As you know, COVID-19, the infection caused by the novel coronavirus, is our current health crisis. The Brooklyn Hospital Center (TBHC) has developed this page to give you information and tips on how to proactively keep you and your family as safe as possible. Should you have any health concerns, be it COVID-19, or anything else, remember that TBHC is your community healthcare partner. Visit regularly — we’ll be updating this page frequently. We are always — and more than ever now — committed to #KeepingBrooklynHealthy.
Update: February 1, 2021
Questions about the COVID-19 vaccine?
Watch Dr. Leonard Berkowitz, Chair of Infectious Diseases, discuss everything you need to know about the vaccine in this presentation and answer all of your questions here. Dr. Berkowitz’s storied career was forged in the fight against HIV/AIDS, and has been caring for patients with HIV infection since the beginning of the epidemic. Most recently, Dr. Berkowitz’s expertise in infectious diseases has been instrumental in TBHC’s COVID-19 response.
As the COVID-19 vaccine continues to get distributed, we know you may still have questions about the vaccine itself. TBHC is here to answer some of your frequently asked questions.
Are there certain groups that should not get the vaccine?
As of right now, there is not a vaccine available for anyone under the age of 16. Studies and clinical trials with younger children are expected to begin soon. There are certain medical conditions that are not recommended to take the COVID-19 vaccine at this time — consult with your physician about what is recommended for you.
What is the guidance with the COVID-19 vaccine and allergic reactions?
If you have a history of severe allergic reactions not related to vaccines, the CDC recommends that you get vaccinated. You should not get vaccinated if you have had an allergic reaction to any ingredient in the mRNA vaccines, if you are allergic to PEG or polysorbate or if you had an allergic reaction to the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. If you’ve had a previous allergic reaction to another vaccine, ask your doctor about getting the COVID-19 vaccine.
If I’ve gotten two doses of the vaccine and I didn’t get a fever, how do I know that it worked?
For the Pfizer vaccine, only 14.2% of participants developed a fever as a side effect. Like COVID-19 itself, each body reacts differently. Regardless of what side effects you do or do not have, remember that the Pfizer vaccine has been proven to have 95% efficacy in clinical trials after two doses.
As of right now, TBHC is not able to vaccine our community yet. We appreciate your patience, and as soon as we know when we can vaccinate you, we’ll provide updates. Stay safe!
Update: January 4, 2021
Happy New Year from TBHC! Now that we’re in 2021, we know that a lot of you have asked us about the COVID-19 vaccination process. We’re here to do clarify a few things and answer a couple of FAQs.
The COVID-19 vaccine is here!
TBHC has received shipments of the COVID-19 vaccine, and we’ve been diligently vaccinating our frontline staff. We will continue to vaccinate our staff as more shipments come in. We’re excited about the protection the vaccine will bring, and look forward to keeping our staff safe. Soon we’ll be vaccinating our community!
When will I get vaccinated?
TBHC will be following CDC and NYSDOH guidelines in regards to vaccine distribution. Rest assured, once we know, you’ll be the first to know. We look forward to vaccinating you!
What are the benefits of vaccination?
Getting vaccinated means you’ll be offering yourself protection against COVID-19. The studies showed that you will definitely be well protected from getting a severe case (and probably, if you do, will remain asymptomatic). Further studies may find that you are protected from getting it at all. Getting the vaccine doesn’t just mean you’ll be protecting yourself (though you will!), but you’ll also be part of a larger picture. Each vaccinated person brings us one step closer to herd immunity, which is when a percentage of the population is protected from an infectious disease, thus slowing the spread. This means you can lower the amount of people falling ill, save hospital resources, and protect yourself and those around you.
Is the vaccine safe, since it was developed quickly?
Because COVID-19 was so widespread, many companies invested a significant amount of resources into the making of a vaccine. However, that does not mean that companies did not adhere to safety protocols or didn’t test it enough — in fact, it’s the opposite. The United States Food and Drug Administration closely monitored both Pfizer and Moderna’s respective vaccines, which are proven to be around 95% effective. In a randomized clinical trial of over 44,000 participants, injections had mild side effects, such as fatigue, soreness at the site of injection, headaches, muscle and/or joint pain, fever or chills. Many people experienced little to no side effects at all!
How many doses do you need?
Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine are approximately 95% effective after two doses. The first dose primes your immune system, so to speak, and the second vaccination fully develops your immunity. You must get the follow-up dose to get the benefits of the vaccine.
Can I get COVID-19 from the vaccine?
No. Unlike other vaccines, the COVID-19 is an mRNA vaccine — meaning that it does not use a live or weakened strain of the virus to trigger an immune response. The vaccine cannot infect you with COVID-19.
Can the vaccine alter your DNA?
The vaccine does not affect or interact with your DNA — it never enters the nucleus of the cell, where our DNA is. The COVID-19 vaccine uses mRNA technology, which teaches our cells to make a protein that triggers an immune response. Researchers have been studying and working with mRNA technology for decades.
