Are you kids bouncing off the walls? Are you fighting needlessly with your spouse? For most American families (and families around the world) the answer to these questions is an obvious “yes.” But are your kids also swearing like sailors?
Over at The New Yorker, one Rumaan Alam has suggested that not only are we all freaking out and figuring out what to do with our kids, but we’re also swearing around our kids more, and thus, they too, are becoming even more foul-mouthed than we thought possible. In other words, the biggest side-effect of COVID-19 is that our kids are hearing us swear way more than they normally do, and thus, will probably start swearing more, too. Granted, this is mostly anecdotal, but when Alam mentions that one of his friends said: “I think the problem in our house is that I am using more bad language out of my own weakness and frustration” and that their kids are “emboldened” to use bad language as a result, many of us can relate.
Personally, I have never said, “f—” or “f—ing” in front of my three-year-old. That is, until about two weeks ago. I’m not even sure why, or if it was justified in any kind of way that makes sense. It was just one of those moments where I blurted out, “I don’t know what to f—ing do!” It wasn’t even directed at anyone. It was like I was a malfunctioning robot, my basic programming was receiving contradictory information, and smoke was starting to come out of my circuits.
Right now, I’m lucky. My daughter has not started saying “f—” because I said it. But, as we continue to shelter-in-place, I have no doubt that at some point, my little one will become a master of colorful metaphors well before she can spell.
When one nurse chose emergency medicine for its fast paced environment and continual learning, she never dreamed she’d be working through a global pandemic.
Alyssa Piegari has been drawn to the emergency room (ER) ever since she graduated high school. She began her career in medicine as an emergency medical technician. Ten years later, she would go on to earn her Master’s in nursing and the ER would become her second home.
That home is becoming increasingly chaotic.
Piegari is a nurse in a northern New Jersey hospital, just minutes from New York City. Her county has the most cases in the state. The Governor recently requested help from the Army Corps of Engineers to expand hospital and intensive care abilities. Piegari shared that the ER was already a hectic place, short on vital resources.
Now, things are even worse.
If a patient is suspected of having the novel coronavirus or COVID-19, there’s a full donning process before you can enter into their room. Gown, N95 mask, face shield, and gloves. But if you get into that room and its missing things like a blood pressure cuff, which she shared happens often, you have to take everything off and start over. Those vital personal protective equipment (PPE) items are running scarce.
Piegari treated her hospital’s first coronavirus patient.
Piegari shared that if you walk into an ER showing signs and symptoms of a virus you are immediately swabbed and tested for 20 different viruses. The COVID-19 swab takes three to five days for results. Patients who come up negative for the other viruses in the initial scan are then treated as though they are positive for COVID-19 and sent for a CAT scan of their chest.
“When you look at the CAT scan pictures of a healthy person compared to one with the beginning stages of the virus, it appears as ground glass looking nodules. It starts with one in the lungs and then spreads like wildfire,” said Piegari. After a few days, those with coronavirus tend to decline quickly, with those patches of ground glass nodules taking over the lungs. This is what leads to death for many patients.
She went on to say that not only is her hospital seeing patients with COVID-19 that have underlying conditions, but people who have no comorbidities or issues. Her hospital recently admitted a patient who was just 23 years old.
Piegari shared that people – possibly even children – are walking around as carriers of this virus, showing absolutely no symptoms. They are living their lives as usual and passing it to people who are getting very ill; and some dying. This is the entire point of social distancing, says Piegari, to stay home and protect your community members. Whatever activity you have planned, it just isn’t worth the lives it impacts.
“We are now in a society where the flu is globally accepted. Due to this, people aren’t considerate of others. They’ll still go to the gym, grocery story, and cough and expel the virus; spreading it,” shared Piegari. The most recent study of COVID-19 has shown that it can survive in the air for several hours, posing significant risk to communities and especially medical professionals taking care of these patients.
