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COVID-19 panic: 7 tips when you need to calm down (Video)

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Taylor Swift’s “You Need To Calm Down” seems to play on a loop in my head. As a clinical psychologist, treating dozens of people paralyzed in panic over the COVID-19 pandemic, I’m thinking it might not be so bad to consider the psychological wisdom in the lyrics of this hit pop song.

We also might do well to recall words of President Franklin D. Roosevelt during the Great Depression: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

As the COVID-19 threatens our health, our financial stability, our ability to socialize and connect, it is the anxiety because of the disease that could be more damaging to our health than disease itself. Panic is spreading more rapidly than the actual virus.

So, alright, we need to calm down. But how? Here seven strategies I share with my clients:

1. Limit your television news consumption. I am not suggesting that you should not stay informed. But there is a difference between getting information and being obsessed. Being glued to cable news coverage or your social media feed, with messages about just how bad it is and how it is going to get worse does nothing but fuel our anxieties. Give yourself a limit. I recommend no more than thirty minutes a day. And never watch the news or surf your newsfeed before going to sleep. You never see a headline that says, “Calming News.” It’s always “Breaking,” “Warning,” “Alert” – all of which make anxious bedfellows in your head as you are trying to get some sleep.

 

2.Get plenty of sleep. Exhaustion can compromise our physical immune system and our mental health. So, get at least seven hours of sleep each night.

 

3. Don’t buy into the hysteria. I know this is easier said than done. There is a drumbeat of “lack” and “not enough.” We hear the news that there is a shortage of toilet paper, bottled water and food so people flock to Costco, Walmart, and their local markets to have their worst fears come to life. The drama is alluring. “OMG! There is no Purell! We are all going to die!” I saw one woman in her pajamas frantically throwing items in her cart, terror stricken that someone else might get that last can of Pork ‘N Beans before she did. Breathe. Hysteria breads hysteria. Avoid the supermarkets and superstores if you can. If you can’t, then make a regular shopping list, go shopping during non-peak hours, recognize in advance that you may not find what you are looking for today, and be kind to others. Also, ask yourself, why do you feel compelled to go shopping at this moment? Is it a real need or are you propelled by fear?

 

4. Take inventory. This is a good time to go through our shelves and our freezer and take stock of what we actually have. It will help reduce anxiety to know the facts. “Right now, I have four bars of soap, ten cans of soup, five packs of spaghetti, three frozen chicken breasts and a can of pumpkin pie filling.” Whatever it is, it is real; it is tangible; and that knowledge can be reassuring. It is also a good time to take inventory of the things you have to be grateful for. Taking inventory of the things that you appreciate — writing a gratitude list is always a good thing. It creates peace of mind.

 

5. Set a Schedule. Many working in the hospitality industry have been laid off, people are working from home, there is nothing normal about our current experience. Creating and keeping a schedule provides predictability. Some people react to stress stimuli by shutting down. This “one foot in front of the other” approach helps us keep going. It also helps our minds to stop spinning into a world of imagined “what might be” scenarios that only freak us out. Waking up at a certain time, lunch at a certain time, bed at a certain time helps create certainty in an uncertain world. It is also key to get showered and get dressed in the morning like you would normally do. We are creating behavioral anchors to generate stability and calm.

 

6. Stay connected. We are social animals. Therefore, social distancing can have devastating consequences. This is especially true for the elderly in the LGBTQ+ community who often feel isolated and alone anyway and may be scared as they hear the warnings that being of a certain age and having depressed immune systems put them at greater risk. Make a list of five to ten people in your life who are your touchstones to humanity: your best friends, relatives, colleagues from work. Then, add to it, two or three others who might need someone: a friend who just moved away, an elderly neighbor, that guy from your AA meeting. Now, commit to yourself to call them, not texting, but calling, a few times a week just to touch base. Research shows that when we talk to another person and share our stories, the negative psychological impacts of challenging experiences are lessened. This will help you and those to whom you reach out remember we are not alone.

 

7. Cut yourself some slack. We did not wake up and suddenly become the Dalai Lama, so finding our inner peace in the Coronavirus chaos may elude us from time to time and that needs to be okay.

