I know that the level of worry and fear is high right now as we all try to make sense of the current situation with COVID-19. In the coming weeks, our practice will be sending out communications to help keep you as informed, prepared, and calm as possible as we all weather this set of circumstances.
What is the Situation Right Now?
It is true that there are known cases of COVID-19 in the greater Chicago area. Estimates are for every one case we know of there are 5-10 more cases, who then spread to others, etc, etc. It is also true that there are many unknown cases, meaning we really don’t know for certain how widespread COVID-19 is locally (or nationally) yet. This is the case because we in the US have not had available widespread testing and because there are likely many who have mild symptoms and do not know that they have this virus. And it is the people with very mild symptoms (or no symptoms) that pose the greatest risk for spreading COVID-19 right now. This group could be quite large in size and they may be more likely to be out and about, interacting with others and spreading it because they have no idea they are shedding virus.
Given this, the number one thing we can do at this moment to help ourselves and others is to stay home.
Why Does Staying Home Matter?
Social distancing helps because we need to slow the spread of the virus – flatten the curve, as I’m sure all of you have heard about by now. If we do this, the need for hospital care for ill people will be spread out over time and we will hopefully not face the crisis that Italian hospitals are facing. They quite literally do not have enough ICU beds and ventilators for the number of patients who need them.
It is important to remember that most people who get the virus will get a mild to moderate case which will resolve without medical intervention. However up to 20% of those who contract this virus could need at least some hospital-level care and medical attention. A much smaller percent will need intensive/ICU care. However, if the Chicago area is hit hard with many people contracting the virus all at once, the number of patients in need could easily outstrip the number of hospital beds, ICU-level beds and ventilators needed if we do nothing different.
We can all do our part to help – and for the moment this means staying home and socially distancing as much as possible. It will not be forever, but we know from other places around the world that those who did shut down activities of daily life early enough before the virus really started to spread are faring much better. Whereas those that did not are in crisis at this time.
What Do I Do If I Feel Sick?
First, do not panic. Remember, even if you do have COVID-19, about 80% of cases will resolve with symptomatic care at home and need no medical intervention. But if you are having symptoms of respiratory illness, or fever, or flu-like symptoms, please stay home and call our office for more direction at 773-784-7000 or call one of the following 24-hour RN-staffed hotlines set up by two local hospitals:
Swedish Hospital COVID-19 Q&A Line: (773) 907-7700
North Shore Health Evanston Community Hotline: (847) 432-5849
Please do not DO NOT go to the ER unless you are experiencing worsening symptoms such as shortness of breath or concerning respiratory symptoms. Going there with milder symptoms will only potentially expose you to COVID-19 or other health concerns and will take staffing time and resources away from more critically ill people who may need it in the coming weeks. The hospitals have informed us that due to testing shortages currently, they will most likely be sending mild to moderate cases home without testing to self-quarantine and monitor.
However, if you are concerned and unsure what to do, please call us at the office (773-784-7000) or call one of the hotline numbers above to speak with someone who can help you sort out next steps.
This is such a trying time with much uncertainty. But we can all take simple steps based on what we are learning from our colleagues in other countries. And now is time to act to help all of us move through this in the coming weeks as safely and successfully as possible.
How Do I Avoid Getting Sick?
There are many things we can do to build our foundation of resilience and wellness. This is a fact that is often easy to forget when all we hear about is an unseen virus that is lurking out there! But simple steps are key — like eating nutritious meals, getting enough sleep, practicing meditation or some form of stress reduction, exercising and keeping your activity level up.
Danielle LaPierre, our functional nutritionist, and I will be posting information for you in the coming days on how to focus not only on defensive medicine – which we all are immersed in at the moment, but also how to put attention toward the deep importance of building our strength, our foundation, our resilience. We want to build our reserves, making our bodies inhospitable hosts to viruses and other illnesses. This is the stuff of prevention and functional medicine and it’s what we love, love, love to do.
So, more on that to come – along with some ongoing tactical advice and information to help us all navigate the realities of our daily world.
Remember, even though we are currently recommending social distancing, this does not mean that you or any of us are alone. On the contrary, now is the time to reach out – albeit by phone or video-chat with one another. Know that we are here to help if you need us — and we encourage you to reach out to others in your life as well. It can really be beneficial for them and you too!
All My Best,