Chances are, if you are trying to stay up to speed on the news, much of what you’re seeing is about COVID-19. While we want you to be informed and aware of health orders because information surrounding the pandemic is constantly evolving, it’s also important to limit your bad news intake to protect your emotional health.
Did you know that too much bad news can be bad for you? Even short periods of negative news can bring about feelings of sadness and worry. Today’s news is on a 24-hour cycle, which is often geared toward keeping your attention. What’s more effective at keeping us glued to our seats—good news or bad news? You guessed it. Disaster reporting and negative headlines keep us watching, but those same headlines increase anxiety, worry, and stress.
Feeling stress over extended periods of time is hard on both our emotional and physical health. Some of the side effects of chronic stress can be poor sleep, headaches, nausea, elevated blood pressure, chest pain, jaw clenching, even panic attacks or depression.
Coping with stress in healthy ways is especially important during the pandemic, but many of the usual coping skills we have built into our routines are uncertain because of COVID-19. No longer is a simple social gathering or dinner and a movie quite so simple.
As we adapt and look for new ways to de-stress and cope, it’s important to find opportunities to focus on the good, amplify positive messages, and share hopeful stories with one another.
This also means that we must limit our bad news intake. Dr. Aditi Nerukar, an integrative medicine physician from Harvard Medical School, suggests, “Think of [news] like exercise…It’s good for you, right? But if you do it for hours on end, it becomes unhealthy.”
If you notice that the news is getting to you, it may be wise to keep your television or radio off and turn off news alerts on your phone. This will allow you to decide when you are ready to consume news, not the other way around.
It’s also important to rely on sources with the most accurate information and read or listen to them when you are not already stressed or worried. You can set a timer to limit your intake and ensure you don’t get drawn into news stories that lead to other news stories in a never-ending trail on social media. We recommend avoiding news right before bed so your sleep is not impacted.
If your stress levels are still heightened after turning off your news alerts and limiting your time spent consuming news, it might be a good idea to consider relying on a friend or partner who you trust to give you daily recaps of the most important health orders and updates.
At the end of the day, we must prioritize our own physical and emotional well-being. Across the world, we’ve accepted ways to limit the spread of COVID-19 and protect our physical health through social distancing, hand washing, and wearing face coverings. By minimizing our intake of negative and alarming news, we can actively prioritize our emotional well-being, as well.
Mesa County Public Health (MCPH) saw an uptick in demand for COVID-19 tests immediately following the July 4th holiday. Our country’s birthday is an annual time of celebration, and the associated risk of COVID-19 exposure varied, depending on how the event was commemorated. Some Mesa County residents celebrated locally, following gathering guidelines and taking precautions to minimize the likelihood of spreading the virus. Others traveled out of the region or out of state, both of which come with increased risk, and returned with concerns about possible exposure.
Right now, Mesa County’s two-week positive rate is still well below the threshold that would result in tighter opening restrictions. Hospitalizations for COVID-19 have not taxed our local health care systems beyond their capacity. However, the positive rate has been inching up and at some point you could get a call from one of MCPH’s contact tracers, notifying you of a possible exposure. If this occurs, don’t panic. However, do take the time to educate yourself so you are prepared to handle a COVID-19 exposure, armed with good information and practical advice.
The contact tracing process
Did you know that every local positive COVID-19 test is reported to MCPH? Once we are notified of a positive test result, our case investigators and contact tracers are activated. This team works to determine how the person with COVID-19 was exposed, as well as identify anyone who may have been in close contact with them. Those people are then notified of their potential exposure, without identifying the COVID-positive person, and advised of next steps.
“Close contact” is defined as spending more than 10 minutes within 6 feet of a person, without wearing a mask. The current public health order limits gatherings to 50 people or fewer, both to help limit the potential for spread and to make it easier to determine whom someone has been in close contact with if they test positive. These measures help our contact tracers conduct a more successful investigation.
If you are identified as a close contact, the contact tracer will offer to schedule a COVID-19 test through Mesa County Public Health. However, anyone with symptoms or who is concerned about possible exposure may request testing by either calling their health care provider or contacting Mesa County Public Health directly at 970-683-2300.
If you have been exposed to the virus or have symptoms, please don’t walk into the health department, your doctor’s office, or the hospital without an appointment; if you have an emergency, call 911. By scheduling an appointment time, you come into contact with fewer people and help us contain the virus.
Like many of the primary care offices in Mesa County, MCPH uses nasopharyngeal (NP) tests, which involve inserting a 6-inch long swab much like a Q-tip into the nose cavity to collect a sample. Although the test isn’t fun, it’s relatively painless. We then send the sample to a lab for testing. Currently, results are taking 2-7 days to come back, and each person who is tested will get a call with the test result, whether it’s negative or positive.
