Our Communities

Hurry Up and Wait

By Dr. Michele Dikkers, Physician at Cornerstone Family Practice and GMHC, Chair of Clayton County Board of Health

Hurry up and wait. We all know what that is like. 

Hurry to the airport to get checked in on time and then wait in line to get through security. Push your way through the crowd to the parking lot, and then get stuck in traffic. Running late to an appointment and then have to wait 30 minutes for the doctor. 

UGGGHHH…we hate it.  But in the end it is worth it.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Hurry up and wait, seems to have been a bit of a theme. As we watched this new disease grow in China, we waited to see if it would arrive in the States.

Once it arrived, we watched to see how it would spread.

We hurried to develop plans on how to manage the possibility of an influx of patients. How many could we treat, where would we put an excess number of patients if we had to?

We developed plans for staffing. Crammed to learn all we could from others that were treating this new disease that was like nothing the medical world had ever seen.  

And we waited.

We watched what was happening in New York and Italy and anywhere that was being overwhelmed with patients, knowing we could learn from them.

Then we waited.  

We continued to plan and learn.  And we waited for COVID-19 to arrive in Iowa.  And it did.  

We cared for patients with the tools that we had and waited for treatments to come.  And they did…dexamethasone, remdesivir and convalescent plasma. 

We’ve been waiting for vaccines, and now they are here!

We have been hurrying up and waiting again.  Staff at public health and local medical facilities have been meeting for weeks, going through multiple scenarios of how, who, where and when to administer vaccines.   Multiple meetings weekly have been occurring.  Finalization of plans have been held up awaiting direction from the state as to who can be vaccinated, when and how many vaccines are available to each county.  

The preparation has been worth it.  Each time a call comes down from public health giving the next direction, they have been ready.  

Last week the state gave the go ahead to start vaccinating those 65 years and older, as well as other essential workers in a step-wise fashion.  Now we wait for vaccine. 

As providers in Clayton County, our goal is to vaccinate as many people as we can, as soon as we can.   The limiting factor at this time is the availability of the vaccine.  

So, we will hurry up and wait.  

We will hurry up and plan vaccination clinics, and then wait for vaccines.  

So, be patient.  Know that as soon as we have supplies, we will vaccinate.   If you have signed up on a wait list, trust you will be contacted when clinics can be scheduled.  Due to packaging and the limited doses, vaccination will be by appointment only.  Appointments will be made as vaccine is available.  

It will happen. It is happening.   

In the meantime, even if you have been vaccinated, remember to Wear a mask, Wash your hands and Watch your distance.  

Be patient as we hurry up and wait.

Be safe, Be well and Be kind, because to quote a friend, “It truly is the right thing to do”.

Vaccine Plan

By Dr. Michele Dikkers, Physician at Cornerstone Family Practice and GMHC, Chair of Clayton County Board of Health

Happy New Year!

We made it.  2020 is behind us. But what awaits us in 2021? We may not know, but we will find out. Like it or not here it comes. 

One thing we know is that after waiting and waiting, the vaccine is finally here.  

This may be a good time for a refresher regarding the vaccines. Currently, there are 2 vaccines that have been approved for the prevention of COVID-19, one from Pfizer and the other by Moderna.  

The Pfizer trial included 40,000 volunteers, the Moderna study included 30,000. Of the volunteers that developed COVID-19 after being vaccinated, only 5% of them had received the vaccine, the other 95% that became ill with COVID-19, had received the placebo, or the non-vaccine injection.   

Side effects of receiving the vaccine may occur in some that receive it and could include soreness at the site of the injection, redness at the injection site, fever, chills, fatigue and headache. The side effects are listed as only lasting 24 hours. They are considered a normal reaction.

The technology for these first two vaccines was developed in 1990 and its use as a vaccine, studied for the past 10-15 years.   

The distribution of the vaccine being done in phases.  

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (a division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)) developed a plan for distribution, based on risk, in order to be efficient and to ensure equity in distribution.    At this time they have made recommendations for the first 3 phases. Each state is then able to use the recommendations to decide on how to role out the vaccination process in their state.