Do I still have to wear my mask and social distance after I receive the vaccine?
Yes, that’s not going away anytime soon. It is not yet known if the vaccine prevents transmission, so until we have more data, masking up and social distancing is your best bet to stop the spread.
Update: October 12, 2020
With colder weather around the corner, it’s time to start thinking about preparing for socializing in a safe manner.
Of course, all the usual rules still apply: mask up, wash your hands regularly, and stay six feet apart from other people. And don’t forget to get your flu shot — it helps keep you, your family, and your community safe! But there’s more! Here are some good tips for how to socialize safely this fall and winter.
Still choose outdoors.
Unfortunately, large gatherings indoors continue to present a huge risk to spreading COVID, so spending time outdoors is still your friend. There’s plenty of ways to get creative — the city is, too! Outdoor dining is permanent now, so check out your favorite local restaurants’ outdoor options.
Dress for the weather.
The good news is your mask serve two purposes: not only will it protect you and others from COVID, but it will also protect your face from the cold! Choose a mask that doesn’t irritate your skin (we have some tips here), so it’ll serve as extra protection against the wind. Also, layer up! As the weather gets colder, you might have to spend longer outdoors than you should have in previous years. Invest in hand and feet warmers, some sturdy hats and gloves, and long johns or extra layers like tights and thin undershirts.
Get here and there safely, too.
Trying to get across the city? You can still bike and walk, if you bundle up enough! If you’re taking the subway, try to take it at off-peak times, as usual.
Plan fun outdoor activities!
If you have kids, talk to friends and family about planning outdoor playdates. Think about activities that children usually reserve for snow days – get creative! New York still has endless and inexpensive or free possibilities: you can go on a hike in Prospect Park, walk the waterfront, and check out ice skating rinks.
Be extra vigilant around the holidays.
COVID outbreaks across the country have been linked to informal family gatherings, so be careful. If you’re visiting family members, keep in mind everyone’s vulnerabilities and risk factors. Come up with a game plan: if you need to get tested beforehand, factor in your own exposure and test turnaround time. If you’re going to a different state, keep an eye on quarantine restrictions. Keep in mind everything that could happen: what will you do if you start to develop symptoms? Or someone you’re visiting develops symptom? Plan for every possibility, whether that means alternate transportation options or places to quarantine.
Keep an eye on transmission rates.
You can check if you’re located in a hot spot in New York by using this tool from New York government. You can check rates all over the country from this handy Johns Hopkins tool. If rates are high where you are traveling to, reconsider your trip or plan ahead: how will your quarantine at your destination? Will you be able to stay inside? What will your level of exposure be? The CDC details how it determines travel restrictions, so it’s a good resource when planning trips. If you’re traveling by plane, we have some tips below.
Lastly, schedule meet-ups now.
The weather is still nice outside, why not socialize now? Meet a friend or relative for a coffee, a stoop visit, or a socially distant walk in the park. We still have time before the snow and seriously cold weather hits, take advantage of it!
Update: September 28, 2020
This week, it’s all about the flu! In the era of Covid-19, it’s never been more important to get a flu shot. By getting this vaccine this year, you can:
- Avoid a mistaken diagnosis of COVID-19
- Preserve our healthcare resources, including those at TBHC
- Keep yourself, your family and your colleagues safe from the dangers of influenza
- Reduce risks of hospitalization and flu-related death in children
Ask your provider or call 1-833-TBHC-NOW for an appointment
When should I get vaccinated?
The CDC recommends getting a vaccine before flu season begins, so that you’re protected before the flu virus starts to spread in your community, which is before the end of October. Antibodies against the flu develop two weeks after vaccination, so keep that in mind..
Why do I need to be vaccinated every year?
The vaccine’s protection decreases as time goes on, so it’s important to get a booster annually. The vaccine also changes year to year, so it can best protect you against the strains of the flu that are most prevalent at that time. Even if you’ve never had the flu before or if you have, it doesn’t mean that you don’t need to be protected against future infection..
Can I still get sick even if I do get vaccinated?
It is possible to still contract the flu even with a vaccination, because the effectiveness of vaccinations also depend on the health and age of the person getting vaccinated. You might also get exposed to the flu virus within the two week period after your vaccination, before your antibodies fully develop. The flu vaccine also protects you against the most common flu strains of the year, so you might get exposed to a strain that is not in the vaccine and fall sick.
BUT, if you do get the flu and you were vaccinated, you are more likely to get a mild version. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), recent studies showed that flu vaccination reduced the risk of flu illness by between 40% and 60%. From 2018 to2019, the flu vaccination prevented an estimated 58,000 flu-related hospitalizations.
Will getting a flu shot make my risk for getting COVID higher?
There is no evidence that the flu vaccine will increase your risk of getting COVID. For a full list of COVID-19 and flu symptoms, how they overlap and differ, check out this handy guide by the CDC.
