By Kari Bray / Snohomish Health District
The outbreak of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and the measures being taken to slow the spread of the illness are causing stress and raising questions in our community.
Fear and anxiety about a disease can be overwhelming and bring out strong emotions in adults and children. Businesses and organizations have been required to temporarily close or modify operations. Planned events – birthday celebrations, weddings, family dinners – have been canceled or postponed to maintain social distancing.
Our community has come together in some remarkable ways to support one another. While we need to maintain physical distance, we are finding other ways to stay close – video calls; online groups, clubs or games; remote learning for our students and remote work for employees who can do so; shopping local online or ordering take-out or delivery to support shops and restaurants; donating money, time or resources where we can.
Still, we are in the midst of a difficult time when things are changing quickly. We want to remind people that the measures put in place – staying home, temporarily closing schools and businesses, and limiting close contact with others – are extremely important to save lives.
Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations.
The emotional impact of an emergency on a person can depend on the person’s characteristics and experiences, their social and economic circumstances, and the availability of local resources. People may become more distressed if they see repeated images or hear repeated reports about the outbreak. Knowing your limits and taking care of yourself and your loved ones is essential.
Staying physically away from others is important for preventing the spread of this disease, but there’s no doubt that it creates mental and emotional hardships for many of us. We thrive better together. This is the time to do what you can to maintain emotional closeness even if you can’t be with friends, family, neighbors or coworkers in person.
It’s also a good time to focus on what you can control. Find routines at home, make plans and set times to check in with loved ones by phone or online, get outside for a while and unplug when the news gets overwhelming. And be compassionate – most of us are in uncharted territory, adjusting to new rhythms in our work or home life and trying to stay healthy. A little bit of kindness goes a long way.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has gathered some information and resources to assist the public with navigating mental health during this stressful time. Please visit their website to learn more.
You can also check out these online resources to see if any of them resonate with your needs.
• Volunteers of America Western Washington offers a crisis line for individuals who are in crisis and/or considering suicide. Call 1-800-584-3578 or visit www.imhurting.org.
• The Disaster Distress Helpline is available at 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746 to talk with crisis specialists. This resource is available 24 hours, 7 days a week.
• Recognize the common signs and signals of a stress reaction for yourself and others.
• The Greater Good Science Center at Berkeley University offers science and research-based strategies for building resilience. Click here to explore ways to help build resilience to stress.
• Ideas and steps to help with anxiety are outlined in the Care for Your Coronavirus Anxiety Toolkit from Shine.
• The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) offers a guide on mental health and COVID-19.
• The National Network to End Domestic Violence has also compiled resources.
Is my business an essential business during the Stay Home, Stay Healthy order?
We have received a number of questions about whether certain types of businesses, activities or services are considered essential and can continue while the Stay Home, Stay Healthy order is in effect.
To be clear, all Washingtonians who are not going out for essential business or errands are instructed to stay home at this time. Outdoor activity like walking is allowed if people social distance (maintain a six foot distance from others). Yes, you can still go grocery shopping, get take-out from a restaurant, pick up a prescription or to go to a medical appointment. No, you should not be going to a friend’s house for dinner or meeting up at the park for picnic.
For businesses or other employers who are not certain about whether they are an essential business, please follow these steps:
1. Visit www.coronavirus.wa.gov/whats-open-and-closed and review the information, including the essential businesses document that is linked there. Many of the questions are address there.
2. If your question is not addressed on that site, go to the Essential Business Inquiries web form. This form is for businesses or workers to find out if their businesses is considered essential or to request that it be added as an essential business.
3. If your business is not included in the existing essential businesses list and you have not yet received additional guidance after submitting the form, act as though your business is not considered essential at this time. That means you and your workers should be home. Remote work can continue, but not in-person operations.
How can I help?
Thank you to everyone who has stepped up and offered help during this response. The strength of our community is showing.
For people who are looking to donate money to community organizations and efforts that are working to mitigate the impact of this virus on the people of Snohomish County, go to www.cf-sc.org.
For people who would like to volunteer or donate items, visit pihchub.org/givewell. This is a Community Needs Hub where people can post a need, post an available resource, or see all of the posted needs and resources to try to match what they have to what our community is looking for. Please do not drop off donations at local fire or police stations or at the Health District unless you have been given specific instructions to do so. The best way to make sure donations are going where they are needed most is to check the hub.
We have also received incredible support from our Medical Reserve Corps (MRC). Volunteers with the MRC have helped staff a call center to field questions about COVID-19, greeted and directed people at our drive-thru testing site, and made themselves available to help as other needs have come up throughout this response.
The MRC is recruiting volunteers. Health professionals and support people are encouraged to join. We have expedited the process to assist in the COVID-19 response. To apply to be a volunteer, complete the MRC Application Forms (PDF), sign it and then scan and email to TQuinn@snohd.org. For more information about the MRC, visit www.snohd.org/mrc.
The Public Health Essentials! blog highlights the work of the Snohomish Health District and shares health-related information and tips.