Phase 1a includes health care workers and nursing home/long term care facility residents. Who will be included in Phase 1b, in Iowa, was just announced by The Iowa Infectious Disease Advisory Council (IDAC). They have announced that it should include those over the age of 75 and some groups of essential workers in certain situations. Current direction by the IDAC is that all of Phase 1a needs to be completed before Phase 1b can start.  

As our state continues working feverishly to finish up vaccinating Phase 1a, be assured that Clayton County has been doing their part. Our county received enough vaccine to finish Phase 1a. Our county has frequent meetings with the state and with the multiple health organizations in our county. This has allowed Clayton County to collaborate and efficiently disperse the doses.  

Many counties in Iowa have finished vaccinating Phase 1a.  Now we wait.  We wait until the state lets us know when we can move forward.  

In the meantime, the health care providers in your community are working diligently making plans to vaccinate the citizens of Clayton County.  They are waiting for word from the state and the next delivery of vaccines.  As soon as they get the word that Phase 1b can start, it will happen.  

Be patient. We are all anxious. We are all excited and ready to help make it happen. Your turn to help and be vaccinated, will happen.  

It is important to remember that wearing masks, washing your hands and watching your distance, will need to continue until the country sees a significant drop in cases.  So, hang in there.  Summer is just around the corner.

We truly are in this together.

Be safe, be well and be kind.

Vaccine

By Dr. Michele Dikkers, Physician at Cornerstone Family Practice and GMHC, Chair of Clayton County Board of Health

“You can only go halfway into the darkest forest; then you are coming out the other side.”

I first read this old Chinese Proverb in 2019 on one of those daily desk calendars. It made immediate sense to me. We can all relate.

The night of my dad’s funeral, it stormed and on our drive home, many times, we couldn’t see the road. At one point we considered turning around, but realized we were at the halfway point and either way the road was bad and it would be the same distance. We were on our way out the other side. So, we kept going, and we made it through.

We have been hearing about the development of a vaccine for months, we have known they will be coming, and now here they are. We are planning for the initial arrival of vaccine for health care workers in Clayton County, the week of December 21, 2020. Staff and residents in long term care facilities will follow.

A list, based on risk, has been developed by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (a division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)) to plan for distribution to make this efficient and to ensure equal spread.

As more vaccine becomes available, it will be distributed to more and more groups of people, until all those eligible have been vaccinated. The plan is to distribute the vaccine in batches for weekly delivery as it is available and there are staff able to administer it. As you can imagine, this may take a while. Even though the vaccine was not ready for distribution, the planning for the distribution has been going on for weeks, at the federal, state, county and local levels.

The Pfizer trial included 40,000 volunteers, the Maderna study included 30,000. Of the volunteers that developed COVID-19 after being vaccinated, only 5% of them had received the vaccine, the other 95% that became ill with COVID-19, had received the placebo, or the non-vaccine injection.

Side effects of receiving the vaccine may occur in some that receive it and could include soreness at the site of the injection, redness at the injection site, fever, chills, fatigue and headache. The side effects are listed as only lasting 24 hours. They are considered a normal reaction.

You may have heard that four people developed Bell’s Palsy from the vaccine, a temporary drooping of one side of the face. The reports are that it lasted only 1-2 days and only in 4 people out of 45,000 volunteers, making it a rare occurrence. There were no deaths that could be related to the vaccine. 

The technology for these first two vaccines was developed in 1990 and its use as a vaccine, studied for the past 10-15 years.

The first proclamation by Governor Reynolds for Iowa, was made March 9, 2020. The proclamation on March 17, was the first to put in place mitigation steps, such as closing restaurants, bars, and limiting mass gatherings.

Here we are, in the middle of December, nine months later. Vaccines are on the way and there is hope that most of the general public will be eligible for them by spring. That is only 4-5 months away.

