COVID-19 may be especially challenging this coming winter, according to medical experts, and it would surely mean another lockdown, perhaps one even longer and more aggressive than this spring's. Winter, with its colder weather, increased indoor activity in close quarters, and fewer opportunities to be outside practicing social distancing all increase the chances of a coronavirus comeback.
But there is good news. There are steps you can take now to be prepared, unlike this spring when there was little time to respond to the outbreak.
The first thing to do is quell your panic. Fortunately many of the companies, organizations, and professionals that struggled during the spring outbreak to provide food, products, and services have learned through the experience and are better prepared for a possible second wave of infections this winter. Panic helps no one and limits clear thinking. Instead, put that energy to better use and make a to-do list of all the things you can do today to keep you and your family happy and healthy this winter.
At the top of your list? Get a flu shot early this fall. Nearly half of Americans don’t get a flu shot every year, yet this is one of the simplest and smartest steps you can take for your health.
Getting a flu shot is critical this year. While a flu shot will not protect you from COVID-19, it can still protect your health. The healthier you are, the less likely you are to have complications should you contract COVID-19. It will also prevent you from spreading disease to those who are less able to fight off infections, such as the elderly and the immunocompromised.
Another factor to consider: seasonal flu symptoms — including sweating, fever, aches, fatigue — mimic symptoms of coronavirus. Patients with the seasonal flu could justifiably fear they have the coronavirus and add strain on an already exhausted medical system with testing and hospital visits. So get immunized as soon as possible and make sure your family and friends do the same. This simple shot saves lives.
Other tasks to add to your list:
- Plan today for future needs. Grocery stores deliver. So do many pharmacies. Your local bistro may bring your favorite comfort food right to your door. Figure out what you can get delivered to avoid potential COVID-19 exposure, not to mention cold temperatures and challenging winter roads. Do your research now before you need these goods and services. Likewise, don't plan too far ahead. Organizing a vacation can be nearly as fun as the getaway itself. But with so much uncertainty, vacations might have to go on the back burner for a while. Potential travel bans and uncertainties about hotel and airfare refunds could only add to your stress. Accept that for now, life is lived on a day-to-day basis.
- Broaden your horizons. Did you decide to learn a new language, expand your culinary skills, or master origami during the original shutdown? But then you crashed on the couch instead, watching Law & Order marathons, wearing out your best sweats, and worrying about the future? That’s understandable; COVID-19 came on so suddenly and caused so much anxiety. With a second outbreak possibly on the horizon, take steps to reach those goals. Find the supplies you might need now or register for an online course. You’ll feel more in control and have an outlet for that stress.
- Scam-proof yourself. When disaster strikes, so do opportunists like scammers. Be ever vigilant about clicking on links in texts and emails, even if it looks like the link is from a reputable source. Keep your computer and cell phone updated with security software and apps. Also, scammers like to appeal to the heart with charity pleas. They'll ask for cash, money wires, even gift cards...don't fall for their scams. If you wish to donate money during a crisis, thoroughly vet the organization first through Charity Navigator before you part with your money.
- Prepare sensibly. Have two weeks of goods — food, medicine, toiletries — on hand at all times. This gives you a little breathing room if there's another mandated lockdown. But avoid hoarding, which stresses the supply chain and keeps others from accessing supplies they need.
- Check up on everyone’s health. Make sure your children are up to date on their vaccinations. Ask your healthcare practitioners how they're planning to handle office visits this fall. Many offices have adopted telemedicine as a way to care for patients. Prepare for these visits ahead of time by ensuring you have the right technology in place. Finding out you don't have the right software or enough bandwidth moments before an appointment is frustrating and can easily be avoided by preparing well in advance. Also: don't be embarrassed to ask about available mental health resources. Millions of people around the world are suffering from anxiety, depression, stress, and loneliness. There's no need to feel shame or embarrassment about these very common emotional side effects of COVID-19.
- Stay informed without being overwhelmed. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization offer timely, accurate information about COVID-19. Your cousin’s Twitter account? Probably not so much. Even when the news is accurate and trustworthy, it's okay to disengage from the 24/7 news cycle if it's causing you anxiety and sleepless nights. Information overload is real. Instead, stick to getting your news once a day from a source you consider to be reliable.
- Be on your best behavior. You made it through the first lockdown so you did something — probably a lot of things — right. Consider what worked best and what could be improved. Do you have the technology you need to work remotely for longer periods if necessary? Do you wish you'd checked in more frequently with friends and family? Maybe you have learned it’s crucial to reach out. Being alone should not mean being lonely. We’re all in this together. Even if we are keeping at a healthy distance physically, there are ways to stay close and connected.
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