Updated: Mar 15
"We do not see things as they are, we see things as we are."
What is a pandemic? And what can I do? There is no universal agreed upon definition of the word pandemic. It generally means an outbreak across many countries and continents and typically effects a large number of people. The word helps to clarify that it is not a series of locally contained outbreak. The Coronavirus or COVID-19 has caused fear and panic in many across the world.
The Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw is informing Albertans with recommendations to protect infection and the spread of COVID-19. Decisions are made and changing frequently as we navigate and learn about the virus.
If you are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms (fever, tiredness and dry cough), then phone 811 for direction. But if looking for information - refer to the websites first. The phone lines are very busy, so please be patient as your call is being answered. The AHS website also has a coronavirus self-assessment to help determine if you need to be tested. Please note, you do not need to be tested if in the past 14 days you have not traveled outside Canada nor had contact with someone diagnosed as having COVID-19.
For the first time, I traveled alone outside of Canada in February 2020 to challenge my anxiety and OCD. When I returned, I developed cold/flu type symptoms so I self-isolated and called 811. A paramedic visited my house on a Friday at 7pm. She changed into new personal protective equipment in my backyard. She used a long q-tip to swab the back of my nose. It did not hurt, nor bother me. The paramedic was very kind and explained everything - even though I was her last patient of a very long day. A couple days later, 811 phoned and my results were negative. I received a lot of criticism for traveling. It did not feel good. However, it appears people are acting out of fear and looking to place blame. I recommend keeping opinions to ourselves at this time.
The COVID-19 is here in Alberta and cases will rise as the virus spreads. To slow the rate of the spread, Dr. Hinshaw recommends that all Alberta events of 250 or more be cancelled. Currently, this does not extend to places of worship, grocery stores, malls or airports (Edmonton Journal). Events with more than 50 people that will have international participants, health-care professionals or high-risk populations like seniors also should be cancelled. Each store, recreation centre, etc. will have their own set of instructions, but should follow the AHS recommendations. Why is it recommended to cancel large events? To slow the rate of the inevitable spread. Why slow the spread of the virus? To flatline the curve and not send a wave of Albertans to the hospital at once as there are only so many beds, staff, and supplies.
Schools and daycares remain open at this time, but are encouraged to avoid large gatherings. Dr. Hinshaw is concerned that closing schools will merely shift children in large groups to other places. Dr. Hindshaw assures parents that cases of the virus in children typically involve mild symptoms.
All of my sporting events are cancelled now. But I respect the decisions made even if some are a bit confusing (some cancelled, some not) because there are no clear certain answers in this time of uncertainty. I personally think AHS is doing an excellent job at making decisions and taking care of us.
Effective March 12, all travellers returning from outside Canada must self-isolate for 14 days and monitor for symptoms. Alberta can make these recommendations, however, "the spread of the virus is in the hands of the Canadians" as no one can actually force Canadians or Albertans to self-isolate. As of March 14 COVID-19 Alberta test results 6,791 are negative, 29 are positive.
The Albertans at most risk are the older population and those with pre-existing medical conditions (such as high blood pressure, heart disease, lung disease, cancer or diabetes) appear to develop serious illness more often than others. In 15,000 COVID-19 cases in Italy, 1000 people passed away because the Italian population is the oldest in Europe. Most who passed were in their 80's or 90's. The coronavirus causes respiratory problems, and in worst cases pneumonia, where people experience trouble breathing.
I work in Health Care in Long Term Care. I am concerned for the COVID-19 to reach the people who are mostly older adults and/or have pre-existing medical conditions. AHS is taking extra precaution to protect them. Us as staff are following protocols. Over the years, we build close relationships with the people who live in long term care and we are taught as though "we are working in their home." Many staff already experience grief and loss in the long term care field. It's more than just a job. If the COVID-19 reach long term care, it will not only effect the residents and family, but staff as well. Another reason to cover your cough, wash your hands and stay home when sick.
How much do we need to stock up with food? At my First Aid class on Thursday, the instructor said to always have 2-3 months worth of food supplies at home. That is all. This includes the canned or dried (rice, lentils, beans) goods.
Why are people panic shopping and is it necessary? One article describes it as "retail therapy," buying goods to handle emotional state. Why are people buying so much toilet paper? What I have read is that people are watching each other buying toilet paper and following. An empty shelf poses a risk. People are looking for some type of guidance and to gain back control in this uncertain time.
I live with OCD and anxiety, but therapy has given me the tools to live with uncertainty, to not act out of emotions and to give myself compassion. Worrying feels productive, but it is not. It wastes time and causes more distress. I interrupt worry with my awareness, an activity or meditation. I do my best to be present and take it one day at a time. I choose to control things that I can - like choosing to engage in leisure to bring joy and autonomy - reading a book, painting my nails, playing with my dog, getting out in nature, baking, etc. I limit time following the COVID-19. I choose to apply ERP when I feel afraid. I choose to give myself positive self-talk and self-compassion when I start to feel bad or guilty - "I did the best I could." I choose to avoid catastrophizing (believing that something is far worse than it actually is) or taking responsibility for actions that are not related to me (believing I have more control over what happens in the world than I actually do.) Becoming self-aware is one of the best gifts I have given to myself, along with the ability to engage in leisure and recreation.
I encourage you to join the aocdf chatrooms to meet others who live with OCD too. First, become a member on the website and then download the WIX app. We are stronger than we think and we've got this - together. We have the skills, strength and community!
Written by Jennifer Masek