It appears that we are over halfway through this “dark forest”. Be patient, don’t lose hope. Continue to wear masks, social distance and wash your hands. Even once you have been vaccinated, it will be important to remain vigilant, until all are vaccinated that are eligible and want to be vaccinated.

That day is closer now than it was a few months ago. Don’t give up now.

Christmas is around the corner! Happy Holidays to all!

Be safe, Be well and Be kind to one another.

Help Us Save Lives this Holiday Season

This week’s article comes from me, Tim Ahlers, CEO at GMHC. As she and our other providers tirelessly care for our patients, I’d like to start off my message by thanking Dr. Michele Dikkers. She has diligently written 33 articles to keep the communities we serve up to date on this pandemic. Her first article entitled “Protect Yourself” was published on April 1, 2020. And now, here we are 7 months later with yet another plea to protect yourself and your loved ones as we approach the holidays.

COVID-19 has hit the communities we serve, and it has hit hard. Guttenberg has become a hot spot. Our dedicated staff is doing their best to take care of patients, but they are exhausted. We need YOU to help us save lives.

How can you help us save lives?

Statistics show that 80% of infected people are below the age of 60. Perhaps this is your son or daughter, granddaughter or grandson, niece or nephew.

Statistics also show that 90% of people who die of COVID-19 are above age 60. Maybe this is your mom or dad, uncle or aunt, grandma or grandpa. 

Protect your loved ones this holiday season. I respect tradition, but think twice about the big celebration. Prepare a meal for those who live under your roof. 

Does it sound like that is too hard for you? Our health care professionals are doing REALLY hard work right here at GMHC. We’re trying our best to save the lives of your loved ones. And we’re hoping the choices you make this holiday season will make our work a little easier.

Help us save lives. Always mask, watch your distance, and wash your hands.

Being Thankful

By Dr. Michele Dikkers, Physician at Cornerstone Family Practice and GMHC, Chair of Clayton County Board of Health

As we enter November, my mind automatically goes to Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving should remind all of us to be thankful. I try to be thankful every day, not just in November. It can be simple things or big things. The sun coming up in the morning. The moon and stars shining in the sky at night. Seeing the wonder of the Mississippi River every day. Washing machines, so much better than a rock down by the river. There’s my car, much better than an ox and a wagon.

I am thankful that I get to do a job that I enjoy. I treasure the privilege of taking care of the people in my community. I work with medical providers that feel the same way. We look forward to challenges and being able to be available to our patients in their time of need.

Then came a new coronavirus, COVID-19. It has changed our lives too.

Though we have been aware of COVID-19 and watched it ravage the states on the east coast, then the west coast and then the south, we maintained lower case numbers, until now. The number of new cases in the state of Iowa, per day held steady, under 1000, until the beginning of October. The past week as seen over 3500 new cases daily. Over the past 2 weeks, the number of cases in Clayton County has increased over 200 cases. Local clinics are seeing 50-80% of those tested, testing positive for COVID-19.

This disease is just starting to hit our state. As we study the curves from other states, we know that from the beginning of an increase in the curve (number of cases), until it begins to slow, is approximately 12 weeks.

The number of admissions for many hospitals in NE Iowa are at, or very near, capacity.

The number of deaths in Iowa has risen to over 1800 people. That is the population of Guttenberg. A whole town gone.

There is a desperate need to slow the spread of this disease, flatten the curve and protect our community.

I am thankful for the people I work with. All of them, housekeeping to plant management to receptionists to nursing staff, therapy, lab techs, radiology techs, etc., there are too many to mention. Guttenberg Municipal Hospital & Clinics employs approximately 160 staff members, MercyOne in Elkader employs approximately 100 staff members.

They are working extra shifts, working in departments other than their own, trying to find extra room for extra beds/admissions and how to care for them with the staff we have and coming up with new policies and processes to better care for the ill patients of our community.

There have been businesses in the community that have made donations to the workers. We have received pizza, donuts, drinks, and support. We are thankful for our community, and their support.