If catching the flu also builds up my immunity, why do I need the shot?
The flu isn’t something to take lightly, especially not with a pandemic. Just like wearing a mask, the flu vaccine is not just to protect yourself (though it does); by getting a flu shot, you’ll be reducing the risk of spreading it to your roommates, family, friends and your community at large.
Update: July 13, 2020
As the City is in Phase 3 of reopening, you might begin to consider expanding the kind of activities you enjoy. Though none of these activities are without risk, we have some tips that might help decrease your risk of contracting COVID-19.
Currently, flying is safer than it was at the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak, since passengers and airlines alike now have a better grasp on how the virus is transmitted. However, that doesn’t mean flying comes without risk.
TO HELP LESSEN RISK, BEFORE YOU GET TO THE AIRPORT:
- Check your airline’s policies regarding COVID-19 and assess them against your own risk level. For instance, does one airline guarantee they won’t book middle seats, whereas another might not? Choose the airline that keeps in line with your own comfort and risk level, and try and pick off-peak times as much as possible.
- If you can choose your seat, try and book seats as far away from other people as possible. Some experts say that window seats might be safer than an aisle seat.
- As much as you can, choose the shortest flight possible.
- Pack your belongings in a carry-on, if possible, so that you don’t have to wait at a crowded baggage claim. Keep individual disinfectant wipes on hand in your carry-on.
- Check-in beforehand and print your boarding pass or save it on your phone at home. That way, you don’t have to touch a kiosk or interact with a person at the airport.
- Make sure to check the latest quarantine restrictions for your destination and what that looks like when you return home. Different states have different levels of restrictions, so be prepared in advance—you might be required to quarantine for two weeks. Local governments should have the most up-to-date information.
ONCE YOU ARRIVE AT THE AIRPORT:
- If you can’t avoid a check-in bag, try curbside check-in, if it’s available. This will limit your time inside the airport.
- Carry all personal items in your carry-on or bag, so you don’t have to empty your pockets into a shared container at security. For extra protection, bring a zipped plastic bag to put your ID in after it’s been handled by TSA staff, so that you don’t contaminate other items in your bag before you are able to clean your ID with a disinfectant wipe.
- Scan your own boarding pass, to minimize contact.
- Bring your own hand sanitizer — TSA is allowing one liquid hand sanitizer container up to 12 ounces per passenger in carry-on bags until further notice.
- Limit your time in common areas like bathrooms, food courts, baggage claims, gates and the jet bridge, especially if there are large crowds present.
ON THE PLANE:
- Wipe down your own seat and tray tables with disinfectant wipes upon arrival, regardless of airline policies.
- Airplanes use high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters, which filter our 99% of airborne microbes. Still, once you board, turn on the air vent above your seat and angle it slightly in front of your face to keep the air above you circulating.
- Wear your mask for the whole flight, unless you are eating or drinking. Put it back on as soon as you are finished eating or drinking. If it’s a short flight, consider skipping the meal and beverage.
- Avoid waiting in line for the restroom. If you use the restroom, bring a paper towel or wipe to touch all common surfaces, and sanitize your hands after you return to your seat.
How do I reduce the risk of dining out?
- Dine outside. (As of now, NYC is not permitted to dine inside, anyway).
- Even if you are outside, wear a mask except for when you eat.
- Sanitize your hands before and after taking your mask off and putting it back on.
- Only dine out with people you quarantine with.
- Before going to the restaurant, check if they are following all CDC restaurant guidelines. It might also be worth looking into if the restaurant gives its employees sick leave, so that there’s less of a chance of an employee having to work while sick or exposed to the virus.
- When you arrive, check that all employees are wearing masks that cover both their nose and mouth. If it doesn’t look like they are adhering to the guidelines, leave.
- Wipe down all hard surfaces when you arrive for good measure, paying special attention to shared items, like menus.
- Make sure you are six feet away from other customers. Ideally, if someone at another table leans back, they should not encroach on the six feet distance between you.
- If you want to split a dish, ask the kitchen to split it beforehand to reduce spread between you and your fellow diners.
- Avoid crowded and shared areas as much as possible, like the host stand and restrooms.
Update: June 29, 2020
Our staff heroically fought on the COVID frontlines but as cases continue to decline and the City opens up, it’s important for you to return to your routine checkups and take care of your health needs. We’ve taken every precaution to ensure your safety. Here’s what you need to know about coming back to TBHC. We look forward to seeing you!
Rigorous social distancing measures and mask mandates. We are practicing social distancing in all areas of the hospital and at every TBHC ambulatory care site. Our staff is scheduling appointments to make sure only a safe number of patients are in the waiting room at one time. We’ve mandated regular temperature checks at entrances and mask-wearing in all areas for both patients and staff at every TBHC site, as well. We provide masks to anyone who arrives without one.
