Note: As this information becomes available, we will continue to update this piece to ensure its accuracy and to provide additional resources.
How to Keep Yourself Safe and How LVRC Is Responding
by Brielle Moore, Central Recovery
In December 2019, news of Coronavirus (COVID-19) surfaced. At first, it was a distant threat: only affecting China. However, cases began to spread like wildfire internationally, the world began to take the Coronavirus more seriously.
On March 5, 2020, the United States announced its first confirmed case of COVID-19, and in the two weeks since that announcement, the number of cases in the US increased to over 10,000 with 150 total deaths (at the time of writing this article, March 19, 2020.) The vast majority of these cases are in three states: New York, Seattle, and California. However, all 50 of the U.S. states, as well as the District of Columbia have confirmed COVID-19 cases.
COVID-19 is defined by the CDC as a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person. The virus that causes COVID-19 is a novel coronavirus that was first identified during an investigation into an outbreak in Wuhan, China. Typical symptoms of the illness are fever, dry cough, and shortness of breath. According to the CDC, 80% of cases are mild and treatable at home with cold medications and rest. However, some severe cases have caused pneumonia and multi-organ failure and require hospitalization. The elderly and immune-compromised populations are most at risk.
Many states have taken drastic measures in an effort to contain the spread of the virus. The goal is to avoid seeing a large number of cases. As of March 16, 2020, Italy has seen 24,747 cases and 1,809 deaths.
States like Nevada have issued statewide mandates for all nonessential businesses to close (trying to limit the number of places where large groups can gather), while other states like New Jersey have instituted curfews, asking people to go home and stay home after work.
There is a great deal of uncertainty at this time, aided by a rampant spread of misinformation and the unprecedented amount of ‘panic buying’ seen in retailers both local and online. Due to this, LVRC believes that we should do our part to provide accurate information. While this situation is serious, there is hope and we’ll get through it as we always have: as a team.
Firstly, we’d like to offer some tips that we believe would help in the containment of the Coronavirus.
1: Testing and tracking is crucial
In a press conference made on March 16, 2020, President Donald Trump announced that retailers like Walmart and Target would be donating portions of their parking lots in order to set up drive-thru testing facilities. These facilities will help to make testing more available nationwide, help confirm cases more quickly, and also help by keeping possible cases isolated until they can be confirmed ill.
If there is no drive-thru testing available in your area and you are exhibiting any symptoms that may indicate that you have COVID-19 (fever, dry cough, and trouble breathing,) it is recommended by the CDC, to call your healthcare provider to discuss your symptoms before visiting your provider. If your PCP determines that you should come in, they will ask you about any potential exposure to the virus you may have had (if you have recently traveled to a hotspot, been in contact with someone who has been to a hotspot OR has been confirmed COVID-19 positive.) If they believe you are a candidate for testing, they will isolate you temporarily and contact the Southern Nevada Health District to initiate the testing procedure. You can learn more about this procedure here.
2: Communication and coordination is key at all levels
Though it may seem like a tired sentiment: Communication is key. While communication between federal and state governments is important in getting test kits and aid for those displaced or affected by the various shutdowns, communication between state and local governments, and the communication within our own communities is also vital.
Even if you are not affected by COVID-19, it’s important that you stay informed and know your resources. For instance, the CDC has a variety of resources. The CDC case tracker is available to the public and they also have tips on minimizing your chances of catching or spreading the virus.
Other resources are also available; Johns Hopkins provides a worldwide case tracker that provides total cases, recoveries, and death by country. For Nevada specific numbers, NV Health Response has released this real-time tracker with tests taken, test results, patient demographics, and more. The website Information is Beautiful has a series of easy to understand infographics pertaining to COVID-19 which are updated when new information is confirmed.