An effective way to support our medical community, care providers and support staff, would be to wear a mask, decrease the numbers of cases, flatten the curve. Help decrease the numbers of people needing to be hospitalized. Help decrease the number of deaths.

It is a privilege to serve this community, but it will take more than just the medical professionals to fight this fight, it will take all of our community. We are asking for help in protecting our community.

PLEASE, wear masks. It is vital. It is the best tool we have to prevent the spread.

Help flatten the curve.

Wear masks, Wash your hands and Watch your distance.

Due to the current surge, there may be weeks I am unable to submit an article.

Thank you for your support.

Remember, we are in this together. We must flatten the curve.

Being Responsible Saves Lives

By Dr. Michele Dikkers, Physician at Cornerstone Family Practice and GMHC, Chair of Clayton County Board of Health

Earlier this year Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died at age 87 from cancer.  She remained active in court decisions until her death.  In the past three years she was involved in hearing over 200 cases.  She was the mother of two children and a grandmother.  

Per the WHO (World Health Organization) there have been 43.5 million cases of COVID-19 worldwide, 8.68 million of those cases are in the United States.  Worldwide there have been 1.16 million deaths, 225,000 deaths in the United States. (Data from Johns Hopkins October 28, 2020.)  An American dies every 107 seconds from COVID-19.  

The United States has approximately 4.5% of the world population, while the US carries 20% of the COVID-19 cases and 20% of the deaths.  

There is very little we can do about the current existence of COVID-19.  It is one of those things we have to develop a strategy for fighting head on.  Early in the course of COVID-19 Iowa managed its mitigation well and held the daily case count to around 500 or less a day.  We flattened the curve.  As time has progressed the daily counts have climbed.  In late August the number of new cases reported in Iowa climbed to over 1,000 a day.  Over the past week we started recording 2,000 new cases a day.  

The numbers in Clayton County have also spiked.  We are now reporting 4 times as many cases a day as we did two weeks ago.  The cases we are now seeing are spread throughout the county and are no longer isolated to an event or age group.  The cases are now considered due to community spread.   Community spread means it is spread by casual contact or exposure, to someone that is contagious.   You can be contagious if you have mild symptoms, or it may be during the two days prior to symptoms starting.   This means that, even if you are outside, wearing a mask will protect those you are around from COVID-19.  Let’s face it, you don’t just get COVID-19, someone gives it to you.

The highest risk populations for having complications or for dying of COVID-19 are those that are over the age of 65, have obesity, diabetes, lung disorder (COPD/emphysema/asthma), heart disorder or cancer.  These groups are at high risk for breathing difficulties, strokes and organ failure, thus, putting them at risk for dying.  When they die, it is due to COVID-19, not the underlying condition.  If they had not been “given” COVID-19, they would not have died.  Even the elderly would still be alive, living with their co-morbidities.  

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, died of pancreatic cancer, not COVID.  But think about all she did in those last three years.  

Imagine having three more years with your grandparent, parent or sibling.  

No one intentionally gives COVID-19 to another.  Eighty percent of the time, the symptoms will be mild.  Three percent of those infected will die.   Some argue that this is a low mortality rate, those that have lost a loved one will tell you it is too high.  

The risk of dying from breast cancer is 2.6%, less than that of dying from COVID-19.  We celebrate a whole month every year as a united front to fight for a cure for breast cancer.  There is no way to prevent breast cancer.  We know how to prevent COVID-19.

Flattening the curve worked in the past.  It can work again.  

Understanding the importance of Wearing masks, Washing our hands and Watching our distance, can flatten the curve again.  

As winter approaches, the 3 W’s will be essential at keeping COVID-19 under control, as we will be doing more activities indoors where ventilation may be limited, increasing the risk of spread.  

So, for the sake of those you love, your friends, your family, those you work with and your community, do what you can to prevent the spread.  Wear a mask.  Wash your hands.  Watch your distance.  Avoid large social gatherings.  

Be well and let’s take care of each other.

###  

Trick or Treat

By Dr. Michele Dikkers, Physician at Cornerstone Family Practice and GMHC, Chair of Clayton County Board of Health

It’s October. Halloween is right around the corner, you could even say it’s here.