New York State is allowing us to resume elective surgeries. Rest assured, you can safely return to get a knee replaced, seek relief for a painful spine debilitation or consider life-preserving weight-loss surgery—whatever procedures your health needs require. There will be separate PACU (recovery) and nursing units for COVID versus non-COVID patients, and we have adequate and separate ICU capacity and staff for both patients. TBHC has initiated antibody testing for all front-line employees and all admitted patients will be tested for COVID 48 hours before surgery/procedure.
We are operating under “a hospital within a hospital model.” You don’t need to continue to put off regular appointments, like getting a mammogram, or avoid the Emergency Room if your health is in distress because you’re worried about your safety. TBHC has organized the hospital into separate areas for COVID and non-COVID patients with distinct access points, designated waiting areas, staff, nursing units and equipment, at all points. We effectively treat the needs of both sets of patients in separate and safe models of care.
Meticulous disinfection and cleaning protocols. Your safety is our first priority. Every room and public area in the hospital is cleaned and disinfected daily following a rigorous infection protocol. Patient, procedure and operating rooms are intensively cleaned and disinfected to the highest levels. The walls and floors are disinfected, and everything is stripped from the room. The crew sweeps through on a clockwise rotation to make sure nothing is missed. As a final layer of protec- tion, each room is misted with a deep-cleaning chemical.
Our new location, the Physicians Pavilion, is open now. Located in a brand-new building on 86 Saint Felix Street, this location houses our specialty practices and features modern décor, state-of-the-art exam rooms and beautiful views. We have implemented the same protocols listed above for this location, and our staff is ready to welcome you in.
Update: June 15, 2020
Now that New York is in Phase One of reopening, there’s a couple of things peculiar to us NYC folks. Here’s are some tips on how to navigate a return to normalcy here in the Big Apple:
You have to take an elevator. What to do?
- Make sure you’re properly socially distancing (one person in the elevator at a time, two at most, and both masked). If there are two people, try facing opposite directions, like the walls of the elevator.
- Yield to other people, and if you want to ride with another person, ask the person already in the elevator if they’re comfortable with you joining. Remember, no rush is worth your health.
- While waiting for the elevator, stand six feet away from each person in the line.
- Don’t lean on the walls.
- Use gloves, a tissue, or your elbows to touch shared elevator buttons.
- Wash your hands before and after going on the elevator. If you don’t have access to soap and water, have hand sanitizer on hand.
- Find out if your building has specific elevator guidelines, and be sure to follow all corresponding social distancing markers.
- Take the stairs, when and if possible.
I’m getting on public transportation. What are best practices?
- The MTA has a useful guide to how they’re handling the coronavirus.
- Travel at off-peak hours, if possible. Avoid traveling in groups, and leave as much space as possible between other passengers and transit employees.
- Keep an eye out for social distancing markers on the ground, and be sure to follow them.
- Avoid touching surfaces. This includes subway poles, handles, turnstiles, and other high-touch surfaces. When paying, try and use contactless forms of payment as much as possible.
- Try to avoid touching your phone with unwashed hands.
- Don’t place your bag on the ground or other shared surfaces.
- Improve ventilation. If in a shared car or bus, try to crack open a window.
- Disinfect surfaces you touch. This is especially important for shared bike services, like Citibike, before and after you use each shared transportation. Carrying some individually wrapped disinfectant wipes with you will do the trick.
I’m back at work. How do I stay safe?
Beyond the obvious mask and hand sanitizer, here are some tips:
- Practice being a smart commuter, with the tips we listed above.
- Ask your employer or the Human Resources department for guidelines on how they are handling their COVID-safe environments and protocols.
- Avoid crowded spaces, like the cafeteria or a break room. If you go, try to go at off-peak times. If you’re getting food, grab individually packaged meals and stay away from high-touch surfaces, like a stand where everyone takes utensils. Consider bringing a lunch or snacks from home.
- Practice social distancing—hopefully, your work place has implemented their own protocols to limit occupancy and keep employees six feet away from each other. You can also come up with your own guidelines, too. If you have an office, close the door. If you miss in-person interactions, have someone stand at your doorway while you’re at your desk.
- Facetime or Zoom a coworker. This is great if you’re in different rooms, or even in the same room; it gets you that face-to-face interaction without the exposure.
- If your employer allows it, be as flexible as possible. Play with the times you’re in the office, so that you don’t hit rush hour. Call into meetings, even if some choose to be in-person.
- Remember, if you are sick, do not come into the office. Stay at home and ask your doctor for advice. If you can, get tested, but exercise extreme caution. A sore throat that you would normally work through? Stay home and alert your employer.
- Stay up-to-date on all CDC guidelines about when you can return to work if you, or some one in your household has been diagnosed or exposed to COVID-19.
