We thank our colleague, Natalie A. Hock, LCSW, for her thoughtful synthesis of the current situation regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and recommendations for her clients. We thought it was worth sharing more broadly and with her permission are doing so, here.
Hi [CLIENT NAME]:
I know that the level of worry and fear is high right now as we all try to make sense of the current situation with COVID-19. In the coming weeks, I will be sending out communications to help keep you feeling as calm and connected as possible as we all weather this unprecedented set of circumstances. (You can always opt out of communications from me by responding to any email with a short note to let me know not to continue to send.)
What is the situation right now?
It is true that there are known cases of COVID-19 in the greater Chicago area. Estimates are for every 1 case we know of there are likely 5-10 more cases who then spread to others, etc, etc. It is also true that there are many unknown cases, meaning we really don’t know for certain how widespread COVID-19 is locally (or nationally) yet. This is the case because we in the US have not had available widespread testing and because there are likely many folks who have mild symptoms and do not know that they have the virus.
It is the folks with very mild symptoms (or no symptoms) that pose the greatest risk for spreading COVID-19 right now. This group could be quite large in size and they may be more likely to be out and about, interacting with others and spreading the virus because they have no idea they have the virus.
Given this, the number one thing we can do at this moment to help ourselves and others is to stay home as much as possible.
Why does staying at home matter?
Social distancing helps because we need to slow the spread of the virus, “flatten the curve“, as I’m sure you have heard about by now. If we do this, the need for hospital care for ill people will be more spread out over time and we will hopefully not face the crisis that Italian hospitals are facing.
It is important to remember that – so far as we know – most people who get the virus will only develop a mild to moderate case that will resolve without medical intervention. However up to 20% of those who contract this virus could need at least some hospital-level care and medical attention. A much smaller percent of that more serious 20% will need intensive/ICU care. However, if the Chicago area is hit hard with many people contracting the virus all at once, the number of patients in need could easily outstrip the number of hospital beds, ICU-level beds, and ventilators needed if we do nothing different.
We can all do our part to help – and for the moment this means staying home and socially distancing as much as possible. It will not be forever, but we know from other places around the world that those who did shut down activities of daily life early enough before the virus really started to spread are faring much better. Whereas those that did not are in crisis at this time.
What if a friend, family member, or myself is experiencing financial, employment, and/or lifestyle-related hardship?
- State of IL COVID-19 Response site — https://www2.illinois.gov/sites/coronavirus/Pages/default.aspx
- Illinois Department of Employment Security COVID-19 Response site — https://www2.illinois.gov/ides/Pages/COVID-19-and-Unemployment-Benefits.aspx
- Chicago COVID-19 Resources Project — http://tiny.cc/zp7mlz
- Chicago Solidarity Project — bit.ly/chicagosolidarity
What do I do if I feel sick?
First, do not panic. Remember, even if you do have COVID-19, health experts tell us that about 80% of cases will resolve with symptomatic care at home and need no medical intervention.
If you are having symptoms of respiratory illness, fever, flu-like symptoms, please remain at home and call your PCP’s office for more guidance. If you are having a hard time reaching your PCP, you can call one of the following 24-hour RN-staffed hotlines set up by two local hospitals:
- Swedish Hospital COVID-19 Q&A Line: (773) 907-7700
- North Shore Health Evanston Community Hotline: (847) 432-5849
You can also make a telehealth appointment and be virtually screened and actually tested for COVID-19 here:
- Innovative Express Care: (773) 270-5600 / https://innovativecorona.com/telemedicine/
Also, you can always text or call me (773-270-1728) if you are feeling unsure about what to do; I will respond as soon as I am able and walk you through what you can do to keep yourself and others safe.
Please do not DO NOT go to the ER unless you are experiencing worsening symptoms such as shortness of breath or concerning respiratory symptoms. Going to the ER with milder symptoms will only potentially expose you to COVID-19 or other health concerns and will take staffing time and resources away from more critically ill people. The hospitals have informed us that due to testing shortages currently, they will most likely be sending mild to moderate cases home without testing to self-quarantine and monitor.
This is such a trying time with much uncertainty. But we can all take simple steps based on what we are learning from our fellow humans in other countries. And now is time to act to help all of us move through this in the coming weeks as safely and successfully as possible.
How can I avoid getting sick?
There are many things we can do to build our foundation of resilience and wellness. This is a fact that is often easy to forget when all we hear about is an unseen virus that is lurking out there! But simple steps are key — like eating nutritious meals, getting enough sleep, washing hands, practicing meditation or some form of stress reduction, exercising and keeping your activity level up. I am jumping rope inside my apartment – no kidding!
Even though we are currently recommending social distancing, this does not mean that you or any of us are alone. On the contrary, now is the time to reach out – albeit by phone or video-chat with friends and family.
Know that I am here to help if you need me — and I encourage you to reach out to close others (especially those who are a comfort and who usually bring levity).