exposed to a disease and can protect the body from getting the disease again.
The more people who have antibodies, the less the disease can spread from person to person. Once a certain percentage of the population has those antibodies, they can protect others who don’t yet have the antibodies from getting infected.
Antibodies and COVID-19
At the moment, it seems like the antibodies from a previous COVID-19 infection provide immunity from getting it again. However, it hasn’t been entirely proven — and even if they do provide some immunity, there isn’t a consensus yet on for how long the immunity lasts.
There isn’t a very reliable way to test for antibodies. Early tests revealed a false positive rate of up to 50%. This means that if you test positive for antibodies, there’s still a significant chance that you do not actually have them, and you are not immune.
Source: Cleveland Clinic
On the surface, achieving herd immunity naturally for COVID-19 might seem ideal for several reasons. It doesn’t include mandated social distancing, which means fewer disruptions to the economy and to individuals’ lives. Even if full herd immunity doesn’t occur, a higher percentage of people having antibodies could potentially make a community more resilient to a second or third wave of the virus.
Below the surface, there’s a much different story.
Natural Immunity Isn’t Easy — And Comes With Steep Collateral Damage
We’ve heard time and time again that COVID-19 is severely contagious. That is demonstrably true, but it doesn’t mean that everyone is getting it.
As of July 5, there have been 2,841,906 confirmed or presumed positive cases of COVID-19 in the US. That translates to less than 1% of the population. Based on the fact that testing has been slow and not widespread, and that many people are asymptomatic so might not get tested, it’s almost guaranteed that the true number of cases is higher.
Still, most estimates of how many people in the US have had COVID-19 and are likely immune to it hover around 1-2%. Even a recent estimate that closer to 24 million people have been infected is only 5 to 8% of the population.
We have already seen more than 129,000 US deaths from the virus. And that is only at 1-8% of the population having had the virus. Remember — we most likely need to get to at least 70% to even have hope that we have reached herd immunity. Imagine how many deaths would occur by the time we reached that number naturally.
And in Sweden? After months of a laissez-faire approach to fighting coronavirus, only about 6 to 7% of the population has gotten it. Sweden has one of the highest COVID-19 fatality rates in the world and cases are still on the rise.
It’s Not Just About Death Rates
While the death toll of COVID-19 is high, most people do recover from it. However, that doesn’t mean that they got off easy:
- Recovery often doesn’t happen overnight — some people are sick and out of work for weeks.
- Severe cases can land someone in the hospital, racking up tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills in the process.
- Patients who land in the hospital are being admitted quicker than they are being discharged, often occupying beds in the intensive care unit (ICU) for long periods of time — reducing resources for other people who need non-COVID-19 related care, like car accident victims or patients having heart attacks.
- Survivors of COVID-19 may have long-term effects of the virus, even if they only had a mild case. Studies from across the world have shown survivors spending months recovering from symptoms like debilitating shortness of breath and fatigue, and some researchers believe that survivors may have permanent lung damage.
Even if people are asymptomatic or have very mild cases, they can still pass it on to others who won’t be quite as lucky.
The bottom line: Keeping COVID-19 away from as many people as possible can prevent serious consequences. Purposely exposing people to it or encouraging the attitude of, “I might as well get it now and get it over with” can put lives in danger.
The reality is that until there is a vaccine, herd immunity is going to be hard to come by. And if we do achieve it naturally, we’re going to pay a hefty price.
But the good news is that developing a vaccine is the top priority at research labs around the world. The best and brightest minds on the planet are working around the clock to ensure that we can get a safe and effective vaccine as soon as possible.
Until then — stay home, social distance, wash your hands — you know the drill by now.
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Businesses Are Reopening Nationwide: What Does That Mean For The Elderly And Immunocompromised?
The quarantine haircut is finally behind us, thanks to the reopening of hair salons around the country. Those, along with other businesses like retail stores and restaurants, are slowly but surely reopening their doors to Americans.
While there are significant restrictions and safety measures in place, people are no longer stuck at home completely. However, that doesn’t mean everyone should be running out to get a trim or dine in their favorite restaurant. From masks to handwashing to maintaining distance, everyone should remain just as cautious as before — especially the elderly and those with a weakened immune system.