Halloween is frequently equated with scary stuff–ghosts, goblins, chainsaw murderers, talking scarecrows and the like. Whether the threats are perceived or real, they are out there, lurking around the next corner. So, we travel in groups, stay on streets that are lit well, avoid abandoned houses, and, unless we are reckless, we steer clear of cemeteries after dark.

As we prepare for the ghosts and goblins that will be knocking at our doors, don’t forget the unseen that can be lurking there as well. COVID-19 is spread unintentionally, especially when in groups of people, excitedly shouting and clambering for attention. Preventing it’s spread can be easy, simple even.

As we get ready for Halloween, incorporating the recommended mask/face coverings with our costumes can make the mask fun. The old plastic masks with a hole for the mouth and nose were never comfortable. The cloth mask can be decorated with the theme of the night. And there will be less face make-up to scrub off later!

Embrace the mask! Decorate it and be who you want to be for the day! The masks can be an opportunity for fun. Just as there are pumpkin carving contests, maybe add a mask decorating contest to the family fun. Challenge the neighbor or other relatives to a competition. The masks can be shared on social media, sent as emails or other electronic means of communication.

Trick or treating can be done safely with a few adjustments this year.

  • avoid traditional costume masks and wear the recommended cloth mask
  • make the cloth mask part of your costume
  • trick or treat with your family, avoid large groups
  • stay 6 feet away from trick-or-treaters not in your family group
  • wash your hands or use hand sanitizer before eating your treats

Make things safer for the trick-or-treaters. If you intend to give out treats, avoid offering a bowl full of treats that everyone grabs from. Consider individually bagged treats that can be set out and picked up by the trick-or-treaters. Hand out the treats outdoors, maybe consider setting them out individually at a “station” for the treaters to pick up. Wear a cloth mask when they come to your door. Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer frequently when handling the treats.

As I reflect on 2020, it seems we may have had more tricks this year than treats, given the pandemic, forest fires, hurricanes and the derecho. I also see the similarity on how we handle disasters. Some would say to start with a check list.

I’m not much for making check lists, but agree that tackling something that is overwhelming or scary takes a plan. It typically goes like this:

  • Step back and size up the situation.
  • Decide what can be controlled and what can’t.
  • Once you have determined what can be controlled, determine how that can be done safely.
  • Move forward when able.

When we look at a mess that is left behind by a storm, we take a deep breath, pick up a stick from the tree, then a limb, start a pile and continue, one piece at a time.

We do what we can.

The same can be true for the mess of the pandemic.

It’s here. We can’t change that COVID-19 is now a part of our lives, but we can determine what we can control, and what we can’t. We don’t have to come up with the plan on our own, guidance has been laid out for us by the CDC, Dr Fauci and the White House Task Force. Sometimes those details can become daunting, so stick to the basics.

Wear a mask, Wash your hands often and Watch your distance.

We may have to make adjustments to how we would “normally” do things, but embrace it as an opportunity to start a new tradition or an opportunity to celebrate uniquely.

Turn the trick into a treat.

Be well, be safe and be kind.

Remember, we are all in this together.

Golden Ticket

By Dr. Michele Dikkers, Physician at Cornerstone Family Practice and GMHC, Chair of Clayton County Board of Health

While watching TV, I saw a commercial with Roy Rogers. Now, I am not quite old enough to say that I had watched him on TV while I was growing up, but I do know who he is and can say I always remember his smile. Memories of his face under that cowboy hat, are filled with a bright warm smile. The commercial was from a 1975 movie. He was saying “Like most things, what you see, depends on how you look at it.”

It struck me. We have heard it put many ways, but maybe not so well. We all know that our attitude toward something makes it more palatable or less so. If we are in a good mood, anything is possible. When we get up on the wrong side of the bed, nothing goes right, everything and everybody is wrong.

