Stay Sensibly Cautious Amid COVID-19 Crisis

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

Every month, I interview a few dozen health professionals for articles printed in three editions of In Good Health — Buffalo/Western New York, Rochester and Syracuse/Central New York.

That has been a routine for the last several years.

As the COVID-19 outbreak spread, fewer public relations professionals were available to schedule care providers for me to interview. Many of those not engaged in patient care were working from home and could not take time for interviews. By early March, it became obvious they were swamped with work, including screening patients for possible COVID-19, developing internal policies regarding the outbreak and forming public statements and advisories. That’s a lot to add to their usual patient load. I can see why an interview wasn’t possible.

A little more prudence from the public can help them use their time better so they can treat the patients who really need care. Only people exhibiting symptoms identified with COVID-19 should contact a care provider over the phone about their coronavirus concerns. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated on its website that these symptoms manifest between two and 14 days following exposure: fever, cough, and shortness of breath.

Severe signs that may require emergency treatment include difficulty breathing or shortness of breath; persistent pain or pressure in the chest; new confusion or inability to arouse; and bluish lips or face.

Keep in mind that amid the outbreak, people still have colds, flu, allergies and breathing issues not related to COVID-19. It wastes resources and needlessly exposes people to germs to rush to the doctor over non-COVID-19 illnesses that could be safely treated at home. People with pre-existing conditions such as a lung disease or illness or lowered immune response and older adults should remain vigilant about their health, call their provider over concerns and remain more reluctant to go out.

The outbreak also reminded me about how few people seem to have more than a few days’ food and supplies at home.

Since we live in an area that has had the occasional blizzard, we should know better than to let things dwindle to the point where we need to rush to the store to clear out the shelves.

My grandparents lived through the Depression and rationing during wartime. They always advised to keep extra groceries on hand just in case. Perhaps tight budgets, megastore convenience and busy schedules all add up to the wave of panic buying recently observed while trying to do some routine shopping. I’ve never seen entire aisles completely bare in my life. The septuagenarian checker who helped me said that she had never seen such a spectacle, either.

Use common sense and follow the guidelines of the CDC and local recommendations for hygiene. Get enough rest and try to exercise and eat right. Stay home if you can. Try to think of it as extra time to nurture your family and yourself.

Above all, don’t stress. That lowers your immune system’s response and doesn’t help one bit.