Roughly 52 million Americans are 65 years or older and 7 million American adults have a weakened immune system.
Sources: Population Reference Bureau, CNN
Because your immune system gradually declines as you age, the elderly are at a greater risk of severe illness or complications from COVID-19. In addition, people who are immunocompromised (having a weakened immune system) also live with that risk each day. Some reasons a person may be immunocompromised include cancer treatment, smoking, organ transplantation, and immune-weakening medications.
Across the country, Americans of all ages are faced with the challenge of navigating this pandemic with a weakened immune system. And while nationwide closures made it a little easier temporarily, immunocompromised people are now having to readjust to protect themselves from a virus that could take their lives.
The Challenges Of Being Immunocompromised During The Covid-19 Pandemic
One of the most challenging parts of being immunocompromised in the midst of a pandemic is the fact that other people might have no idea that your immune system isn’t as strong as theirs.
Many people who have a compromised immune system have an invisible illness.
For instance, lupus is an autoimmune disorder in which your immune system that usually fights infections attacks your healthy tissue instead. A person with lupus may look completely healthy, but an infection like the common cold or COVID-19 could cost them their life. Or, for someone who is elderly, their outer appearance may not necessarily reflect their age, and they may look a lot younger than they are.
This invisibility can be highly problematic. Others around someone who is immunocompromised don’t always realize it, and they might not recognize that their actions can have a serious impact on that person’s safety.
If you have a compromised immune system you already know from flu season that there’s not much you can do about others’ behavior. Some people might still refuse to wear masks or not adhere to social distancing guidelines.
But you can control what you do — and there are measures you can take to ensure your safety, which is critical as businesses reopen their doors to everyone.
Caution And Vigilance: Staying Safe As Businesses Reopen
As Americans are flocking to beaches and restaurants, if you’re immunocompromised, you may be a little more hesitant to join in on the festivities — and rightfully so. Still, with the right precautions, there are ways to safely enjoy yourself.
Consider The Risk Of Your Destination
Just because many businesses reopened at similar times doesn’t mean that the risk of contracting COVID-19 is the same at each place. The risk of exposure depends on factors like how many people are around and what kind of space is available to maintain distance from others. Before making the decision to go out, consider the risks of your destination:
- Going to the beach or pool: Low risk
- Using a public restroom: Low to medium risk
- Eating indoors at a restaurant: Medium to high risk
- Getting a haircut: Medium to high risk
- Attending an indoor religious service: High risk
Remember: There’s no such thing as a zero-risk outing during a pandemic. If you’re able to order take out versus dining in, that’s guaranteed to be the safer option. But if you’re absolutely itching to get out, opt for safer options, such as dining outdoors or bringing a picnic to a park that’s not crowded.
Strictly Adhere To Guidelines To Protect Yourself
While businesses have implemented many important guidelines to keep customers safe, it’s still your responsibility to adhere to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines on protecting yourself COVID-19, including:
- Washing your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds (or using a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol)
- Staying at least 6 feet apart from others outside of your household
- Avoiding crowded places
- Wearing a mask and asking others in your group to do the same
Keep Yourself As Healthy As Possible
During a pandemic and every day, it’s important to make healthy lifestyle choices if you have a weakened immune system. Make sure you get enough sleep, drink plenty of water, eat nutritious foods, and incorporate physical activity into your daily routine. These are all things that, should you be exposed to COVID-19, go a long way toward helping your body fight off the virus.
In addition, if you’re immunocompromised due to a health condition, make sure you keep up with your regular treatment plan. Continue taking your prescribed medication, keep going to your regular appointments, and contact your doctor right away if you’re not feeling well.
The anxiety surrounding COVID-19 is very real for all Americans, but for those who are at risk of severe complications, the pandemic can be even more overwhelming. As businesses reopen their doors, be sure to make informed decisions and take measures to protect yourself. And as you’re reintegrating yourself into the world again, take it slowly. The world will still be there when you’re ready.