Update: June 1, 2020
Good news, just in time for summer! When it comes to COVID risks, socializing outdoors can be safer than indoors...if you keep this in mind:
Avoid meeting with large groups of people. Keep your meet-up small, 10 people or less is best. Choose a place outdoors where you can properly socially distance from your friends, as well as strangers who are enjoying the outdoors, too. Agree as a group ahead of time that if it’s unexpectedly crowded, you’ll all leave. If you have access to your own outdoor space, even better. And that counts for stoops, too! A perfect formula for socially distanced fun: Your friend on the bottom stoop step, you on the top!
Go for a walk. A nice way to get outdoors is to meet a friend and walk socially distanced from each other. NYC has opened up 40 miles for pedestrians, closing all thru traffic from 8 am to 8 pm, to make room for walkers and cyclists. You can check which streets are open at Time Out New York and the Department of Transportation. If you want to submit an Open Street for consideration, submit a survey to the Department of Transportation here.
Limit your time together. Shorter amounts of time, say a few hours, is probably better than a whole day. It lessens the time you are potentially exposed, it lessens the amount of time people may start to get sloppy with social distancing, and it makes it easier to skip using public restrooms.
Speaking of restrooms... Take your own tissues with you in case there is no toilet paper, but also to use when you touch faucets and other shared surfaces. If there’s a line, make sure that everyone is standing six feet apart and try to limit your time there as much as possible. If you have access to a friend’s bathroom (or a friend needs to use yours), ask them to use a tissue while touching the faucet and all shared surfaces. The host should disinfect the bathroom after the get-together.
Avoid alcohol. Most outdoor places restrict use of alcohol, but even if you can drink, consider not doing so. Drinking can lessen people’s resolve to maintain proper social distance.
Avoid shared surfaces. If you’re eating with friends, make sure that nobody is sharing utensils or finger foods. If you’re using disposable cutlery and plates, put out an open, shared garbage that everyone can easily access.
Bring along hand sanitizer and your mask. Frequent handwashing is still key, as is wearing your mask, especially if you get closer than six feet to people going in or out of the area.
Bring your own everything: Water bottle, lawn chairs, umbrellas, picnic blankets. No sharing.
Keep up your other good warm-weather habits. Preventing COVID-19 is super-important, but don’t forget everything else you need to do to keep safe and healthy this season: wear sunscreen, stay hydrated, wear a bike helmet.
You do you. Remember, you need to factor in your own health and risk factors as well as those who live with you who you may be inadvertently exposing.
Update: May 18, 2020
I've heard about the new pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome (PMIS). What is it and what should I know?
PMIS (sometimes referred to as PIMS) is a new, evolving condition increasingly described across the nation, especially in the New York area. This is what we currently know:
- A small number of children, from ages 0 to 21 years old, have recently presented with fever, rash, red eyes and inflamed mucous membranes, often with associated vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain. Labs tests indicate that these children frequently have history of exposure to COVID-19 and often test positive for the antibody test for COVID-19.
- PMIS particularly affects the heart with inflammation in the muscle (called myocarditis) and blood vessels. PMIS does not usually present as COVID-19 with respiratory symptoms or pneumonia.
- The symptoms of PMIS are similar to that of Kawasaki disease, which also causes inflammation of the heart and coronary blockages. Similar to Kawasaki, PMIS can send children into a toxic shock, with low blood pressure and inability to circulate oxygen and nutrients throughout the body. Treatments for the syndrome are also evolving but often include steroids, antibiotics, antiviral agents, aspirin and immunoglobulin infusions. Presently hospitalization is recommended for observation and treatment. As of May 12, there were nearly 100 suspected cases in New York State, including two cases here at TBHC.
- If your child has fever, rash, red eyes, cracked lips, a bright red tongue abdominal pain or any other symptoms that make you suspicious of PMIS, please call your doctor, or make an appointment with a TBHC pediatrician at 1-833-TBHC-NOW (1-883-824-2669). Bring your child to our pediatric emergency department any time of the day or night if you are unable to reach your provider or if your child has a fever more than 102F and a rash.
Update: May 12, 2020
You may have found yourself turning to cereal while you're at home. Is this healthy, and are there alternatives?
Many of us have turned to eating childhood comfort foods and cereal neatly falls into that category. When you reach for cereal, here are some tips to make it slightly healthier:
- Pay attention to serving size. It’s easy to pour double or even triple the serving size. Measure your typical pour once to see what you consider a serving size and what the box’s label considers a serving size.
- Try to look for cereals that are whole grain and have minimal added sugar. Add some sliced fresh fruit for a healthy punch.
- If you’re turning to cereal as a snack food, pour it out once and put the box away.
- Look for alternatives to cereal for breakfast: Break up your cereal routine with hard-boiled eggs, whole-wheat toast with peanut butter, yogurt with fruit.
- Choose alternatives to cereal for snacks: Try air-popped popcorn, cut up vegetables with a side bowl of salsa for dipping, a homemade yogurt-and-fruit smoothie.
Should I wear a mask while exercising outdoors?