“Quarantine is a good thing. It is going to take down the number of cases. The mass hysteria that is going around is inappropriate, however. It is causing lack of resources for those that are truly in need,” said Piegari.
This is the reasoning behind the majority of states closing down their businesses, schools, and limiting gatherings. To those that are still taking this virus lightly, they should become concerned. If not for themselves, then for the people around them.
Piegari also encouraged people to call ahead and not just come in. Her hospital in particular has seen a massive influx of people with flu-like symptoms. Even if they do not have the novel coronavirus, they’ve just now exposed themselves to a whole host of viral possibilities.
In the end, Piegari shared that she will continue to go to work, even at the risk of her own health and that of her family. She and many other medical professionals on the front lines deserve our utmost respect and our attention. Listen to them and help slow the spread of this pandemic.
One of the benefits of quarantine is catching up on every single television show ever made. There’s nothing better than revisiting some of the classics and clearly, Cheers has to make that list. What’s extra entertaining is when these 40-year-old shows accurately predict the future (like these M*A*S*H episodes).
In episode five of season one, Cheers absolutely nails it.
In this episode, titled “Coach’s Daughter,” customer Chuck (played by Tim Cunningham) sits at the bar and tells bartender Sam (Ted Danson) and the Cheers’ regulars that he has a new job at a biology lab. He shares his anxiety about working with mutant viruses and the reaction from the Cheers’ crew couldn’t be any more fitting to what we are experiencing with COVID-19.
Cheers ran from 1982 through 1993 with 275 half-hour episodes. Although it was almost cancelled early on, it made it an impressive 11 seasons. Set in a bar in Boston, visiting the friendly location on the airwaves became a weekly household staple, with everyone wanting to visit the place, “Where everybody knows your name.” Cheers earned 26 Emmy Awards, six Golden Globe Awards and many other accolades. It remains one of the best shows in history.
Cheers had several episodes with military-connected plots, although none better than “One for the Book,” which aired December 9, 1982. In this iconic episode, two customers enter the friendly neighborhood establishment, and of course their paths should meet. One is Buzz Crowder played by Ian Wolfe.
Buzz and his buddies from WWI agree to meet every 10 years for a reunion, but just as we see with our WWII veterans present day, Buzz’s peers are dwindling. In this episode, Buzz is the last one left. Luckily for him, you may walk into Cheers alone, but you’ll never leave without making friends. In “One for the Book,” that friend happens to be a young man getting ready to head to the monastery and looking for a night of fun before he becomes a monk.
Photo: Cheers, NBC Universal
While Cheers ran on NBC, all 275 episodes are now available for streaming on CBS All Access. Start today and we’re confident you can finish the series before the end of quarantine. Or, let’s be honest, by the end of the week.
As the entire Defense Department continues to make changes in order to curb the spread of the coronavirus known as COVID-19, Gen. David H. Berger, Commandant of the Marine Corps, and Sergeant Major Troy E. Black, Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, delivered a video message to the entire Corps on Monday, thanking Marines and families for their continued effort in this difficult time. The top Marines also explained why training must continue at Recruit Training, and Marine Corps-wide, despite ongoing concerns about the coronavirus.
The message was first shared via the Marine Corps’ Facebook Page, and has since been disseminated on a number of other outlets.
General Berger opened the video by acknowledging the difficult times Marines and their families have been facing and will continue to in the weeks to come. The Commandant made a point, early in the video, to tell families that they should be proud of the hard work their loved ones in uniform are doing throughout this difficult time. He also assured families that every measure is being taken to help ensure Marines remain safe and healthy as they continue to work and train amid the pandemic. The two went on to thank unit commanders for exercising good judgement despite the uncertainty that has come along with some elements of the spread of COVID-19.
“As leaders, we know what right looks like. It may look different tomorrow, but today right looks like this, and you make that call,” Sgt. Major Black says during the video. “And you have the Sergeant Major’s and my full support, we back you all the way,” General Berger added.