2020 has been overwhelming, to say the least. Sometimes we all wonder, “What next?”. There has been COVID-19, the wildfires, the derecho, the hurricanes and the election. When will it stop? Some say, “I am so over COVID”. That is like a character in a “Nightmare on Elm Street” movie saying they are “So over Freddy Krueger” and refusing to run. He is still around the corner, he isn’t going anywhere.

It doesn’t change the fact that we are all exhausted with the changes. Everyone is longing for normal. We know that COVID-19 isn’t going away anytime soon. So how can we get there?

Those of you that have been reading these columns and following the CDC and Dr Fauci, know what is coming next…yep, you’ve got it, Wear your mask, Wash your hands and Watch your distance. The mask is your ticket, your ticket to be interactive, to be social, to be outside your home, to be in a building that is not your home, with other people. Wearing masks keeps the number of cases down. The fewer cases, the fewer deaths. The fewer cases, the more we can do.

It’s October. Halloween is right around the corner. What a perfect time to talk about masks. As we all get ready for Halloween, incorporating the recommended mask face coverings with our costumes can make the mask fun. The old plastic masks with a hole for the mouth and nose were never comfortable. The cloth mask can be decorated with the theme of the night. And there will be less face make up to scrub off later!

Trick or treating can be done safely with a few adjustments this year.

  • avoid traditional costume masks and wear the recommended cloth mask
  • make the cloth mask part of your costume
  • trick or treat with your family, avoid large groups
  • stay six feet away from trick or treaters not in your family group
  • wash your hands or use hand sanitizer before eating your treats

Make things safer for the trick or treaters. If you intend to give out treats, avoid offering a bowl full of treats that everyone grabs from. Consider individually bagged treats that can be set out and picked up by the trick or treaters. Hand out the treats outdoors, maybe consider setting them out individually at a “station” for the treaters to pick up. Wear a cloth mask when they come to your door. Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer frequently when handling the treats.

Going trick or treating always held a bit of excitement, wondering who would get the most or the best candy. Something reminiscent of Charlie’s search in “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”. We are all looking for the Golden Ticket.

And maybe, just like Charlie, we already have it. The mask. Instead of thinking of it as a restrictive annoyance, we need to take another look at it.

It’s the ticket that allows us to shop safely, go to sporting events, go to a restaurant, and see family. Masks aren’t just for trick or treating any more, they are for protecting each other, to keep each other safe and to keep our economy open.

So mask up! Be well. We are in this together.

Changes

By Dr. Michele Dikkers, Physician at Cornerstone Family Practice and GMHC, Chair of Clayton County Board of Health

Changes…

We, all of us, are constantly bombarded with change. It is what keeps life from getting boring.

Since March, we have had more than our share of changes. At the beginning of the pandemic, we experienced daily informational changes regarding COVID-19. Since then, I’d like to say it has slowed down. And some days there are no changes and then other days, there are a number of changes that seem to hit on the same day.

The Governor of Iowa and The Iowa Department of Public Health have recently announced significant changes regarding exposure.

It can be confusing, so let’s go through the changes.

This information is taken from guidance dated September 29, 2020 from the Iowa Department of Public Health.

Persons with symptoms of COVID-19 should self-isolate (this includes persons who test positive and persons who are not tested) until after these three things have happened:

• They have had no fever for at least 24 hours (that is one full day of no fever without the use of medicine that reduces fevers) AND

• Their other symptoms have improved (for example, when your cough or shortness of breath has improved) AND

• At least 10 days have passed since their symptoms first appeared.

Persons with symptoms of COVID-19 who are tested, test negative AND who ARE NOT a close contact of a person who tested positive for COVID-19, can go back to daily activities 24 hours after their fever and other symptoms resolve.

Persons with symptoms of COVID-19 who are tested, test negative AND who ARE a close contact of a person who tested positive for COVID-19, should continue to self-quarantine until 14 days after their last exposure to the confirmed case.

Persons who test positive for COVID-19 but do not experience symptoms should self-isolate until:

• At least 10 days have passed since the date of the first positive test AND

• They continue to have no symptoms (no cough or shortness of breath) since the test.