New York State requires everyone to wear a mask when they’re outside and cannot socially distance. Masks help curb the spread of infection for others since the virus spreads through infected droplets. The chances of spread increases when you are nearer than six feet to a person outside your household, which is quite likely when in, say, a tight NYC grocery store.
When you’re walking, running or doing other exercise outdoors, however, you’re more likely to maintain distance and breathe air that’s distributed over a large area. Unless you’re directly behind someone, it’s unlikely that you’re breathing in air with their respiratory droplets, which is why you may remove your mask and more comfortably exercise if — and this is the big if — you can stay socially distanced. That means, bottom line, if you cannot stay more than six feet away from others while exercising, you must wear a mask doing so. Even if you are in the clear, always have a mask on hand so that you can put it back on if, for instance, you run by a busy intersection.
Before you go outside, make sure that your mask fits properly, otherwise you might impair your hearing or vision. Wash your hands before you go outside, so that there is a minimal chance of you coming in contact with the infected droplets, and you can safely put on and remove your mask.
Again, if you choose to exercise in a place where you cannot socially distance, a mask is required. In these cases, the way you breathe will feel different. Mentally prepare yourself that it may be uncomfortable, especially if you sweat or have a runny nose while exercising. And, do not try and run in an N95 mask; not only are those meant for healthcare workers, but it will make it harder for you to breathe.
Can I go back to my doctor for non-COVID care?
If you are experiencing symptoms that would have led you to visit the doctor before COVID-19 (pain, injury or high fever), then, by all means, call your doctor. Your doctor may want to talk to you in a telemedicine visit first. The practice will undoubtedly have lots of information to share with you on how they will keep you safe if you need to come to the office. Here are some tips to do your part to help the experience go smoothly:
- Whether you are doing a telemedicine or in-person visit, aim to be as efficient as possible. Create a list of your symptoms, how you’ve been treating them at home and how long you’ve had your symptoms and their changes. Summarize your symptoms as succinctly as possible and prioritize your most urgent symptom first.
- If you can take a picture of your symptom, like a rash, do so and send it to your doctor ahead of time.
- If you are doing a telemedicine appointment, call from the quietest place available to you. Troubleshoot any technical issues you may experience beforehand (for instance, a bad internet connection).
- Have any health equipment in your household that you may need near you, such as a thermometer or blood pressure monitor.
- If you are going into the office, be prepared that you will probably need to wear a mask and have your temperature taken before you enter the office.
- If you don’t have a primary care physician, now may be the time to get one. Many are still accepting new patients. You can call 1-833-TBHC-NOW (833-824-2669) to find a great doctor who takes your insurance and is convenient to where you live or work.
- Remember, 911 is still available for emergencies. If you experience heart attack or stroke symptoms, you should still call 911 and get examined by trained professionals. Hospitals are still treating non-COVID patients and remain the safest place for you to get evaluated in a true emergency.
Update: May 4, 2020
My glasses keep fogging up when I wear a mask. What do I do?
Make sure your mask is molded and fits snugly against your face. Some medical masks have strips that can fit to your nose. If you don’t have that, you can add pipe cleaners to fabric masks, or tape the top of your mask with some form of adhesive (i.e. medical tape or a bandage). The goal is to have no air escape the top of your mask.
If you can’t find a way to seal your mask, pull your mask as high as you can and place your glasses on the bridge of your nose. Your glasses may be able to weigh the mask down.
You can try at-home remedies for treating lenses so that they don’t fog up, like washing your lenses with soapy water right before donning your mask. You can also take a dab of shaving cream and wipe your lenses down before you go out. Some lens cleaning sprays come with anti-fog formulas. However, don’t spit on your lenses — spreading saliva in a world where COVID-19 is still rampant is not recommended.
As more people are going out, how can I make sure I'm properly social distancing, and that others do the same?
Here are some tips to make sure you continue to respect boundaries as we approach a post-quarantine world:
- When you’re outside: If you encounter an eager jogger or person in the grocery store who just has to get to where they’re going and are within six feet, step away and establish boundaries. Be kind, but resolute. Remember these precautions are to keep both of you safe. Also, if you are that person who is in a rush, consider the golden rule: treat others how you wish to be treated.
- In shared spaces: Do your best to keep as appropriately distanced as possible from others. If you cannot easily do that, say in a shared elevator, make sure you are wearing a mask that covers both your nose and mouth. Wash your hands vigilantly.
- At home: When you’re home, be mindful and respectful that nearby neighbors might also be working at home.
- Reach out to friends and family: Stay connected to your support system through phone, texts, or social media.
- Be extra kind. Everyone is experiencing the difficulties and fear of quarantine. Some people may lash out because of irritation and stress. React from a place of kindness and empathy.
- Limit trips outside your home. The most effective way to fight COVID-19 still remains implementing proper social distancing measures and only leaving the house for essential activities. Even as people begin to go outside, brainstorm ways you can limit your own exposure.