Near the end of the video, General Berger explained in clear language why the Marine Corps can’t simply stop training, and why recruit training facilities like MCRDs San Diego and Parris Island are so essential to the Marine Corps’ readiness and the nation’s defense as a whole even amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Recruits with Lima Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, climb various obstacles in the obstacle course for recruits on Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C. The obstacle course is composed of different obstacles that are designed to physically and mentally challenge recruits. USMC photo/Dylan Walters
“Why do we continue to do recruit training in the middle of this terrible virus?” General Berger asked himself aloud rhetorically. “We never get the chance to pick the next crises, where it happens, or when it happens. When the president calls, Marines and the Navy team, we respond immediately. So we must continue to train. We have to continue recruit training, because this nation relies on its Marine Corps, especially in tough times.”
For more information about how the coronavirus is affecting basic training graduations, click here.
If you want to learn more about how the coronavirus has affected PCS and TDY orders, click here.
While it’s true that there is a nearly endless choice of craft beers these days — along with the ol’ standbys on the supermarket shelf — it’s a fact that there is something supremely satisfying about brewing up your own beer. Admittedly, you might not end up with results quite as tasty as those from the pros, but that’s not really the point.
It’s the joy of taking on an endeavor that’s part science experiment, part art, part a whole lot of patience (be aware that the entire process takes at least a month). The best part is, of course, ending up with a refreshing glass of beer straight from your very own home brewery when all’s said and done.
Like many hobbies, home brewing requires a fair amount of equipment before you can get started and that equipment — or at least a portion of it — is what beer-making starter kits come with in the box. With the majority of kits, you’ll need to add a few extra pieces yourself, but a kit is still a very convenient, and generally cost-efficient, way to gather up supplies.
Finally, you need beer ingredients: This is where the fun really starts. While you can visit a local brew shop and browse a vast assortment of ingredients, most beginners prefer to start with a kit. Ingredient kits typically contain the grain, sugar extracts, hops, flavorings, and yeast needed for beer production. You can find ingredient kits for a wide range of beer varieties, including many IPAs, but be aware that you’ll need to restock for each batch of brew.
With all that in mind, we sorted through the many homebrew kits out there to find you five of the best for the newbie on the brewing scene. Read on to see which of our top picks are best for your needs.
When their choral festival was cancelled, a group of high school students recorded their parts virtually and put together a touching rendition of “Over the Rainbow”. (Youtube Screencap)
Okay, folks. Let’s get real. So far, 2020 has exuded a decidedly apocalyptic vibe. If it starts hailing live frogs and swarms of locusts, we’ll probably just put on our masks, grab our umbrellas, and proceed with our daily quarantine stroll. At this point, not much can phase us. The list below is a reminder that good things ARE still happening, and you don’t have to look far to find them. While you’re stuck inside, you can even pickup a Dunkin’ Donut decorating kit! Enjoy, America. And stay strong.
A group of high school students also proved you don’t have to be a master composer to make music. When their choral festival was cancelled, they recorded their parts virtually and put together this touching rendition of “Over the Rainbow“.
The Cast of Parks and Rec got back together for a reunion episode that raised M for for Feeding America’s COVID-19 Relief Fund—and donations are still pouring in, according to NBC. The episode, which welcomed back Amy Poehler, Rashida Jones, Aziz Ansari, Nick Offerman, Aubrey Plaza, Chris Pratt, Adam Scott, Jim O’Heir, Rob Lowe, and even Paul Rudd, explored how the characters have been coping with the current pandemic since the show ended in 2015.
Content warning: the following article features an open and frank discussion about suicide. If you or someone you love is struggling with thoughts of self-harm or suicidal ideation, don’t hesitate to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255.) There’s not a damn thing wrong with asking for a helping hand when you need it most.
Times are rough right now. We’re at the brink of a global pandemic, schools and places of work are closing and people are panic buying things that aren’t usually in short demand. But the factor that is hitting the closest to home for most folks is, well, everyone staying home.