What to do after the test
After you’ve had a sample taken, it’s important to quarantine until you get your results. If you are considered a high-risk contact, you must stay at home and away from others for 14 days from the time of exposure to the COVID case, even if your test is negative. This is because it can take that long for symptoms to appear. Symptoms include, but are not limited to:
- Fever or chills
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Muscle or body aches
- New loss of taste or smell
- Sore throat
- Congestion or runny nose
- Nausea or vomiting
If you have children, you may find this to be a good time to talk to them about COVID-19, since the possibility of a family member being sick is likely to come with heightened worry. Check out our “COVID-19 Stories” blog post on talking to kids about COVID-19, which offers age-appropriate materials and considerations to help you get started. Find it here.
MCPH is a resource for you during these uncertain times. Visit our website (health.mesacounty.us), call our hotline (683-2300), or send us an email (email@example.com) for COVID-19 information or support .
Since March, when the first COVID-19 cases were confirmed in Colorado, we have often reminded ourselves and each other that “we are all in this together.” As we conquered online grocery ordering, streaming meetings, stay-at-home orders, and homeschooling while finding ways to stay connected despite social distancing, the solidarity was comforting. It connected us and helped us carry on.
There was also comfort to be found in the fact that Mesa County had been spared the loss of life due to COVID-19 that so many communities have experienced, until now.
The first death of a Mesa County resident due to complications of COVID-19 occurred on July 21, a potent reminder that COVID-19 is in our community and it’s up to us to limit the spread by staying the course together. We can thoughtfully unite against COVID-19 by being supportive, careful, alert, and kind.
As our essential health care workers and community agencies work around the clock to respond to COVID-19’s effects in Mesa County, we have come to understand that the pandemic will require endurance. We are running a marathon and that demands ongoing support for each other. As we adjust our pace from a sprint to an endurance run, ask yourself: How can I help a neighbor, friend, family member or coworker? It could be something as simple as swinging by with a cup of coffee and donuts, popping a note of encouragement in the mail, or making a telephone call to let them know you are there for them. It’s not always obvious who is struggling, and small acts or words of encouragement may have monumental positive impacts.
Mesa County has seen a recent uptick in positive cases, especially among young adults, who tend to be at lower risk for hospitalization themselves but pose a high risk of unknowingly infecting someone else. It’s important to be mindful that if we do not consistently wear a mask, wash our hands, avoid touching our face, and stay at least 6 feet apart, we may also unintentionally infect someone who is more at risk. Our choices impact others in our community, and those most likely to be severely impacted by COVID-19 rely on the rest of us to help minimize the spread of the virus.
We need to be alert to the symptoms of COVID-19 and quickly take steps to slow the spread by isolating if we have been exposed or have symptoms. These include fever, chills, repeated shaking with chills, cough, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, fatigue, headache, muscle pain, body aches, sore throat, loss of taste, and loss of smell. If you have symptoms of COVID-19, or have been exposed, call your healthcare provider or the Mesa County Public Health hotline to be screened for testing: 970-683-2300.
This pandemic has impacted everyone, and in many different ways. Showing empathy and kindness to one another acknowledges that we are all going through our own, often difficult, journey. For some, it has taken an emotional toll, others have experienced extreme financial hardship, and others struggle with the isolation that comes with a positive result or the desire to stay away from gatherings and public places. Each of us deals with stress and hardship in our own way, and kindness and empathy should be expressed without reservation. How can you show kindness today? Pass it on.
Stay the course for our community by being supportive, careful, alert, and kind. We’ll get through this, together.
If you haven’t already, we encourage you to talk with your children about COVID-19 as we live out history. This can feel scary, we know. But if you’re able to think through what you’re going to say in advance, you’ll be able to remain calm, thoughtfully answer their questions, and stick to the facts.
As you consider how you’ll talk with your children, keep in mind that children of different ages need different information that is appropriate for their stage of development. The goal is not to scare them or increase their worry around COVID, but rather inform them so they don’t feel afraid, and empower them so they can do their part in the fight against the virus.
Below are some suggestions to help you kick off a conversation with a child of any age:
For toddlers and preschoolers:
This catchy video titled Wash Your Hands with Peppa Pig was made in conjunction with the World Health Organization to encourage hand washing for toddlers and preschoolers. Be forewarned: Once you watch it, it’s hard to stop singing along. It’s that cute and catchy!
For elementary-age children:
My Hero is You: How kids can fight COVID-19. This short storybook, available online, thoughtfully takes the reader through a basic understanding of the coronavirus to the reason for school closures and beyond, while helping children see their role in the fight against the virus. The authors intend for a parent, caregiver, or teacher to read this book with children, rather than a child reading on their own. Helpful coping strategies are brilliantly embedded into the text, giving children tools to deal with fear and sadness. The bright artwork will carry the youngest of readers through the entire story alongside an adult.