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Virtual Meeting Bingo: From, “Wait, Is My Camera On?” To “Sorry, That Was My Cat”
It has been a few months since COVID-19 basically made physical office spaces obsolete. And while the country has slowly started reopening, many offices still remain closed — or are allowing employees to continue to work from home if they’re more comfortable with that.
If you’re one of the millions of Americans who now work from home, you’ve probably become familiar with the world of virtual meetings. Whether it’s via Zoom, Google Meet, or Skype (so old-school), online meetings make working from home easier and allow you to still connect with your coworkers.
You know what else virtual meetings do?
They set the stage for really lame jokes and plenty of snafus that no one will let you forget.
How many of these have you experienced?
So, we really do focus on healthcare content. But sometimes, you just need a little dose of something fun — and we are all about that, too.
Pandemic Dreams: They’re Strange, They’re Vivid, And They’re Very Common
I’m just minding my own business, walking my dog, Arya. Out of nowhere, another dog comes running at us and bites Arya’s ear off. I panic and immediately check the wound, only to find there’s no blood or really any damage at all. What’s more, no one seems the least bit concerned that this rogue dog is running around ripping other dogs’ ears off.
Thankfully, this was a part of a dream (otherwise, I’d have to seriously check into why my dog seems to have no blood in her body). Still, strange, vivid dreams like this have been common for me recently during the coronavirus pandemic.
Turns out, I’m not alone. A lot of people have been experiencing unusual dreams recently — and it seems to have a lot to do with the pandemic. In fact, this phenomenon is so common that it’s sparked a Twitter hashtag: #PandemicDreams.
So, what gives? Why the sudden spike in incredibly vivid dreams — and what does it all mean?
Today, dreams are believed to be a connection to our unconscious mind. They may reveal hidden emotions, help in problem-solving or memory-formation, or simply be a compilation of random brain activation.
Source: American Sleep Association
The meaning behind dreams has always been a bit murky, though it’s safe to say that they’re probably connected to our emotional states in some way or another. And during a pandemic, well, emotions are definitely running high.
Here’s a look at the science behind pandemic dreams and what on earth is going on with our minds at night.
Stress And 3 a.m. Bedtimes: A Recipe For Pandemic Dreams (And Nightmares)
After my first few unusual dreams, I decided to do what anyone would do — Google it. While I wasn’t exactly shocked that I was not alone, I was surprised how much research is being done about pandemic dreams.
At least five research teams at institutions around the world are studying pandemic dreams thanks to COVID-19. Plus, this phenomenon is not new as dreams were also reported to be more intense and memorable after the 9/11 attacks.
So far, researchers have narrowed the root of pandemic dreams down to two factors — stress, and, ultimately, disrupted sleep patterns.
Stress And Dreaming
Intense emotions are no stranger to most of us during the coronavirus pandemic. Whether you’ve experienced job uncertainty, feelings of isolation, or added pressures like homeschooling or caring for a loved one, stress is rampant right now. Plus, many are preoccupied with the most obvious concern — contracting COVID-19.
Apparently, our minds use dreaming to handle intense emotions, especially those that are negative. And increased anxiety throughout the day (say from watching the news packed with grim reports or trying to handle work-from-home and homeschooling all at once) can lead to more negative content in dreams — which may explain why my poor dog had to lose her ear.
Sleep Patterns And Dreaming
Stress and anxiety can lead to more negative or vivid dreams, but the more pressing question is — why is everyone suddenly remembering them?
Basically, it comes down to one thing: sleep patterns. When your sleeping routine becomes disrupted or altered, it can make you remember more of your dreams after you wake up.
Whether or not you’re aware of it, everyone wakes up several times a night. This is completely normal, and it happens around the end of each 90-minute sleep cycle. Without these moments of wakefulness, you actually wouldn’t remember your dreams at all.
After about 5 minutes of being awake, your brain starts encoding memory. If you’re feeling more anxious, you’re more likely to stay awake long enough to form those memories and remember your dreams in the morning.
On top of anxiety, sleep patterns are being disrupted all over the place right now. Whether you’re working from home and can stay up until midnight (or 3 a.m.) or you’ve formed a new habit of napping throughout the day, your routine is probably a little jolted right now — which may increase your tendency to remember your dreams.