This is what is known at social distancing. It’s an important step in ensuring that the most vulnerable of our population stays away from anyone who may have contracted the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19. It’s a drastic measure that’s annoying to most, but it’s going to save lives in the long term. And that’s not something that should ever be understated.
Yet, there’s also an unseen side effect that could potentially harm another group if it’s not handled properly. The disruption of a daily rhythm, potential loss of work and social isolation could impact a vast number of people already fighting through depression and that ever present thought of suicide: veterans.
The Centre for Clinical Interventions lists two determining categories for depression – biological and psychological. Genetics, hormones and neurotransmitters all play their part in making someone more likely to be genetically predisposed to depression but loss, stress and a sense of unfulfillment can hit anyone. At this moment, there’s plenty of that going around.
Even going back a few months before COVID-19 took the world stage, finding a steady paying job wasn’t that easy. Bills can pile up and somehow it feels we’re always just one paycheck above water. But at least some of us had a handful of buddies we could go out to drink with or to see a movie with. Now, it feels like all of that was swept away and we also have to worry if we’ll have enough toilet paper to get through the week.
Right now, many people have lost their jobs or had their hours cut drastically. Even if you haven’t, you’re probably working from home without seeing anyone but the ones you live with. You might be kicking yourself in the butt because you didn’t go to the grocery store before it turned into a scene from The Walking Dead. Thankfully, this isn’t the end times and the internet can still connect us while we’re standing more than six feet from anyone.[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2FJZP-ebOe0UsmSOlFfx-ZfSK_kjHJYNlYtsKgqF9pcHBDg-KTQd6WrP7GrC6yOOEmkEOZgfG7-23RF-6K-55opWeLwa3lLvpZjENRl93zQRfL6dyNpY4lkV71IyGukrJg2nKxFxeSCDcXW9fmPQ&ho=https%3A%2F%2Flh3.googleusercontent.com&s=298&h=e86267c4c48c91b3d540173ed586769b65668149f0538cb5eebc136b98f92f20&size=980x&c=744452975 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252FJZP-ebOe0UsmSOlFfx-ZfSK_kjHJYNlYtsKgqF9pcHBDg-KTQd6WrP7GrC6yOOEmkEOZgfG7-23RF-6K-55opWeLwa3lLvpZjENRl93zQRfL6dyNpY4lkV71IyGukrJg2nKxFxeSCDcXW9fmPQ%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Flh3.googleusercontent.com%26s%3D298%26h%3De86267c4c48c91b3d540173ed586769b65668149f0538cb5eebc136b98f92f20%26size%3D980x%26c%3D744452975%22%7D” expand=1]
Quick sidenote: toilet paper is something that is typically used at a set rate. Unless you’re planning on hiding for months or TPing your neighbor’s place, you don’t need to stockpile TP.
(Photo by Ingrid Cold)
I urge you, please keep in regular touch with anyone you love who’s been hit hard by this social isolation. Chances are they’re not doing so well. Check up on them. Call to see how they’re doing.
Depression is a real disease and the final symptom could be suicide.
This advice goes for everyone but us in the veteran community already had compounding factors before the outbreak. The “22 a day” is still thrown around, albeit those often-cited numbers come from a 2012 study and they’re more accurately at around 17 a day after a much needed cultural shift within our community. That’s still not great; it’s still far above the national average. Often, we’ve been able to find the one ember that kept our flame burning. But for a lot of veterans, that fire could be extinguished with social distancing.
Don’t take this out of its intended context. Social distancing is crucial at this moment. We just need to adjust to the shift in how things are done. Hotlines are still open. The VA Mental Health facilities are still open. And if you’re concerned and feel symptoms of the coronavirus, there are always video conference calls available to connect you with a mental health specialist or doctors.
For health and safety reasons, the hand sanitizer stations are everywhere. For good reason.
(U.S. Navy photo by Diana Burleson)
I say all of this… because I found myself in that dark place. The part where I wrote about how people are feeling is mostly pulled from what’s going on with myself.