Update: April 27, 2020
We've been at home for a while. How do I find the motivation to work out?
Exercising can help you differentiate the weekdays from the weekends and establish a routine, along with being great for your mental health. If you’re struggling to find motivation, it may help to set aside a corner and a time meant solely for working out. Lay out workout clothes and when the time comes, you have a ready-made area to exercise. If you find motivation from groups, get a few friends on video chat and all work out together, or promise to do a workout at the same time. There are also simple ways to keep yourself moving that you can incorporate throughout the day: when you’re on a phone call, pace back and forth. If you have access to a stairwell, walk up and down a couple times to get your heart rate up.
If you want more structured workouts, here are a few online resources to help:
- Some national gym chains are offering free classes online. Planet Fitness posts workouts to their Facebook page and Orange Theory posts daily workouts on YouTube. Nike and SoulCycle, among other fitness brands are also offering content for free. Check this out for a more comprehensive list of free online workouts.
- For a more chill workout, Yoga with Adriene is a popular YouTube channel with easy-to-follow yoga classes. Modo Yoga is also posting free workouts on their Instagram.
- For family friendly workouts, the YMCA 360 has videos meant for the whole family.
- Check if your local gym or studio is posting their own content online, so that you can support local businesses.
What are ways to keep my child learning during quarantine?
Remember, it’s not just your child that is learning differently — it’s students and teachers, too. Take the time to understand your child’s learning habits. If they are a strong learner, they might adapt more quickly to this newfound independence, but that might not be the case for your child. Then, it might be beneficial to plan study sessions with other children over video chat, and keep an open line of communication between you and your child.
For younger children, their schooling might include using toys like building blocks to keep their hands engaged. For older students, it may be harder for them to remain engaged with their schoolwork. Create check-ins so that both you and your child know that they are keeping themselves on track. If they are falling behind, devise a plan that can get them back up to speed. Remember, everyone is adjusting to this new type of education.
Carving out a physical space for your child to learn, just as you would for a work-from-home office, could be beneficial to you both. Encourage passion projects—many programs are transitioning online now, so if your child wants to pick up a new instrument or learn a language, this is an easy opportunity to keep them occupied and motivated.
Pay attention to your child’s mental health. Make sure that they aren’t too overwhelmed: watch their eating and sleeping habits, and if you are concerned, speak with their teacher, who may be able to give you context and, if necessary, help you with mental health support.
Update: April 20, 2020
My hands are dry after all this handwashing. What do I do?
We all know the drill by now — to prevent the spread of COVID-19, wash your hands for a full 20 seconds, and make sure you are vigilant about washing them when you come into contact with anything that has been outside. But with all of this handwashing, you may find that your hands are dry and cracked.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, there are ways to still effectively wash your hands and limit skin irritation:
- When washing your hands, use lukewarm water and use gentle, fragrance-free hand soap.
- Apply moisturizer immediately after washing your hands, ideally a hand cream without any irritants such as fragrances or allergens. If your hands are extra dry, look for creams that include mineral oils or petrolatum.
- Wear gloves while cleaning with harsh chemicals.
- Before going to bed, slather on a thick hand cream or Vaseline and wear cotton gloves to allow the cream to have enough time to properly hydrate your skin.
It’s important to note that even if your hands do feel dry, it is important that you continue to keep washing them.
Update: April 13, 2020
This has been a really hard time for me. Who do I turn to for help?
COVID-19 has disrupted much of what we considered to be “normal” in our day-to-day life, so here are some resources, should you need it:
- The General New York City helpline, 311, is available to answer your coronavirus questions.
- The New York City support line, 1-888-NYC-WELL (1-888-692-9355), provides free, mental health, crisis and substance abuse support and information, available 24/7 by phone and text.
- The New York State Emotional Support line, 1-844-863-9314, is staffed by volunteers who are trained in crisis counseling and help those with increased anxiety due to the coronavirus outbreak.
- If you are feeling unsafe or threatened, call the New York State domestic abuse hotline at 1-800-942-6906.
- If you are feeling anxiety, Headspace has partnered with Governor Andrew Cuomo to provide free meditation resources. Visit Headspace to find out more.
Update: April 6, 2020
Can I get COVID-19 from a package?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), it is unlikely that you can contract the virus from a package alone. However, as with everything, it’s a good idea to practice good hand hygiene and thoroughly wash your hands before and after you handle the package. Dispose of the external cardboard outside your home if possible.
What is the best way to grocery shop?
Of course, the best way to fight the virus is to remain at home. But here are some stay-safe tips:
- Limit your grocery store trips to once a week or every other week.
- Go when the store is less crowded and do your best to distance yourself from others. Some places have implemented markers to show a six-feet mark within the checkout lines.
- It’s a good idea to disinfect your cart handle with some wipes and to wash your hands before and after entering the store.