Finally, a lack of activity can decrease sleep quality, which is associated with your ability to remember your dreams. And right now, we’re all pretty limited in what we’re able to do to pass the time, and everyone’s activity levels have likely taken a bit of a hit.
While stress, changes in routine, and lack of activity are major players for restlessness, there are other possible causes, such as:
- More screen time, including virtual game nights or scrolling through social media
- Bingeing your favorite TV show or watching the news right before bed
- Drinking alcohol more often
Warding Off Negative Dreams — And Getting A Good Night’s Sleep
Peace of mind can lead to more peaceful dreams, where you feel content with what’s going on in your dreams. On the other hand, anxiety can lead to dreams that are upsetting or frightening. Fortunately, there are ways to combat this.
Start with trying to address your anxiety. This might include:
- Reframing your time at home to be positive by focusing on tasks you’ve put off until now or a new hobby
- Trying to maintain a relatively steady routine
- Turning off the news every once in a while
- Journaling your thoughts and reflections
- Using telehealth to talk to a mental health professional
It’s also important to get a good night’s sleep as often as possible, especially right now. Try to incorporate some activity into your day, avoid screen time right before bed, and limit your use of alcohol and nicotine.
Pandemic dreams are certainly a strange side effect of the coronavirus pandemic, but they’re manageable. If nothing else, you can keep a dream journal next to your bed — maybe you’ll come up with the next hit movie based on one of your strangest pandemic dreams yet.
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These Businesses May Be Small, But Their Impact During The COVID-19 Pandemic Is Huge
“Unfortunately, the past can no longer survive in this post-pandemic world. If these walls could talk, they would tell beautiful and sad stories of many lives.”
This is the message printed on a sign hanging in the window of an iconic 24-hour diner down the street from where I live in Chicago. It had been serving up patty melts, milkshakes, and cups of coffee for nearly 60 years, but in the end, it simply could not survive the COVID-19 pandemic.
Stories like these are common around the US and the world right now, as small businesses are being hit hard by the pandemic. From stay-at-home order closures to a future of severely limited capacities, they’re finding it extraordinarily difficult to make it through.
As of mid-May, economists believe more than 100,000 small businesses have shut their doors permanently due to the pandemic.
Source: The Washington Post
Despite these challenges, some small businesses are managing to pull through. Of course, owners are still struggling to make ends meet and employees are working extra hours in order to make this possible.
Still, of those that are surviving this pandemic, many small businesses are recognizing a country in need and are finding ways to give back.
Because they deserve our sincere gratitude and we all could use a little more hope in the world right now, here are just a few ways small businesses are lending a hand to support those in need during the COVID-19 pandemic.
1. They’re providing meals to healthcare workers and restaurant workers out of a job.
Food is the way to many people’s hearts, but right now, it’s become more than just a kind gesture. Healthcare workers on the frontlines need fuel to make it through their chaotic days, and meals sent by small businesses make it so there’s one less thing they have to worry about.
For instance, Les’ Creative Hands LLC in Chicago, a small fruit sculpting business, has been supplying lunches for nurses at hospitals on the Southside of the city. Each week, along with her team, founder Leslie Horne brings boxes full of nutritious food to thank nurses on the frontlines.
Another company in Chicago, The Fifty/50 Restaurant Group, knows firsthand how the pandemic is affecting the restaurant industry. Pre-COVID-19, they operated 19 locations. Now, they only have 3 — and they’ve had to lay off around 600 workers.
They’re not leaving their team members — or restaurant workers in general — without assistance, however. At one of their locations, they debuted the Chicago Restaurant Workers Relief Center, which provides laid-off workers with a meal and a bag of groceries to go.
2. They’re switching from making spirits to hand sanitizer.
Whiskey, rum, and other spirits used to be the name of the game for distilleries across the country. During the pandemic, however, many are trying their hand at producing hand sanitizer instead — and they’re finding themselves to be quite successful.
One family-run distillery in Pennsylvania, Eight Oaks Farm Distillery, has pledged to make hand sanitizer for as long as there’s a need — which is, right now, around 2,000 bottles a day. (Bonus: Thanks to this switch and tapping into savings, they’re able to retain and pay all of their employees.)