I recently attempted to end my own life. I’ve been fighting through my own depression for some time now and it reached its boiling point. It probably wouldn’t be wise to go into details, but I will share the thought that got my feet back on the ground. It was the thought that no one would ever be able to explain to my cat why I’m never coming home. Make of it what you will, but thoughts like that can help pull you out of an irrational moment.
I mean, I love my family and friends. But I wouldn’t ever want to hurt this good boy.
(Picture by Eric Milzarski)
It was through the help of my buddy from the Army and my loving wife that I was able to come back. I see the light at the end of the tunnel, but I’m still in that damn tunnel. I’m now seeing a mental health specialist at the VA regularly and I can honestly say that it was the right choice. No judgement. No negative consequences. And I feel silly for hesitating this long. Just open arms –metaphorically speaking, of course. I kept my six feet of distance and sanitized my hands, because the VA also houses elderly and immuno-vulnerable veterans. And if need be, they’re still doing video calls for anyone feeling any symptoms.
If you know anyone who’s in that dark place, reach out to them. Go in person if you have to, but there’s always the phone. There are always online video games. There’s always a meme you can tag them in. Anything will help. It may not feel like it while we’re self-isolating until things go back to normal, but we are never truly alone.
The aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) pulls alongside the fleet replenishment oiler USNS Pecos (T-AO 197) during a replenishment-at-sea in June. Following an extended visit to Guam in the midst of the COVID-19 global pandemic, Theodore Roosevelt is underway conducting carrier qualifications during a deployment to the Indo-Pacific. Photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Kaylianna Genier. PHILIPPINE SEA (June 1, 2020) The aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) pulls alongside the fleet replenishment oiler USNS Pecos (T-AO 197) during a replenishment-at-sea June 1, 2020. Following an extended visit to Guam in the midst of the COVID-19 global pandemic, Theodore Roosevelt is underway conducting carrier qualifications during a deployment to the Indo-Pacific. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Kaylianna Genier)
When the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) returned to sea in late-May following a two-month long battle against the novel coronavirus, the aircraft carrier was ground zero for a new normal for Navy ships at sea.
In the early months of the global pandemic, the Roosevelt had become itself a COVID-19 “hotspot.” The virus ultimately cost one Roosevelt crewmember his life and infected 1,150 sailors. As the ship resumed its mission with a scaled-back crew, facemasks, frequent handwashing, enhanced cleaning measures, reduced mess deck seating, one-way corridors and other protocols to mitigate COVID-19 had become the norm within the fleet.
“We can protect our force, we can deploy our Navy, and we will do both,” Vice Adm. Phillip Sawyer, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Operations, Plans and Strategy, told reporters on an April 15 call. “Face-coverings, hand-washing, ship-disinfecting are now part of our daily routine throughout the Navy.”
Michael Rubin, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, argues the pandemic has served as a wake-up call for the Navy.
“The Navy trains for all sorts of contingencies but if operating during a global pandemic was one, it was so far down the list as to be irrelevant,” Rubin said. “Politicians thought we were past this age and flag officers and civilian planners were no different.”
Navy Seaman Kyle Pavek stands lookout watch aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) during a replenishment-at-sea with the fleet replenishment oiler USNS Pecos (T-AO 197). Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Julian Davis.
Less than a month after the first sailor aboard the Roosevelt tested positive for the coronavirus, the Navy issued updated guidance aimed at maintaining ongoing fleet operations and defeating “this unseen enemy.” The Navy’s “Pre-Deployment Guidance” and a “COVID-19 Recovery Framework” outline shipboard changes that will be experienced by sailors:
Mandatory medical screenings for existing medical conditions that place personnel at higher risk for COVID-19 complications.
Daily personal screening questionnaires and temperature checks.
Testing and isolation of anyone with flu-like symptoms.
14-to-21-day restriction of movement (ROM) period for potentially asymptomatic people to present symptoms.