The COVID-19 situation has garnered unprecedented media coverage, so when you come across information about the virus, be sure the data you are reading is backed up by reputable and verifiable sources and when in doubt, refer to the CDC. Many news sources like CNN, NBC, Fox News, and ABC are continuously releasing updates to try and keep people informed. All of these news outlets are releasing coverage (including presidential addresses) both pre-recorded and live on YouTube.
Communicating with each other at a community level is also extremely important. Consider contacting your elderly or sick family and friends to see if they need groceries or other essentials delivered. If you are healthy and able, consider volunteering for meal and/or grocery delivery services for those who cannot safely leave home. Share your time for resources like the free meals program for children and other relief programs.
Lastly, communicate closely with your immediate family and friends. If you find yourself feeling lonely and frightened, reach out to someone. There is a good chance that they are also looking for comfort and your communication could make a difference.
3: Social distancing can and will help
As the pandemic has continued to spread, we’ve been hearing a lot about ‘social distancing’. While this may be a new term to many, it’s a concept that has been proven to work in places like South Korea (who has managed to drastically slow the spread of COVID-19.)
The act of social distancing is quite simple: reduce your exposure to other individuals thus reducing your risk of getting the virus, but also reducing the risk of others getting the illness from you. Avoid going to places like movie theaters, bars, and restaurants, gyms, shopping malls, concerts, or any other gathering that forces people to come into close contact. It’s recommended that even intimate gatherings like birthdays, weddings, and even funerals be postponed until the threat is under control (especially if any of these plans involve traveling.) Even schools and universities have been advised to close their campuses and move students to online classes. In addition to this, most businesses have been asked to allow personnel that can work from home to do so in order to minimize the risk of exposure.
This has directly impacted Nevada as businesses have either made the decision to close and/or have employees work from home. Some businesses have been forced to close by Governor Sisolak’s mandate that all non-essential businesses must be closed to the public by noon on March 18, 2020. While this is a struggle for small business owners, the Senate has approved an emergency aid package to help ease the financial strain on displaced workers and provide additional testing.
In summation: stay home, if possible.
4: If you can’t stay home, be hyper-vigilant with hygiene
Many Nevadans do not have the option to fully isolate. While all non-essential businesses are closing, a select group is asked to stay open in order to serve the public: pharmacies, grocery stores, drug and convenience stores, banks and financial institutions, hardware stores, as well as gas stations. This also includes emergency services like hospitals and other healthcare providers, fire departments, and the police force.
Because these people are still on the front lines, it’s important for everyone to stay vigilant and courteous. LVRC recommends following the CDC and the World Health Organization’s guidelines for staying clean and avoiding unnecessary exposure. While they differ slightly in order and verbiage, the spirit is the same:
- Wash your hands frequently (for 20 seconds at least)
- Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue or use the inside of your elbow
- Don’t touch your face
- Stay at least 6 feet away from others
- Clean and disinfect any surfaces that are frequently touched
- If you feel sick, STAY HOME
5: Protect the vulnerable and those helping the vulnerable
While this may closely relate to social distancing, it’s important enough to be repeated. Our elderly population is the most at risk. The chances of most middle-aged individuals contracting the virus are under 1%, however, 60-69 year-olds have a 3.6% chance of contracting COVID-19 and the chances rise to nearly 15% for those older than 80. Equally at risk are those who have underlying health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, or illnesses that cause immunodeficiency.
Not only are our elderly and immune-compromised at risk, so are our medical professionals and those that assist in the care of those affected. It is imperative that we keep our medical professionals safe and armed with the tools they need to take care of us as the number of COVID-19 cases begin to rise. Keep your distance, use the hygiene practices outlined by the CDC, and be mindful of stockpiling medical-grade supplies like masks and surgical gloves. These supplies are critical for medical professionals and help keep them safe and healthy during this crisis.
6: Expect a rise in cases and plan ahead
While cases are finally slowing down in China and South Korea, the European Union are seeing increases in cases. In the U.S., it’s hard to predict how the pandemic will spread due to the shortage of testing. However, after a study conducted by Eurosurveillance on the Diamond Princess cruise ship, it has been discovered that around 17.9% of COVID-19 cases are asymptomatic, meaning that there may be many individuals carrying the virus, but without exhibiting symptoms (this is why social distancing is so crucial.)