The guidance has changed regarding contact tracing, in Iowa. Previously, regardless of mask wearing, any contact with a person positive for COVID, required isolation. Now, in the state of Iowa, if you are wearing a mask and are exposed to a person with COVID, that IS ALSO wearing a mask, as long as you do not have symptoms, you do not need to isolate for 14 days.

-If you are not wearing a mask at the time of exposure, you will need to self isolate for 14 days, even if the infected person was wearing a mask.

-If the infected person is not wearing a mask, even if you are, you need to self isolate for 14 days.

–If you have been exposed, with or without masks, and develop symptoms, as it says above, you need to self isolate for 14 days, regardless of the outcomes of a test.

Exposure is considered close contact, less than 6 feet apart for more than 15 minutes. However, if you live in the same household, you are considered a close contact, even if you are wearing masks all of the time.

Long ago I learned from the Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts that you should always “Do your best” and “always be prepared”. This continues to be true throughout life for all of us and maybe especially now. You may never know if or when you will be exposed to COVID-19, so “Do your best” and “be prepared”. Wear a mask, wash your hands and watch your distance. They are the best tools that we have.

Be well and remember, we are in this together.

What to Do with Stress

By Dr. Michele Dikkers, Physician at Cornerstone Family Practice and GMHC, Chair of Clayton County Board of Health

For the past 6 months, I have been writing a weekly article for the people of Clayton County. As a member of the Clayton County Board of Health and as a physician in Clayton County, we felt there was a need to keep the public informed of what was going on in regards to COVID-19.

We, as much as anyone, know how confusing it can be.

The articles put out each week are not meant to create angst, but to aide in the understanding of where things are at during this pandemic. They are meant to be informative.

The pandemic has been overwhelming. We all feel the stress of the changes we have had to make since March.

The anxiety can sneak up on us, or smack us right in the face. It can keep us from sleeping, from concentrating and keep us from doing things with our families and friends. The fear of the disease and the angst of the changes we are trying to understand and juggle, may be as harmful to us as the disease itself.

Just as we have been taking steps to mitigate/prevent the disease, we can take steps to mitigate the stress that can come along with it.

– Managing stress can start with understanding the cause. Learn what you can about COVID-19, what to do to avoid COVID-19, what to do if you become ill with COVID-19 and how to help and care for others if they become infected. Follow medical sources for information, such as the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention), Mayo Clinic, or others.

– On that same note, take time away from watching, reading and listening to too much news or social media about COVID-19 and other current events that can be stressful. It’s ok to take a two week break from all news.

– Manage what you can. You may not be able to control COVID-19, but you can avoid large crowds, wash your hands frequently and wear masks. Social distancing can create more stress. Remember, wearing masks allows us to get together with each other safely.

– Take care of your body. Get plenty of sleep. Exercise regularly. Eat healthy well balanced meals. Avoid excessive alcohol. Learn how to take deep breaths, stretch and consider learning how to meditate.

– Take time to unwind, time for yourself. Do something that you enjoy.

– Call your family and friends frequently. Make a list and rotate through them. Call a family member one day and a friend the next. Consider making a pact with a friend, a COVID-19 partner. Someone that you can call when you are having a bad day or needing to talk.

– Keep a journal, a daily diary. Doing this allows you to “dump” some of the stress you encounter in your day.

– Do things for your community. Consider volunteering.

– Reach out for help. Reach out to your medical provider. Make an appointment to discuss your options. Consider talking with someone. 

There are counselors and social workers available to help you work through the stress and learn new coping skills.

In the stress of the moment, stop, inhale for five seconds, hold it for five seconds and exhale for five seconds. Repeat 4-8 times. Resetting your breathing, can reset your brain, allowing you to regroup and start again.

These are trying times. But if we try, we can get through it. Start by trying the simple things. Everything else will fall into place. If they don’t, please ask for help. Your care providers want to hear from you.

Take care of yourselves and each other.

Remember, we are in this together.