14-day ROM period before external crew, ship riders (contractors, technical representatives) and direct support personnel can embark during an underway.
Enforcement of personal hygiene practices and, whenever possible, physical distancing.
Ongoing screening for potential COVID-19 symptoms.
Maximum personal protective equipment (PPE) use.
Separate and segregate cleaning teams from critical watchstanders.
Minimize contact with delivery personnel.
Additional guidance outlines specific steps to be taken to clean a ship or facility following a COVID-19 outbreak, using three categories of requirements depending on the degree to which the space is operationally significant and the level of access required.
“These measures allow fleet leadership the ability to monitor the health of the force in a controlled and secure environment so they are ready to accomplish assigned missions and support to the goal of preventing the spread of the COVID virus to U.S. forces, allies, partners and the community. These frameworks cover testing for personnel as well,” Cmdr. Patrick L. Evans, Public Affairs Officer for Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet, said in an email response. He noted commanders have the authority to issue more specific guidance to units within their areas of responsibility.
“In addition, our ships are enforcing social distancing, minimizing group gatherings, wearing PPE and cleaning extensively,” he added. “Quarterdeck watchstanders are screening anyone who walks on board and referring sailors with symptoms to medical evaluation.”
Navy Quartermaster 3rd Class Patrick Souvannaleut, left, and Quartermaster 3rd Class Elizabeth Weil, right, stand spotter lookout during a replenishment-at-sea as the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt approaches the fleet replenishment oiler USNS Pecos (T-AO 197). Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Zachary Wheeler.
Navy officials have acknowledged “day-to-day actions must assume COVID is present” because asymptomatic personnel are likely to be aboard all ships. That point was driven home in mid-May when 14 Roosevelt sailors who previously contracted the virus tested positive a second time after returning to the ship following a mandatory quarantine period and two negative COVID-19 tests.
Retired Navy Capt. Albert Shimkus, a registered nurse and certified nurse anesthetist who previously commanded the hospital ship USNS Comfort, maintains sailors must take individual responsibility for following COVID-19 prevention protocols and “recognizing you could potentially be a carrier that could affect and infect your shipmates.”
As the Navy adjusts to the operational realities the pandemic presents, Shimkus, whose views are his own and do not represent the U.S. Naval War College, U.S. Navy or Department of Defense, stresses the Navy’s core values must ring true.
“Given the nature of what this crisis is ‘Honor, Courage and Commitment’ speak volumes about how we will treat ourselves and each other and about doing the ethically and morally correct thing,” said Shimkus, Associate Professor, National Security Affairs, Naval War College. “That’s all related to a command environment that is healthy and a command environment that is willing to do what’s right for the members of their command.”
Shimkus is confident Navy leaders at sea and ashore will rise to the challenge.
“Good leadership in the context of this crisis is being transparent to their crew and members of their organizations,” he explained. “Telling the truth and being able to be understood by your crew, opening up questions and answering them to the best of your ability is part of good leadership and commitment to doing the right thing.”
SAN ANTONIO – USAA, the country’s fifth largest property-casualty insurer, will be returning $520 million to its members. This payment is a result of data showing members are driving less due to stay-at-home and shelter-in-place guidance across the country. Every member with an auto insurance policy in effect as of March 31, 2020, will receive a 20% credit on two months of premiums in the coming weeks.
As a member-owned association, USAA historically returns a portion of profits to members. In 2019, we returned $2.4 billion in dividends, distributions and bank rebates and rewards. This brings the total amount returned to members since January 2019 to nearly $3 billion.
“We understand the impact this pandemic is having on our country, and especially our military community and their families, many of whom also are working on the front lines of the crisis. Returning premiums provides timely help for our members,” said USAA President and CEO Wayne Peacock. “USAA has been facilitating the financial security of military members for nearly 100 years, and this is another way we can serve them well.”
Early data trends show USAA members are heeding the calls to suspend nonessential travel, leading to fewer miles driven and fewer accidents.
