When it comes to the pandemic, at the moment, knock wood, Ontario and Canada are doing relatively well. In our entire country yesterday we had 380 new cases. Ontario had 189 new cases confirmed yesterday. In our entire province there are 270 people in the hospital.
At least for the moment we’ve managed to do that thing we’ve talked about since February – we’ve flattened the curve. And while it’s, by no means, a guarantee that things will be back to normal forever, it has meant that we can open things up a little more. As we open up we are adding new precautions – wearing masks wherever we can’t socially distance and socially distancing wherever we encounter other humans.
But it’s not the same everywhere. In Florida, 19.7% of people tested two days ago came up positive even as citizens in city meetings were reacting with outrage to the passing of laws requiring masks be worn. After a few months of things looking good, parts of India are having huge increases in case loads. In Delhi hospitals are becoming overwhelmed. I read a prediction that there may get to be up to 550,000 cases in Delhi alone with 7-8 times as many hospital beds required as available. Brazil is also having a terrible time.
In the COVID-19 diary project run by Cornell they have one question that they ask every day – they want to know what advice can we give to others about dealing with the pandemic. While my situation is very different than others’ in terms of what support systems I have and what I am able to do, there are a few things that I think worked well for me.
Let’s start with staying healthy: At the height of the pandemic we mostly stayed indoors. Our neighbourhood is moderately populated so there are some parts that can be crowded like near the grocery stores and sidewalks near apartments. So when going to those places we would wear a cloth mask. At first I didn’t understand why people were wearing them – because I was thinking only of myself. They really won’t help you much. However, they will help others if you are infected. If we all wear one then we reduce transmission. In an ideal world that means if we all keep the virus to ourselves (especially if we’re asymptomatic) for several weeks then the pandemic will peter out. It only survives if it transmits between us.
Mental health can be the bigger challenge. On this front I had mixed experiences. On the negative side, I found that about the worst thing one can do is obsess about the news. Reloading your favourite news site or your social media feed results in a barrage of bad news. The news is still out there, and indeed it is bad. However focusing on it repeatedly does nothing to actually fix it. It only makes us feel worse. Stay informed – but give yourself a daily limit. And on the flip side, try to take in some good news as well to balance out and give yourself hope. This site, KarunaVirus, is an excellent resource and another is the COVID-19 Recovery site. Both have newsletters as well to make your email a little more positive. There are some wonderful things happening. It doesn’t make the bad news any better but the balance truly helps.
If your lockdown rules and social distancing permit, get outside. See nature, breathe fresh air. Our cities feel strange and deserted but the natural places feel as normal as ever. This, combined with the natural effects of being in nature help a lot. Our government made this a priority – ensuring that when we were told to stay inside we were also told we can go out for solo (or family) walks.
Physically stay in your bubble. Don’t socialize with different groups of friends and stay far apart. This reduces transmission and, if one of you comes up positive, it makes “contact tracing” that much easier. Instead of trying to find the contacts of the 30 people you saw last week (and their contacts and their contacts contacts) before you tested positive, there are few people to follow up with. It makes the healthcare system that much less overwhelemed.
You’re reading this so you’ve got the Internet. There are lots of great tools here for staying connected. Videoconference with friends – play games, chat, have dinner. There are many shows and even classes being offered online. Go to them. Seeing other humans makes you less isolated, less likely to get stuck in a mental loop of despair or worry, and you’ll likely have some fun too. Staying connected and avoiding isolation is important all the time but especially now.
Fill your day with things that stimulate and challenge you. It is hard to focus on things as much as before the pandemic but the benefits are useful. If you have time, read more, write more. If you like to cook, try some new things if you can. In my case, I did much more exercise as well. In the end I think the advice I would offer is “Expect more of yourself.” – not necessarily more of yourself than pre-pandemic – but more than you think you’re capable of. I know some folks are drinking their way through the pandemic, watching movies and zoning out. I don’t think this is healthy. You might not be able to be your “former self” but push yourself a little. Diverting focus from the pandemic to the less terrifying challenges of self-improvement you present yourself with can give a bit of relief.
For us, approaching with humour where we can is a coping mechanism we have used in so many aspects of our lives but even more now. Laughing, where we can, about how strange our daily life has become gives a little break from the worst of things. Like looking at good news, it doesn’t mean that things aren’t serious or terribly upsetting, but taking a little break here and there gives one a chance to rest and recover from it all.
Of course I also recognize that my advice may not be applicable to many. We have so far lived a very blessed life. Work has continued, our family health has been good and nobody we know has been suffering either. So the direct effects of the pandemic have kept their distance from us for now.
I hope you all are staying safe and healthy and weather this storm well. And if you have other advice to offer or things that worked well for you, post it in the comments below.