*Please note that “6 feet” should be substituted for “1 metre” in the book. In addition to “coughing into your elbow,” the reader can add “wear a cloth mask.”
For middle and high schoolers:
Graphic novels are all the rage for tweens and teens. In an effort to appeal to youth, NPR published a comprehensive comic explaining COVID-19. It may be the springboard you need to begin a conversation with them and open the door to questions they have about the illness.
The pandemic has also been called an “infodemic” because of the mass amount of untrue information being spread and shared on social media. We dedicated a recent blog post to this issue, titled Stop the Spread (of Misinformation). We encourage you to talk with your middle and high schoolers about the “infodemic” so that they are careful not to share or repost misleading information. In a pandemic, misinformation can have serious consequences.
Resources for parents and adults dealing with stress:
COVID-19 is stressful for children and adults alike. If you’re feeling stressed, wait until you’re calm to talk with your children. Children can intuitively feel your stress and this may inadvertently start your conversation with the wrong tone. Remember, the goal of talking to children is to negate fear and empower them with tools to help them do their part in the fight against COVID-19.
The CDC recently released a helpful resource titled Coping with Stress for adults and parents who are dealing with worry, high anxiety, other mental health challenges. We couldn’t agree more with their assessment: “Coping with stress in a healthy way will make you, the people you care about, and your community stronger.”
If you or a loved one need immediate help, there are resources available to you here in Mesa County. Please reach out for help.
- Colorado Crisis Services
- Or text TALK to 38255
- Crisis Text Line
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
- COVID-19 Mental Health Support Line (available 24/7)
Great resources for all ages can also be found at www.mindspringshealth.org/covid19
Parenting during a pandemic summer has been a challenge for most of us with children at home, as the world has been rapidly changing. “Normal” doesn’t feel very normal and many of the go-to activities and entertainment aren’t options this summer. Many parents have found themselves working from home alongside their children – first during at-home schooling this spring and now during a summertime redefined by COVID-19. Parents are experiencing more distractions and a different definition of productivity while simultaneously attempting to provide fun activities for their children, whose routines have been upended. With another month before most Mesa County kids return to school, we offer some ideas to balance summer fun with the reality of parenting during a pandemic.
Create a summer bucket list with your kids
With so many COVID-19 closures and cancellations, the summer of 2020 looks much different than the break many children have come to love and expect. By creating a small and realistic bucket list with your kids, you can generate excitement for the season while still managing their expectations in the context of COVID. It can be as simple as sitting down with them and writing out their top 10 list of what they are looking forward to or what they would still like to do this summer.
But don’t stop there. Talk through each idea to make sure it’s doable. Their ideas might include going on a hike, planning a coffee date with dad or grandma, playing catch, having a backyard campout in the tent, or going for a bike ride. But they might also suggest a pool party or a big BBQ with all of their friends, activities that are difficult to do safely during COVD-19. Gently explain why those aren’t options this year and encourage them to think of appealing alternatives.
This bucket list can be a helpful tool to keep the fun in a summer unlike any other, and to thoughtfully spend time together doing something that’s memorable for everyone. Give it a try!
Stick to a routine
Routine and summertime don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand, but consistency is important for kids – to stay on track with sleep, keep their emotions regulated, and transition back to school in fall. Especially right now, when the world feels upside down, schedule is one thing that can help keep them grounded and give them a sense of security. However, it can be tricky deciding what elements of a routine to hold onto in the summer and what to let slide.
If your children are younger, a normal bedtime routine may be just the thing they need every day, starting with a bath, then a book, a kiss and ending with lights out. If your kids are preschool age through elementary school, you might need a midday break just as much as they do. Have them take a stack of books to their bed every afternoon and either read to themselves or take a picture walk (paging through a book for the pictures, rather than the words) for 30 minutes. If your kids are older and their internal clock has started to change, meaning they stay up later and wake up later, try implementing a routine in the form of tangible to-dos like exercising and showering every day. Eating dinner together daily is another routine many families have successfully embraced during “safer at home.”
Effective routines come in many shapes and sizes; these examples are merely ideas to get you thinking. Decide what routine makes the most sense for your family this summer and stick to it as much as possible.
Give yourself a boost of dopamine
Because everyone is home more and together in close proximity, hard days are to be expected. Try these tricks to boost your levels of dopamine, the naturally occurring hormone responsible for creating feelings of pleasure and improving mood:
- Trick 1: Exercise. If you don’t have time to hit the gym, take the kids on a walk, a hike, or a bike ride.
- Trick 2: Get plenty of sleep. Regular, high-quality sleep helps regulate dopamine.
- Trick 3: Listen to music. Music is proven to stimulate the pleasure sensors in your brain.
Combine trick one and three and hold a mini dance party in your kitchen, followed by trick two – a good night’s sleep. You’ll get exercise, have fun with your kids, and boost your dopamine to pull you through the rough patch.
