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: August 31, 2020
How do I talk to my kids about the importance of social distancing?
- Use simple language to explain social distancing. This video from Sesame Street can help.
- Redefine what it means to care about someone — in this case, caring about someone means that you have to be physically distant from them, whether it be a stranger or a friend.
- Emphasize how easily germs and the virus can spread from person-to-person contact.
- Invent games that encourage social distancing. Create rewards for staying six feet away from other people in public places. Make teams within your family, keep score.
- Demonstrate what a crowded space might look like in advance: cut out pictures from a magazine and illustrate a scene outside. Space the magazine cutouts physically apart to signify social distancing, so that your kids have a visual to remember.
FOR ELEMENTARY SCHOOLERS:
- Focus on the positives of social distancing when talking to your kids. It helps them feel less helpless and cultivate a sense of community, when they realize their precautions can help others.
- Make sure that you learn what kind of support your child needs. Discuss what would make them feel better: they might need a standing good-night hug or a certain meal when they’re upset.
- Be honest about what we know and don’t know about the virus, and empathize with your child’s concerns.
- Tell your kids that social distancing brings about a new, innovative way to connect with friends, even when you’re physically distant. Though it may not be what they’re used to, explain that it means they can get creative with socializing, whether its virtual meet-ups or socializing from a distance.
- Teenagers generally feel as if they’re invincible. Remind them that the virus affects everyone, and that because the virus is so contagious, it can affect them and everyone else around them. Emphasize how the main way of spreading is person-to-person contact, so even an in-person meet up that feels low risk might not be.
- Remind them of the bigger picture — it’s not all about you. Social distancing helps protect vulnerable populations. Also emphasize how hard it is to predict how the virus will affect your child, regardless of their own health or underlying conditions.
- Set up emotional check-ins with your child. Discuss if this was an ideal world, what would they want to do? Come up with creative solutions, even if only one aspect of what they want is possible. This will help bridge the gap between the “new normal” and a pre-pandemic world, as well as helping your child normalize the world we live in now, and help bridge the gap between the old world and the new.
- Talk to them about peer pressure in the context of social distancing and how to respond. For instance, if their friends are having a social distanced hang-out, but it turns into a large gathering, what will they do? Establish an action plan to help your child navigate.
- Personalize stories about what it means to interact with a vulnerable person, so that they can see how the consequences of their actions can affect people in real life, rather than in an abstract way.
Update: August 10, 2020
How do I talk to my kids about COVID-19?
Before engaging your children in conversation, read up on the most recent news from reputable sources, like the CDC or WHO, as well as keep up with NYC’s guidelines. The CDC also posted advice on how to talk to your children about COVID.
- Define the virus to them in simple terms. Check out NPR’s comic for kids.
- Discuss how the virus spreads, how masks help, how you can’t see the virus, and the most effective ways to prevent it: washing your hands, wearing masks outside and social distancing.
FOR ELEMENTARY SCHOOLERS:
- Choose a time that your kids will be most likely to talk, like at a family dinner or activity. Let your children guide the discussion. See what questions they have and take every question seriously. Be honest about what you do and don’t know. Promise you’ll get answers if they are out there.
- Let them know it’s okay to be upset and that you’re always open for discussion. Update them when new information comes out or when new restrictions are put in place.
- Discuss why they’re hearing so much about COVID-19. Emphasize that it’s a new disease and that experts worldwide are working around the clock to keep people as safe as possible.
- Make a new routine for your family — fun activities like puzzles, art projects, baking or reading. Structure out your respective days: set aside time for chores, playtime and schooling. This will help kids feel more in control and establish a sense of normalcy.
- Emphasize virtual socializing. Schedule regular video chats with relatives and friends, so your kids don’t feel as isolated.
- Keep an eye on how they’re coping. If you notice consistent problems with their sleeping patterns or eating habits, consult their doctor.
- Set limits on when they look at the news or how much time they spend on social media. The 24/7 news cycle can be overwhelming and can cause heightened fears about the virus and/or spread misinformation.