The toughest part has been finding the right ingredients and supplies, but thankfully, many community members are donating to the cause, which helps fuel their mission.
3. They’re donating their personal protective equipment (PPE) to hospitals.
Personal protective equipment is hard to come by these days, as the pandemic has led to much more stringent requirements to keep frontline workers safe. So when some small businesses who also use PPE — such as nail salons — had to close their doors, they figured they could at least put their equipment to good use.
One nail salon in Mobile, Alabama, called Top Nails 2, donated its entire inventory — a couple of hundred masks and 8 boxes of gloves. They weren’t the only ones, though. After one local pharmacist in Mobile made a request on Facebook, dozens of other salon owners banded together to donate over 134,000 pairs of gloves and 23,000 masks for the cause.
In Brentwood, Tennessee, another salon, called Zen Nails, is taking it a step further by making masks and gowns for local healthcare workers. One of the co-owners used to work as a registered nurse, so she wants to help out her fellow nurses in the best way she knows how.
Supporting Small Businesses — So They Can Continue To Support The Community
Owners of small businesses often have deep ties to their communities. Whether they grew up there or they’re transplants who’ve come to love their town, they rely on the support of the community for their success. Plus, their success is directly related to how much a community thrives, including boosting real estate and providing work to local community members.
During this pandemic, small businesses are facing some serious hurdles, and many are finding it tough to keep their doors open. If you’re able to, now is the time to support those local small businesses that you love. Whether it’s ordering take out from your favorite small restaurant or purchasing a gift card from your local salon, they would undoubtedly appreciate your support.
There’s a lot of uncertainty in a global crisis. But these examples show how capable we are of moving forward together — empowered by connection, support, and purpose.
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What Coronavirus Does To The Body — And Why Some People Are Sicker Than Others
Everyone is using words like “unprecedented” and “unknown” when talking about coronavirus and COVID-19. These aren’t just buzzwords — they are some of the only descriptors that most of the scientific community agree on.
That’s because so much of the science behind COVID-19 is up in the air. Since this is a brand new virus, there hasn’t been enough time for studies that show the exact nature of the virus, or why some people die from the virus while others never even cough.
However, despite the unknowns, there are a few things that are generally accepted as truth, such as how it’s spread, what it does to the inside of the body, and several of the risk factors that make people susceptible to severe illness.
Coronavirus Comes In: The Body’s Response
The virus can also be spread through contact with contaminated surfaces or objects, such as railings, countertops, or elevator buttons. If respiratory droplets land on these surfaces and someone touches them, and then touches their mouth, nose, or even eyes, they can become infected.
Once the virus is in the body, it goes on the attack (even though you might not experience symptoms for several days or not at all). It starts by damaging the part of the body through which it entered. For example, if it came in through your nose, you might experience a runny nose or nasal congestion, much like a typical upper respiratory infection.
In about 80% of cases, the immune system gets the job done at this point. Symptoms are mild to moderate, and most people can generally recover at home (although it might not always be pleasant). But in other cases, the immune system can’t fight off the virus, and the virus makes its way down to the lower respiratory tract. That’s when the virus can become more severe.
When Coronavirus Enters The Respiratory Tract
Coronavirus seems to prefer growing in the lower respiratory tract. The virus cells replicate and cause more severe respiratory problems, such as bronchitis or pneumonia.
Pneumonia can be particularly dangerous. The immune system kicks into high gear to fight the virus and stop it from damaging cells in the lungs, but this comes with some collateral damage The linings of these cells thicken and restrict the lungs, making it difficult for the body to pump oxygen throughout the bloodstream.
Still, the immune system is powerful and can eventually fight off the virus. But if the virus wins, the lungs might not be able to supply enough oxygen to organs like the kidneys, liver, or brain. If this is the case, the organs can completely shut down — bringing the virus from severe to life-threatening.
Even in these cases, there is room for some hope. Some patients respond well to ventilators, which take over the lungs’ function and allow the body to rest. This may be able give the body the strength it needs to restore lung function and recover.
We Know Why Certain Populations Are High-Risk
One of the biggest unknowns is why some people are able to have those mild and moderate cases, while others end up fighting for their life.