With the COVID-19 pandemic we are navigating uncharted territory and these are anxious times. Our goal is not perfect serenity but taking baby steps toward mental manageability. In other words, we need to calm down. Join me in imaging these wonderful days carousing with Taylor Swift – we will be there again one day.

Photo: Frank Sanchez, PhD (Photo courtesy Sanchez)

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CDC: 85% of gay & lesbian adults in U.S. are vaccinated against COVID

Data on COVID-19 vaccination among LGBTQ persons limited because of the lack of routine SOGI data collection at the national & state levels

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Photo Credit: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/GSA

ATLANTA – A new study report released Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, (CDC), found that found 85.4% of gay and lesbian Americans above age 18 had received at least one vaccine dose as of October 2021.

The study, conducted from August 29 until October 30, 2021, also found that by comparison, only 76.3% of heterosexuals reported receiving at least an initial dose by the same date.

The report noted that Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) populations have higher prevalence of health conditions associated with severe COVID-19 illness compared with non-LGBT populations.

The potential for low vaccine confidence and coverage among LGBT populations is of concern because these persons historically experience challenges accessing, trusting, and receiving health care services

Data on COVID-19 vaccination among LGBT persons are limited, in part because of the lack of routine data collection on sexual orientation and gender identity at the national and state levels.

In March of 2021, the Blade reported the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has revealed deep-seated inequities in health care for communities of color and amplifies social and economic factors that have contributed to those communities being hit hardest, and Mega-vaccination centers set up by California health officials and the Federal Emergency Management Agency have been addressing and tracking the issue- the LGBTQ communities are still not being tracked.

This lack of data collection has frustrated and angered California State Senator Scott Wiener who authored a bill last year that passed through the legislature and signed by Governor Gavin Newsom last Fall that mandates gathering sexual orientation and gender identity data related to the COVID testing in California.

“We’re one year into the pandemic, and LGBTQ people continue to be erased in our public health response to COVID-19 — similar to our invisibility throughout history. No government is successfully tracking COVID-19 cases in the LGBTQ community, despite a law I wrote mandating that California do so,” Weiner told the Blade. “And, we now know that LGBTQ people are more vulnerable to COVID-19. We’ve also just learned that vaccination demographic data doesn’t include LGBTQ data. It simply shocking that in 2021, progressive health agencies continue to forget about our community,” he added.

The CDC also noted that gay and lesbian adults were more likely to be concerned about COVID-19 and to believe in the safety and efficacy of vaccines.

“We know that the prevalence of certain health conditions associated with severe COVID-19 illness, such as cancer, smoking, and obesity, are higher in LGBT populations, and access to health care continues to be an issue for some people in the LGBT community,” Dr. A.D. McNaghten, a member of the CDC’s COVID-19 Emergency Response Team and corresponding author of the study, told ABC News. “We wanted to see if vaccination coverage among LGBT persons was the same as non-LGBT persons.”

The CDC data recorded that bisexual and transgender adults had similar vaccination rates to heterosexual adults with 72.6% of bisexual adults fully vaccinated by the end of October, as were 71.4% of transgender adults. The numbers however for Black and Hispanic lesbian women had lower rates of vaccination at 57.9% and 72.6%, respectively, compared to Black and Hispanic heterosexual women at 75.6% and 80.5%, respectively.

Higher percentages of gay or lesbian adults and bisexual adults reported that they thought COVID-19 vaccine was very or somewhat important to protect oneself (90.8% and 86.8%, respectively) compared with heterosexual adults (80.4%), and higher percentages of adults who identified as transgender or nonbinary reported they thought COVID-19 vaccine was very or somewhat important to protect oneself (83.2%) compared with those who did not identify as transgender or nonbinary (80.7%).

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White House orders distribution of 400 million free N95 masks

Dr. Tom Inglesby, the administration’s Covid testing coordinator; “We know that these masks provide better protection than cloth masks”

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President Joe Biden (Blade file photo/screenshot)

WASHINGTON – As the latest surge of the highly contagious and easily transmissible Omicron variant of the coronavirus continues to cause a rise in hospitalizations, especially among unvaccinated adults and children, the White House announced Wednesday it is making 400 million N95 masks available for free at thousands of locations across the nation.