- Set the tone for the discussion. Make it as hopeful, calm and rational as possible. Remember to not place blame for the virus on certain ethnic, racial or cultural groups.
- Deal with your own anxiety before talking to your children, so you don’t convey your own worries onto them.
- At this age, friends tend to be a large part of a teenager’s life. Have direct conversations about any frustrations they may be feeling and see if you can come up with a way for them to creatively socialize with their friends.
- Support them in remote schooling. Teenagers don’t require as much hands-on supervision as younger children but helping your child now before school begins is smart. Encourage them to come up with a schedule and problem-solve what they foresee as struggles.
- Encourage healthy habits, like eating balanced meals, getting enough sleep, and having some form of activity. If they are overwhelmed or stressed, look into mindfulness techniques, yoga or meditation to help them reduce their anxiety.
Update: July 27, 2020
By now, you’ve probably already talked to your kids about COVID-19, but there’s still plenty of ground to cover. Here are some tips to get your kids to wear masks.
What is the best way to talk to my child about wearing a mask?
FOR CHILDREN OF ALL AGES:
- Model good mask-wearing habits.
- Establish clear and concrete rules about when you and your children need to be wearing a mask. Explain which situations require a mask, and which ones might not (err on the side of caution)!
- Praise your children for good mask-wearing behavior.
- Let them help you pick out a mask. Go for bright, fun colors or ones that feature book or television characters that they like.
- Show them videos geared towards younger children on the importance of wearing a mask. Check out this one by PBS or this Facebook video.
- Have your children wear a mask at home so that they can get adjusted to the feeling and fit of the mask before stepping out in public.
- If your child has developmental or sensory issues, make sure they are as comfortable as possible. For instance, choose a soft fabric over a paper mask. If your child’s skin becomes irritated under their mask, talk to your doctor.
- If ear-loops bother them, find a mask that ties on the back of the head, or sew buttons onto a headband and hook the mask over them.
FOR CHILDREN ELEMENTARY-SCHOOL AGE AND UP:
- Children work well when they understand the matter at hand. Explain why ;they have to wear a mask, and reference the videos above, if helpful.
- Let them decorate their own masks.
- Kids these ages tend to want to help others; emphasize how wearing a mask benefits you, your family and your community.
- Instead of asking if your child is comfortable with the mask on (since the answer will most likely be no), keep an eye on them to make sure they are as comfortable as possible.
- If their own breath bothers them, try giving them scented lip balm or hard candy.
- Remember, anything you can get your child to wear is better than nothing at all.
- Children work well when they understand the matter at hand. Explain why they have to wear a mask, and reference the videos above, if helpful.
- Let them decorate their own masks.
- Kids these ages tend to want to help others; emphasize how wearing a mask benefits you, your family and your community.
- Instead of asking if your child is comfortable with the mask on (since the answer will most likely be no), keep an eye on them to make sure they are as comfortable as possible.
- If their own breath bothers them, try giving them scented lip balm or hard candy.
- Remember, anything you can get your child to wear is better than nothing at all.
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.
What is the safest way to travel by plane?
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.
I am using video calls now to talk to family and friends, or to take business meetings. Any tips?
- Sometimes you may hear an echo or feedback through video calls, which can be quite annoying. To fix this, try to use headphones or earbuds with a built-in-microphone.
- If you’re in a business call, make sure your background is something you’re comfortable with others seeing, like a bookshelf or a plain wall. If that isn’t possible, you can try the creative solution of utilizing Zoom’s virtual backgrounds. Position yourself against a plain background, and then go to Zoom’s settings and click on virtual backgrounds. Now, you look as if you’re sitting anywhere in the world, all from the comfort of your own home.
- Hard to find good lighting? Bounce the light off the wall in front of you with a desk lamp. If that isn’t possible, make sure that you are facing the light source (for instance, don’t sit with your back to a window).
- If you’re in a group call, try and let one person speak at a time. Interruptions that feel natural in person make it difficult to follow the conversation on a video or conference call.