We do know that two of the major risk factors for having a severe case are older age and certain underlying health conditions.
The immune system weakens with age, putting adults ages 65 and older at higher risk. The risk increases even more, with the highest risk of death being in patients ages 85 and older. And, older adults tend to have other chronic conditions that are, themselves, risk factors.
Older adults may also be more at risk because many live in nursing homes or long-term care facilities, where the virus is known to spread.
Underlying Medical Conditions
In patients of all ages, certain underlying medical conditions can be risk factors for severe illness or death from COVID-19.
These conditions may include:
- Moderate to severe asthma
- Chronic lung disease, such as cystic fibrosis or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- Serious heart conditions, such as congenital heart disease or pulmonary hypertension
- Liver disease
- Chronic kidney disease being treated with dialysis
- Severe obesity
It works both ways — COVID-19 can make these conditions worse and the conditions can make it more difficult for the body to fight the virus.
COVID-19 is especially dangerous for people who may be immunocompromised (have a weakened immune system), such as those receiving cancer treatment, have had an organ or bone marrow transplant, or have untreated HIV. Their immune system is already in overdrive and cannot afford to have to work even harder.
It makes sense that older adults and people with certain medical conditions are considered high-risk. But what’s leaving the medical community particularly confused is why younger or otherwise healthy people can still experience major, and even fatal, complications.
Low Risk But Severe Illness: A Few Theories
Biological Risk Factors
- Genes: There is a possibility that variations in some genes could make it easier for the virus to get into the lungs
- Lack of surfactant: Surfactant is an ingredient produced by the body that keeps the lungs pliable and soft. If the body doesn’t make enough of it, the lungs can stiffen and have difficulty squeezing and pumping.
- A very strong immune system: Opposite of being immunosuppressed, people with very reactive immune systems might actually fight so hard that they overwhelm the lungs and other organs. In fact, some researchers believe that this is why younger people with COVID-19 are dying of strokes.
Lifestyle Risk Factors
- Risk perception: Many younger people or healthy adults don’t believe that they are susceptible to the disease and are more lax about social distancing or rigorous handwashing.
- Smoking: Cigarette smokers may have diminished lung function, which can make them more susceptible to respiratory illnesses (like pneumonia). While more research is needed, early studies have shown a link between smokers and negative outcomes of the virus.
- Vaping: Vaping is a major problem in the younger population, with many teens and young adults mistakenly believing that it’s not as bad as smoking cigarettes. However, vaping can cause lung damage, too, and lead to increased susceptibility for respiratory illnesses.
How The Virus Is Impacting The Black Community
Coronavirus doesn’t care if you are white or black or Hispanic. There is no biological reason why the virus would attack one race over another. Yet that doesn’t mean that it’s affecting everyone equally. While COVID-19 is devastating for any community, it’s been especially so in the black community.
Look at Milwaukee County, for example. Almost three-quarters of the people who have died from the virus are black, but only a quarter of the county’s population is black. Other US cities have noticed similar trends where the virus affects and kills the black community disproportionately.
There are a few reasons why this might be happening, including:
- Black Americans have higher rates of underlying medical conditions that worsen the impact of the virus, such as lung disease or diabetes. They also tend to have less access to care, which makes treating both the underlying condition and the virus more difficult.
- “Essential jobs,” such as those in the food service or hotel industries, are often held by black Americans. They are still reporting to work, which can mean putting themselves in close contact with others and higher risk for contracting the virus.
- Housing disparities may also play a role. Black children have higher asthma rates because they’re more likely to live in older homes or in segregated areas near busy highways (where they’re exposed to pollutants) — and asthma can make COVID-19 more dangerous. Also, black families are more likely to live in densely-populated areas, and the virus can spread easily in these types of neighborhoods.
Unknowns Are Growing — But So Are The Knowns
New symptoms seem to sprout up. Populations that shouldn’t be high-risk are getting severely sick. It seems like the unknowns just keep adding up.
But even so, knowledge about COVID-19 is also growing. Every day, scientists are one step closer to uncovering more information and to developing a vaccine. We’ll keep you updated as they do.