Wash your hands, a lot. The best way to wash your hands is with soap and hot water for at least 20 seconds. If you don’t have access to soap and water, you can use hand sanitizer. Most people do not wash their hands correctly.
Don’t touch your face when you are in public or your hands are dirty. When people with coronavirus cough, sneeze, or even just speak, the virus spreads through droplets onto surfaces around them. Assume that everything outside of your home is contaminated. When you are out in public, be aware that your hands are “dirty” and keep them away from your face. This can be quite difficult and requires really paying attention to what you are doing with your hands, but it can be learned (doctors and nurses do it all the time). If you have an itch or have to touch your face and you don’t have the ability to wash your hands first, use the inside of your shirt or a clean tissue. As soon as you get home, wash your hands!
Wear your facemask whenever you are in public or around others. There is extensive evidence that shows that wearing masks when around others helps contain the spread and not only prevents the wearer from infection, but prevents the wearer from infecting many others.
Know the symptoms of COVID-19 and what to do if you become sick or are exposed. If you develop a fever, body aches, severe tiredness, or dry cough, make an appointment to get a test and let the testing location know you are experiencing symptoms. If your test takes a bit of time, stay at home and do not leave your house until you are told you have a negative result. If positive, stay home for at least 14 days and consult with your healthcare provider immediately. If you are exposed to someone with COVID-19, you should also stay at home for 14 days, and monitor for symptoms. If you are going to get sick, it will happen within 2-14 days of the exposure. If you have to go out, wear a mask. Call your doctor before leaving your home to seek medical treatment. Access emergency services if you develop chest pain or severe shortness of breath.
Practice mindfulness to better manage stress and anxiety. When caregivers and advocates can’t be present at the bedside, stress and anxiety for both hospitalized patients and their loved ones increases significantly. It is so much easier said than done to “clear your mind” and slow down, but it is more critical than ever that we be able to do this.
Stay physically healthy by eating right, exercising regularly, and sleeping well. Healthy routines have been uprooted for many. It’s as important now as ever to maintain healthy eating, sleeping, and exercise patterns.
Take special precautions if you are pregnant or nursing. Under normal circumstances, pregnant women may be more susceptible to illnesses due to a suppressed immune system. Although the research regarding COVID and pregnancy is still developing, pregnant women should exercise the same caution as the general public.
Reach out to care for those who are elderly or are living in long-term facilities. The COVID-19 pandemic has affected older people disproportionately, especially those living in long-term care facilities. Concerted action is needed to mitigate the impact across all aspects of long-term care, including home- and community-based care, given that most users and providers of care are those who are vulnerable to severe COVID-19.
Know what your loved ones want should end of life care be necessary. Although the majority of the conversation around COVID has involved washing your hands, staying home, and maintaining social distance, it is equally important to have conversations with your loved ones about end of life care. Respecting your loved ones decisions and communicating effectively can be challenging, especially during times of high stress. Be sure that everyone has written advance directives. Planning for end of life care can ensure that your loved one receives the care they desire and can help organize efforts when that time comes.
Help children to cope through this pandemic. Children and adolescents are likely hearing about COVID through the media, school or other conversations and can experience fear and anxiety for themselves and their loved ones. Parents, teachers, and school leaders serve an important role to help children understand and cope with the current state of the world. Additionally, these adults can work to maintain a sense of normalcy and healthy habits for their children.
Make sure you are taking care of yourself, too! As a parent, child, friend, or partner, it can be difficult to prioritize your mental and physical health as you are worrying about loved ones. Practicing self-care, mentally and physically, is crucial to remaining well throughout this pandemic
Know how to stay safe when physical distancing restrictions are lifted. We will see restrictions lifted slowly. In the meantime, continue wearing your mask, social distancing, adn washing your hands. Pay close attention to the recommendations from public health officials in your area.
Get involved. Hospitals and healthcare organizations cannot do this alone. They need your questions and feedback in order to inform their decision making to optimize care for all. Many organizations have Patient and Family Advisory Councils (PFACs), which serve to invite patients, family members, and members of the community into improvement efforts. Particularly with the COVID-19 pandemic, involvement of seldom heard voices, such as those in low income communities of color, is essential to develop targeted interventions.
St. Bernard’s Hospital: Community Town Hall on COVID-19 Vaccines: In January 2021, St. Bernard Hospital in Chicago held a virtual community town hall to address concerns about the COVID-19 vaccination and encourage residents to get vaccinated when they’re eligible. The event featured informative, straight-forward presentations from clinical staff and a wide-ranging question and answer session. We congratulate St. Bernard on demonstrating a high level of concern about patient safety and public education at this critical time.
Protect our Protectors: Understand the steps that everyone can take to help healthcare workers, in both pandemic and non-pandemic times.