I don't have enough face masks. What are easy tips to make one?
To make a mask without sewing, you will need a bandana or square cloth that is about 20 x 20 inches. If you don’t have that, a piece of an old t-shirt will work. If you can, reach for woven cotton fabric, like bedsheets or quilting fabrics. Make sure you have a paper coffee filter, rubber bands or hair ties and scissors.
First, cut off the bottom third of the coffee filter; the coffee filter will add additional help to trap virus particles. The coffee filter should be replaced after every use.
Lay your piece of fabric flat and fold lengthwise, making sure there are no wrinkles. It should look like a rectangle. The coffee filter goes directly in the center of the rectangle, lengthwise. Fold the fabric into thirds: the top third should go down, over the filter, and the bottom third up, to cover the filter.
Take your rubber bands or hair ties around your rectangular piece of fabric, about six inches in. Fold the excess fabric to the middle. Pull on the rubber bands/hair ties, loop them over your ears, and voila!
If you can sew, cut two pieces of fabric equal 10 x 6 inches in rectangular portions. Put one piece on top of the other and fold over one-quarter of the long sides, then hem. Then, fold the short sides one-half inch over, and hem again. Leave enough space to thread the hair tie or rubber band through the hem. Place the hair tie or rubber band through the wider hems on the short side, and tie the loops. Make sure the knots are tucked inside the hems. Adjust accordingly to the size of your face. When you are satisfied with the fit, stitch the hair tie or rubber band in place. There you go!
Here is a visual representation of these instructions.
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?
When NYC’s “Pause” started, it was easy to think that you’d be working out every day. Now that we’re over a month in, with the State orders extended to May 15, it’s probably hard to keep your motivation up.
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?
Here in NYC, families are going to be remote learning until the end of this school year. This new way of education might continue to be jarring for both you and your children. 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
The CDC just recommended that I wear a mask. How do I make one at home?
To reduce the risk of the virus being spread throughout the community, the CDC has recently recommended that you wear face coverings when going out in public, particularly in places where social distancing is hard to maintain (grocery stores, pharmacies).
Wearing a mask does not mean that you should not continue to social distance. In fact, before putting the mask on and taking it off, you should vigilantly wash your hands and continue to maintain a six-foot distance from everyone else.
There are many video tutorials online that detail how to make a mask at home out of old t-shirts and bandanas. You can find them on YouTube. Additionally, the CDC has released one from the Surgeon General, available on their website, John Hopkins released a list of detailed instructions, and Kaiser Permanente has released a description for those more experienced at sewing. Ideally, your cloth masks should include multiple layers, include ear loops, fit snugly be washable.
Make sure your hands are washed thoroughly both before putting on and removing the mask. If possible, wash your mask after every use, but make sure your laundry detergent will not irritate your skin on your face. If you cannot wash your mask in between uses, designate a properly labeled brown paper bag, making sure that you know which side of the bag is for the outside of the mask and which one is for the inside.
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
After you’ve recovered from COVID-19, how long before you can leave self-quarantine?
There is still much unknown about COVID-19; due to the limited data, there is no global consensus about when you are no longer contagious. You should consult your provider about best guidelines for you and your household. Generally speaking:
- If you were not able to be tested, you can leave quarantine only when you are fever-free for a full 72 hours (three days) without the use of fever reduction medication. Your other COVID-19 symptoms must have improved, and seven days must have passed since your symptoms first appeared.
- If you tested positive for COVID-19, you can leave quarantine after you no longer have a fever without the use of fever reduction medication and your other COVID-19 symptoms have improved. CDC also recommends that you have two consecutive negative test results, 24 hours apart. This strategy is not in common usage here in New York City, so check with your healthcare provider.
- If you are living with someone who was diagnosed or suspected of COVID-19, you should also self-isolate for 14 days after the initial patient displays symptoms.
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.
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
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: A strong 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 6, 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 the public place.
- Do not touch your face unless your hands are washed.
- Do not share food, utensils, cups or towels.
- Avoid close contact (six 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!