How it works
Members will automatically receive a credit applied to their bill. They do not need to call, and no additional action is required.
Ways USAA is providing financial relief for members
This is just one of several steps USAA has taken to provide financial assistance to members, including:
Special payment arrangements are available to assist members experiencing financial difficulties. USAA will not cancel members’ auto or property insurance policies or charge fees due to late payments on USAA auto and property insurance coverage through June 17, 2020.
Expanded auto insurance coverage for members who use their personal vehicles to deliver food, medicine and other goods for commercial purposes.
USAA Bank is offering special payment assistance programs for eligible members including a 90-day credit card payment deferral, a 60-day payment extension on consumer loans, and special mortgage and home equity line of credit payment assistance.
USAA Life Insurance Company is offering special payment arrangements on life and health insurance policies, including a 60-day extension to the 30-day grace period.
USAA Life Insurance Company is waiving and reimbursing deductibles and co-payments for coronavirus-related testing received on or after Feb. 4, 2020, for members who have USAA Medicare Supplement plan.
USAA Investment Management Company is reducing managed portfolio fees 50% (effective April 1 through May 20‚ 2020).
Additionally, USAA has taken steps to help ensure its employees stay safe and able to serve members by enabling nearly all 35,000 employees to work from home and committed .4 million to help military-focused and other nonprofits respond to this pandemic.
Ognjen Gajic, a lung expert and critical care specialist at the prestigious Mayo Clinic in the northern U.S. state of Minnesota, was interviewed by Ajla Obradovic, a correspondent with RFE/RL’s Balkan Service, about the coronavirus and the disease’s symptoms and treatment.
RFE/RL: How fast does a person’s health worsen after becoming infected? It seems that patients diagnosed with the coronavirus die rather quickly but recover more slowly compared to other diseases? Or is that an incorrect impression?
Ognjen Gajic: Critical illness [in people with the coronavirus] occurs on average after seven days of mild symptoms. From the moment one starts experiencing shortness of breath, [a patient’s condition can worsen] rapidly, sometimes within a few hours, and then intensive monitoring in a hospital intensive care unit is critical.
RFE/RL: How are COVID-19 patients treated? Is there a standard procedure?
Gajic: Most patients have mild symptoms and there is no specific treatment thus far other than controlling the symptoms — paracetamol (aka acetaminophen) for fever, weakness, and the like. Untested forms of treatment can be dangerous due to side effects and should not be used until research shows they are efficient.
I deal with the treatment of the critically ill, so I can say more about [those patients]. In many of them, the [COVID-19] disease progresses to severe bilateral pneumonia characterized by shortness of breath and hypoxia (that means oxygen deprivation in body tissue).
These patients should be immediately taken to the hospital for oxygen treatment and their condition should be constantly monitored so it is possible to respond in time [to these problems] with intense respiratory support, including respirators. Sophisticated intensive care with control and support of all organs is successful in about 50 percent of the most severely ill cases, although some patients may be on a respirator for several weeks before recovering or dying.
So far there is no proven specific treatment [for COVID-19] and untested experimental drugs should not be prescribed without the proper research [being conducted]. We are working with colleagues around the world on a day-to-day basis on research projects for new treatments and prevention.
RFE/RL: Is there any data so far on the underlying diseases that are, in some way, more pernicious in combination with the coronavirus?
Gajic: Rather than specific diseases, more important is [someone’s] physiological condition as far as their lungs and [general fitness]; elderly patients who are not fit and those with severe forms of chronic lung or heart disease have little reserve and little chance of successfully enduring intensive respiratory treatment.
RFE/RL: How much more infectious is the coronavirus than other communicable diseases and what is the best way for people to protect themselves? In the Czech Republic, for example, they require everyone to wear masks in public, while the World Health Organization has not cited this as essential for people who are not infected. Can you give some specific tips on protection?