Even when testing becomes more available, it is likely that there will be an uptick in COVID-19 cases. This means that as the days go on, many will be asked to self-isolate unless their symptoms deteriorate and become unmanageable at home.
In preparation for social isolation due to a pandemic, Ready.org recommends stocking up on food and water, make sure prescriptions are filled, have non-prescription drugs on hand, have copies of your medical records for personal reference, and to stay in contact with your friends and loved ones in case of an emergency.
CNET has an excellent list of items that you might want to buy, including staples like food, water, hygiene supplies, cleaning products, and supplies for babies and pets (if applicable, of course.) Additionally, the New York Times has a list of grocery items that are shelf-stable or long-lasting.
It is important to note that while it’s good to be prepared, it is not recommended that anyone ‘hoard’ or ‘panic buy’ items, especially ones that are crucial to other people’s survival.
Las Vegas has seen unprecedented amounts of panic buying making it difficult and time-consuming to find supplies. Many stores are reducing their hours to limit exposure of their employees and to also give them the time to refill shelves that are completely empty. Some stores like WinCo have decided to implement a system that only allows a handful of people into the store at a time in an effort to eliminate chaos. The Clark County Commission says there is no food shortage, so there is no need to panic buy. NPR explains that food is flying off the shelves faster than supply trucks can restock and that once the demand for goods like rice and water returns to normal, shelves will be fully stocked again.
Lastly, some stores in California are implementing a special time period where those who are elderly or immune-compromised can come to shop before the general population is allowed to enter the stores. Smith’s has adopted this as well as Albertsons (Safeway), and it is expected that more stores will follow suit. LVRC strongly suggests that if you are elderly or immune-compromised that you take advantage of this OR if you are unable to leave your home that you use a grocery delivery service.
7: Don’t panic, stay informed, be mindful, and stay safe
With all of this said, LVRC believes that the most important takeaways from this are:
- Don’t panic. Stay calm and do what you can to be a part of the solution.
- Stay informed. The amount of information that’s being published is overwhelming, but knowing what’s going on helps prevent panic.
- Be mindful. Everyone is scared and experts predict there will be a surge in loneliness (AARP, NPR, and Scientific American have some tips on how to stay connected.) Human kindness goes a long way during difficult times.
- Stay safe. Follow CDC guidelines and keep your exposure to the public at a minimum. We’ll get through this together.
Seven Steps to Stay Safe
Note: Click graphics to see full-sized image.
A Note to Those in the Recovery Community
Over the last week, many 12-Step meetings in Las Vegas were canceled for the health and safety of all involved. In order to make sure those in the Recovery Community continue to have the support they need, many meetings are being conducted via video chat using Zoom. Zoom is free to download and use, and the app is available for both Android and IOS.
For more information and to find out if your meeting will be available via video conferencing, please reach out to your local meeting leaders who can provide you with dates and times, as well as links to tutorials on how to use Zoom.
We would also like to reassure that LVRC will remain open and operational in order to serve the recovery community. At our facility, we are committed to health and safety and we have taken numerous steps to ensure that we remain at our best for the duration of the pandemic and beyond. We are doing all of the following:
- Closely monitoring local and national reports on the evolving impact of COVID-19
- Following CDC guidelines to prevent the spread of infection
- Increasing sanitation efforts across all facilities including frequent disinfecting of commonly touched surfaces
- Suspending client activities and classes until further notice to reduce unnecessary contact
- Suspending client visitation
- Screening all potential and current clients for COVID-19 symptoms
- Suspending the admission of clients who are exhibiting symptoms or have traveled to/from a high-risk area
LVRC thanks you all for your support and we will be monitoring the situation as it unfolds to ensure that we continue to deliver the highest level of care.