The plan an admkistartion official said, is to start shipping the nonsurgical masks to pharmacies and community health centers to distribute this week, which will come from the Strategic National Stockpile.

In an interview with NBC News, Dr. Tom Inglesby, the administration’s Covid testing coordinator, said, “We know that these masks provide better protection than cloth masks.”

The N95 masks will be made available to everybody, and recipients will not be prioritized based on vulnerability to Covid, income or other criteria. Inglesby said the administration was “confident that people who want to access them will be able to access them,” but it was not immediately clear how many masks a person could receive at one time.

On January 13, President Joe Biden had announced a plan to have the government distribute 1 billion rapid, at-home COVID-19 tests free to Americans, along with the N95 masks, as the administration works to fight the spiraling upward spike in coronavirus cases.

The White House website to order free at-home Covid tests went live Tuesday. The website says: “Every home in the U.S. is eligible to order 4 free at-home COVID-19 tests. The tests are completely free. Orders will usually ship in 7-12 days.”

A White House official said Wednesday that the distribution of 400 million masks would be the largest deployment of personal protective equipment in U.S. history.

Inglesby told NBC News that the administration was “absolutely preparing for the possibility of additional variants in the future” and that people could expect the government to make N95 masks “more and more available.”

Biden announces free masks, tests to fight omicron:

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Coronavirus

COVID-19 Cases increase by nearly 10 times in one month

While hospitalizations continue to climb, Public Health data shows that many positive cases are admitted for reasons other than COVID

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Graphic courtesy of UCLA/Centers for Disease Control & Prevention

LOS ANGELES – A total of 31,576 new COVID-19 cases were documented on Monday — up ten times the number of cases reported on Dec. 17, 2021, when there were 3,360 new cases recorded the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health reported Monday.

There are  4,564 people with COVID-19 currently hospitalized, nearly 6 times the number from one month ago when 772 people were hospitalized. The daily positivity rate is 16.5%, more than 8 times the 2% daily positivity rate on December 17th.

Just one week ago, the county surpassed 2 million total COVID-19 cases, with the figure reaching 2,289,045 cases as of Monday.

“On this national holiday where we celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, we remember his deep commitment to health equity.  As Reverend King memorably said, ‘Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and the most inhuman because it often results in physical death,’ ” said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, Director of Public Health.

“Tragically, we have seen this play out in real life and very clearly over the past two years with the disparate impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on people of color. From the onset of the pandemic, communities of color have experienced the greatest devastation from COVID-19 in Los Angeles County and throughout the nation,” she added.

“The good news is that while hospitalizations continue to climb, Public Health data shows that many positive cases are admitted for reasons other than COVID but, are identified with COVID when tested for COVID upon hospital admission,” the health department said in a statement released last week.

As of Friday, more than 80% of all adult ICU beds in the county were occupied.

There are also 27 new deaths due to COVID-19 in Los Angeles County and 31,576 new positive cases.

The public health department also noted that while the number of children hospitalized with the virus remains low, the number of them admitted to L.A. County hospitals “significantly increased” over the past month, with the largest increase among children younger than 5 years old.

The increase mirrors trends seen nationwide for the age group — the only one not yet eligible for the vaccine.

The county also saw its highest coronavirus death rate in nearly 10 months over this past week, with an average of 40 COVID-19 deaths a day.

“From the onset of the pandemic, communities of color have experienced the greatest devastation from COVID-19 in Los Angeles County and throughout the nation. As we continue to implement strategies – enforcing worker protections through our Health Officer Orders, providing resources needed by many to survive the impact of the pandemic, funding community-based organizations in hard hit areas to serve as trusted public health messengers, and increasing vaccination access in under-sourced neighborhoods – we also need to come together to address the impact that racism, historical disinvestment, and social marginalization have on COVID-19 outcomes,” Ferrer said.

“While these conditions predate the pandemic, without deliberate collective actions to address the root causes of health inequities, we are unlikely to close the gaps we have documented for 2 long years,” she added.

California has recorded more than 7 million coronavirus cases after its fastest accumulation of reported infections in the history of the pandemic, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The unprecedented count, recorded in California’s databases late Monday, comes one week after the state tallied its 6 millionth coronavirus case.

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