- Current recommendation from the City is to wear a mask if you are outside of the home. Homemade cloth ones will do.
- It’s not necessary to disinfect your groceries — the FDA has not found any evidence that COVID-19 can be transferred via food or food packaging. It’s okay to be using reusable grocery bags, too, as the virus does not appear to be easily transmittable on fabric. It may be worth cleaning them more often.
- If it is financially viable for you, getting your groceries delivered is also a good option to limit your exposure.
- If you live alone and are health-compromised, you may want to ask a friend or neighbor to pick up a few things for you on their regular trips.
Update: March 30, 2020
What exactly does it mean to be immunocompromised?
There are different levels of immune compromised, which basically means having an impaired immune system. This refers to people (of varying degrees) with chronic heart, lung, liver or kidney disease, or some patients with advanced diabetes or AIDS, or who are taking immunosuppressive medications, like people undergoing cancer treatment. People such as these may be vulnerable because their bodies don’t effectively fight off diseases or infections, such as COVID-19. If you think you are immunocompromised, talk to your doctor about specific instructions on how to protect yourself during these challenging times. Make sure the people you live with take special care to monitor their exposure so they don’t pass the virus on to you.
Is COVID-19 really just an “old person’s disease”?
It does appear that those 50 and older are at more at risk for hospitalization and complications. As people get older, they also tend to develop pre-existing conditions, which compound their vulnerability. However, there are many COVID-19 cases in New York among people between the ages of 18 and 49. So far, it seems like children are not a high-risk group for COVID-19, unlike the flu.
It’s dangerous to make sweeping generalizations about COVID-19, particularly because the worldwide data is preliminary and could be affected by many different variables. Bottom line: while there may be different rates of severity and recovery for COVID-19, no age group is safe. Everyone should take care of their own health and the health of those around them. Remember, wash hands frequently, practice social distancing and stay at home if possible.
Update: March 23, 2020
How do I find out if information is accurate?
Misinformation is rampant right now, and TBHC is here to help:
- Do your research, and constantly check in with the science and medical experts: CDC guidelines and WHO (EPI-WIN — the WHO Information Network for Epidemics).
- Fact-check rumors and threads on social media, including tweets from celebrities.
- Only share factual and credited advice from the experts to maintain calm and connected.
- Stay alert and pay special attention to posts that sound like rumors or hoaxes.
- Note who in your circle is spreading false info unintentionally and kindly let them know.
Some great resources:
- Snopes: The internet’s fact-checking resource
- NPR: How to spot misinformation and flood of fake news
- Buzzfeed: Running list of latest coronavirus disinformation
How can I protect my mental health?
- Take periodic breaks from coronavirus news and social media. Consider setting times you check the news and limit it to that.
- Take care of your body. Deep breaths, stretch, meditate, repeat. Try eating healthy, well-balanced meals, exercising, and getting a full 8 hours of sleep.
- Make time to do things you always wanted to do. Binge-watch a series? Read? Clean? Craft? Now’s the time!
- Connect with others while practicing social distancing via online communities. Make a group chat with friends and family. Try a video chat; WhatsApp and Houseparty are some free apps!
- Practice positive thinking. Take a step back, remind yourself you and the experts are doing the best they can to keep us all safe. Remember, we’re all in this together.
- Ask for more support from those you love if you’re feeling vulnerable. Schedule a daily phone call with a friend or a FaceTime chat with all the family.
- If you are seeing a mental health professional, ask to keep connected via phone.
Update: March 16, 2020
What's the difference between coronavirus and COVID-19?
Viruses and the diseases they cause have separate names. For example, HIV is a virus, AIDS is the disease that HIV causes. The virus itself is called severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), though it is now commonly called “novel coronavirus” or simply “coronavirus.” The disease this coronavirus causes is named COVID-19.
In light of the COVID-19 outbreak, there have been reports of bias against certain ethnicities and careers, such as toward people of Asian descent or healthcare professionals. It’s important to remember that disease doesn’t discriminate, people do.
Remember to not reinforce harmful stereotypes, and to know the facts about COVID-19. It’s important that we support one another and do our part to keep our community safe.
Update: March 13, 2020
Should I disinfect my cell phone?
To date, there is no evidence that COVID-19 can spread via phones. So, as with all high-touch surfaces, it's a good idea to regularly disinfect.
For iPhones, Apple recently amended its guidelines so that customers can permissibly use disinfecting wipes (such as clean 70 percent isopropyl alcohol wipes or Clorox Disinfecting Wipes) without ruining the protective coating on the glass. According to Apple's updated guide, you can gently use these products to clean the display, keyboard and other exterior surfaces.
Android carriers, such as Samsung, have yet to release any official statements on what to disinfect their phones with. However, pre-moistened lens wipes are safe to use. Still: avoid getting moisture into any of the openings. Do not submerge your phone in any cleaning agents either — regardless of being a waterproof or water-resistant model. And don't forget to clean your phone case!