Limit screen time
We hear your deep sigh, because most of us have leaned on television and tablets to find moments of respite to get work done or take a breather. The general rule of thumb is to limit screen time to one hour a day for children ages 2-5 years old. No more than 2.5 hours per day (about the equivalent of a movie) is a reasonable expectation for older kids. Be aware of the content your kids are watching or the rating of the game they’re playing – Common Sense Media offers age-appropriate reviews of movies, TV, books, apps and games, giving parents insight into what may or may not be a good fit for their children. Make sure, too, that kids are not sleeping with or charging their phones or tablets in their bedrooms, which can interfere with sleep patterns.
Although electronics and technology can be a welcome escape, they should be used in moderation. Too much screen time puts children at greater risk for obesity and fewer minutes of sleep per night, and leaves less time in the day for imaginative, unstructured play, which has numerous positive effects.
Create small goals and celebrate your success
Ever heard the saying, “small wins lead to big wins”? Creating small, incremental goals and celebrating when you or your kids achieve them gives you a chance to incentivize good habits while also accomplishing some chores around the house. An example of this might be asking your kids to make their bed every morning. When everyone in your home does it for a week, celebrate by making a pancake breakfast with whipped cream and sprinkles.
Do you expect your children to do a small daily list of chores like unload the dishwasher, feed the cat, and brush their teeth? If they’re older and long ago mastered toothbrushing, what about asking them to plan meals, create a grocery shopping list, and prepare dinner once or twice a week? Just don’t forget to celebrate their accomplishments —and yours too, for that matter— in a way that works for your family so these new goals turn into positive habits and big wins.
COVID-19 has been called an “infodemic” by the chief of the World Health Organization, because of the large amount of inaccurate or misleading information being spread about the novel coronavirus. There is so much we still don’t know about this virus, causing an information void that has easily and quickly been filled with false information. As an information consumer, how do you sift through all the news that’s bombarding you to determine what’s true and what’s not?
COVID-19 has been accurately labeled many things — a pandemic, a novel virus, and highly contagious. But it’s very likely that you’ve also seen false claims that it is no more dangerous than the common flu or worse yet, that it was man-made and intentionally spread – both of which have been proven incorrect with sound science.
We want to empower you with up-to-date, reliable resources to help educate yourself, so you’re able to respond appropriately and protect your family, loved ones and our community. You can always visit the COVID-19 Response page on the Mesa County Public Health website for trusted and reliable local information related to the virus. We encourage you to dig into some of our other trusted information sources, as well, to satisfy your natural curiosity and stay up to date as new information on the virus is released and new guidance is passed.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides the most up-to-date information related to COVID-19 in the United States. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) serves a similar purpose for the State of Colorado. Local public health agencies across the state work closely with CDPHE to ensure our orders and actions are in alignment with the latest information released by the state. The Governor of Colorado has also been holding press conferences regularly, streamed via Facebook live and on some news outlets, making it easy to hear firsthand Colorado’s response to the disease.
Johns Hopkins University, a leader in providing COVID-19 information founded in sound science since the onset of the pandemic, maintains a Coronavirus Resource Center with excellent global and national insights. Their School of Public Health also produces the Public Health On Call podcast every weekday to “help you understand today’s COVID-19 news and what it means for tomorrow.”
How do you know if you’ve stumbled across misinformation?
When you encounter information, there are a few tell-tale signs that what you’re consuming may not be accurate. For example, most trustworthy sources have careful editors, so if you see frequent spelling errors, poor grammar, or questionable language, be suspicious. Credible outlets also use credible sources – question vague citations without further details, like “scientists believe” or “one physician reported.” Similarly, the old proverb about “if something seems too good to be true…” most likely applies when a piece of extraordinary or groundbreaking news is only being reported by one source.
Social media is a prime culprit in the spread of misinformation. Although Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube work to actively monitor their sites for false information, it still may be shared and viewed by millions of users. Before you repost something you’ve seen on social media, consider the source and dig a little further.
Many people use Snopes as their go-to fact-checking website. Locally, our own Grand Junction Daily Sentinel publishes a page on Sundays titled “Not Real News” to help combat the spread of misinformation.
Obtaining and spreading trusted, reliable information are critical to combating COVID-19. Inaccurate information is not only distracting, it is potentially dangerous. We each have a responsibility to educate ourselves and make sure that the information we choose to believe, is in fact, the truth.
Your actions protect our community’s physical and economic health. As we continue our path forward, please also remember to take the everyday precautions that help minimize the spread of the COVID-19 virus:
- Maintain 6 feet of social distance
- Wash hands often
- Cover nose and mouth in public
- Stay home when sick
- Get tested if symptoms appear
Thanks for doing your part to stop the spread – of COVID-19, and of misinformation.