TBHC in the NY Times: Courage Inside a Brooklyn Hospital Confronting Coronavirus
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: 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.
Can my pet get COVID-19?
According to the CDC, there is no evidence as of yet that pets can spread COVID-19. However, experts suggest, if possible, let another person take care of your pet and avoid contact if you suspect you have coronavirus. Talk to your veterinarian about your concerns.
Update: March 23, 2020
I’ve been infected with COVID-19, am I immune?
Currently, the science and healthcare community are working hard to better understand COVID-19. What we know: the coronavirus is a rapidly evolving situation and extremely contagious. But if you get it, can you get infected more than once? Are you immune? Unfortunately, there is evidence to suggest that you may catch COVID-19 more than once, similar to the common cold or flu. It is uncertain at this moment if someone can be immune.
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
How am I going to keep sane at home?
The message has been loud and clear from public health officials: if you can, stay home and avoid crowds. If you’re home under quarantine or if you are not well, obviously take care and follow your provider’s orders.
- Clean your windows, oven, medicine cabinet; think spring cleaning.
- Organize digital photos, recipes. Delete outdated email and unsubscribe to unwanted ones.
- Hang that gallery wall! Do any fun little project on your to-do list.
- Learn a language. There are lots of free YouTube videos and learning platforms like Duolingo.com.
- Start a journal. Start a blog.
- Explore podcasts; binge watch the TV series you’ve been meaning to see.
- Start reading all the books on your shelves. The ones you don’t want to keep, stack in a corner to give away later.
- Mend and iron your clothes.
- Try yoga or meditation. There are lots of free resources online.
- Visit a museum or exotic spot, virtually. Google Arts & Culture (artsandculture.google.com) offers “tours” of collections from around the world.
- Listen to some new music you haven’t heard before. While you’re at it, dance!
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
How is COVID-19 spread?
What is currently understood about COVID-19 is that it spreads person-to-person among close contacts via droplets produced from coughs or sneezes. It is also possible to spread COVID-19 via touching infected surfaces and then touching your nose, mouth or eyes.
With an incubation period that lasts 2 to 14 days, symptoms associated with COVID-19 include mild to severe respiratory illness with symptoms of fever, cough and shortness of breath. Spread in the absence of symptoms is possible, however, those who are symptomatic are the most contagious.
How can I prepare myself and my family at home?
- Wash your hands often with soap and water or 60% alcohol-based hand sanitizer for at least 20 seconds.
- Wash your hands before you eat and after you use the bathroom, sneeze or cough. Also wash your hands when you come into your home from a public place.
- Do not touch your face unless your hands are washed.
- Do not share food, utensils, cups or towels.
- Avoid close contact (6 feet) with people who appear to have a respiratory infection.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
- Get a flu shot! Don’t get sick from influenza and get confused by those symptoms, too!
Should I disinfect my cell phone?
To date, there is no evidence that COVID-19 can spread via phones, but studies suggest that other types of coronavirus have the ability to survive on glass and plastic surfaces for about nine days. 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!
What is a smart way to approach stocking up my household?
Prescription medications: In case of quarantine, federal health officials recommend people have on hand a several-week supply of the prescription drugs they routinely take for chronic conditions. Call your local pharmacist or provider to help coordinate with possible insurance glitches. They can help advocate for you!
Over-the-counter medications: Since we are still in the midst of cold and flu season, keep some medication in your medicine cabinet. Make sure you have acetaminophen (like Tylenol) or ibuprofen (like Advil) to help treat fevers and aches. Make sure to grab a thermometer so that you can confirm a potential fever.
Hand cleanser: Obtain hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Remember: According to the CDC, soap and water for 20 seconds remains the best defense mechanism. Consider sanitizer a supplement when you can't get to running water.
Robust Wi-Fi: Astrong wi-fi signal in your home or apartment will allow you to study or work from home if necessary.
Please note: Overbuying or panic-buying the following products minimizes access to those patients who truly need these items. Let's continue to protect each other and our community by listening to the experts and stockpiling smart — that means with reasonable amounts of these things:
Disinfectant cleaning products: Follow the label instructions on your household products. Clean the items you come in contact with often (aka "high-touch") items. These include countertops, all handles, switches and electronics.
Food: Buy a couple of weeks' worth of long-lasting staples like rice, beans, pasta, canned vegetables, and shelf-stable milk to avoid frequent trips to the market — where outside contact is likely. Don't forget your pets. They're hungry and want to be healthy, too!
Household products: Buy enough paper towels, tissues and toilet paper for two weeks. Pick up extra garbage bags so you can safely toss contaminated tissues and paper towels.
Should I make my own hand sanitizer at home?
The short answer is: No. The CDC recommends using hand sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol, which can be hard to replicate at home. Store-bought hand sanitizers also include ingredients that balance the harsh effects of the alcohol. Creating a Do-lt-Yourself (DIY) sanitizer may not include the proper measurements for balanced ingredients and effective cleaning. The most effective way still remains simple: use soap and water and wash your hands for 20 seconds.
Update: March 9, 2020