As we head closer to winter, coronavirus case numbers in Missouri continue to trend upward with over 12,000 reported cases and more than 150 deaths in Jackson County alone.
Necessary precautions against COVID-19 have largely affected day to day life: more adults are being forced to work from home, numerous school districts are not allowing students to meet in-person for their education, and everyone has had to learn social distancing. While concern continues over how to protect against the disease, it’s important to know how to manage fear of Covid.
Fear is a survival mechanism and helps the body choose what to do during threatening events. But living in constant fear can have a negative impact on your health and lead to other consequences. Ericka Beeler, Director of Business Development and Marketing at St. Joseph Medical Center, saw emergency department visits decline by almost 40% initially. “Patients who did present to the ER were extremely sick, so it was obvious that they delayed seeking care until they were near a critical status,” Beeler says.
Chronic fear can cause harm to the immune system, which is troubling when dealing with Covid, because a good immune system can help to recover from it. Daniel Barnett, Communications Manager for Swope Health, says patients who experience increased levels of stress, fear and anxiety can depend on programs like Swope Health’s Missouri Show Me Hope, a crisis counseling program. “Funding is available to us and other public safety net providers to provide extra emotional support during these difficult times,” says Barnett.
Providing quality patient care during the Covid pandemic has not been without challenges. “Our current biggest challenge is staffing,” says Beeler. “As social distancing fatigue has developed, and people are socializing more we have seen an increase in the number of our staff and their family’s members testing positive. This necessitates mandatory quarantine which stresses staffing. We have an excellent process to monitor our employees who are on quarantine so we can bring them back to work as quickly as possible,” says Beeler.
For adolescent patients, Swope Health has made key adjustments to the pandemic. “On the medical side, we’ve been able to successfully transition most children and teens to telehealth visits, unless it’s newborns with issues that must be monitored or children/teens who have chronic conditions that need to be closely monitored,” says Barnett, adding that it’s a little more complicated on the behavioral health side: “For some of our clients, talking to their psychiatrist or psychologist remotely has been disconcerting. So, for them, we endeavor to arrange face-to-face, masked, social-distanced sessions,” says Barnett.
Future challenges can be prevented by playing it safe. Tim Van Zandt, Vice President for Government and Community Relations for Saint Luke’s Health System, says, “Everyone needs to be doing everything possible to reduce transmission of the virus to ensure that the necessary capacity is there to respond to the needs of all patients who require care, which is even more important to remember as we enter flu season, which is why everyone should be getting their flu shot.”
There are several tips you can follow to stay safe and minimize fear. When getting news about Covid, make sure that the news you are watching, or reading is a reliable source so that the information you are fed doesn’t end up being detrimental to you. You can also check other sources to see if the information lines up. Van Zandt recommends that people “follow the science.”
Doing something that you enjoy can help to minimize fear of Covid, but safety measures should still be followed. “Masks and social distancing are vitally important to stopping the spread,” says Beeler. “When the community opened back up and people began to congregate in groups again without masks and social distancing, we definitely saw an increase in cases.”
According to Barnett, the pandemic will most likely be an issue for most of 2021. “A vaccine will emerge at some point in early 2021,” says Barnett, “but it will take months to disseminate to the public, so don’t let your guard down! Stay safe!”
By Jeremiah Jennings
Jeremiah is a 10th grader in Journalism 1 class at Ruskin High School