Gajic: Masks should be left to health-care professionals. A thorough hand washing with soap and water is by far the most important tip and, at this point, isolation from all but essential contacts — especially groups — must be respected. Also, before coming to a health-care facility, first make contact by phone, since it is safer to stay home for home treatment if one is showing mild symptoms.
RFE/RL: I understand you worked with your colleagues from Wuhan. What is it that other countries can learn from them and apply in their response to the pandemic?
Gajic: Several colleagues from Wuhan hospitals have been at the Mayo Clinic in recent years and we have been doing joint research. At the beginning of the epidemic in Wuhan, we sent support in terms of treatment guidelines and [medical] staff protection. Now they are helping us. After some initial setbacks, our colleagues in Wuhan, with rigorous isolation measures, adequate equipment, and training, were able to prevent their health-care professionals from becoming sick despite working with critically ill patients.
RFE/RL: The latest information shows that the United States now has the largest number of infected people. Did the U.S. response to the epidemic come too late?
Gajic: I’m not an epidemiologist so I can’t comment on that. When it comes to the critically ill, U.S. hospitals provide fantastic care in these difficult conditions.
The biggest thing that I was not prepared for when the Coronavirus pandemic shut down our schools? Becoming a teacher to all four school-aged children, all in differing grade levels — and one being an IEP student.
(For those that don’t know, an IEP student is a student with educational needs addressed by an Individualized Education Plan.) And I wasn’t alone, families across America had the same struggle, and my mind constantly was the fear of regression for my IEP child, as she was finally making headway in her studies.
Even if your child does not have an IEP, I urge you to familiarize yourself with the process at your school.
“We are all a breath away from a disability.” -MJ Boice said during a Facebook live I watched, and her statement stuck with me. I never expected my daughter to need me to be a fierce advocate so that she could access appropriate health services and have a proper education. It became evident that she needed help after our PCS to Jacksonville, where she was placed in a school that for a variety of reasons, was not a good fit for her. We withdrew before the end of the year, as we felt that we could do a better job of preparing her for First Grade.
From the moment I requested that my daughter be evaluated at her new school, she started receiving additional services at school, such as tutoring and speech therapies, thanks to her school’s very proactive approach to IEPs. Throughout this time, she had been receiving Occupational Therapy outside of school, which was moved to an in-school service after her IEP was issued, allowing her to be more present during her therapy days instead of being pulled out early before the end of the day to drive across town. However, this also meant that when school was shut down, until we got her online, she wasn’t receiving any therapies for about two weeks.
Across the United States, IEP children were either going without services entirely or being forced to access services in a new way online, which for children like my own daughter, was a rough adjustment. Military families found ourselves without respite, some of us had deployed spouses, and many of us had to choose between continuing to work or taking over our child’s education.
More than ever, IEP parents must advocate right now for our children.
As we head into a new school year, some schools across the nation are continuing to rely on distance learning while others are giving parents the option to distance learn at home — and some districts are mandating that you cannot receive IEP services while distance learning, almost forcing IEP students back into schools to receive their services, many of which are even immunocompromised due to their disabilities.
If you don’t know where to begin, start with an IEP binder.
My binders are organized by school year and divided into sections. In the front is the IEP for that year with logs of meetings and any missed services. If my daughter missed a session at home, I logged it and the reason why she was unable to make that session. Next is a log of every specialist she sees, when and why she saw them, the results of those visits, and their contact information.
If my child goes back to school and lacks goals that she previously attained, these logs will help me advocate properly for her because I’ll know exactly why, when, and even possibly how things happened into the present.
Keep all present-level assessments and performance paperwork.
This makes up the next tab of my folder – any assessments, performance paperwork sent home throughout the year, and any report cards. This can help me and her IEP team see a pattern over a period of time, even years, so we can ensure that she progresses.
My final tab in our yearly binder is a Miscellaneous/Notes section.
I personally am a fan of recording IEP meetings and then transcribing them into this section for my personal records, which could make for some great fun in future meetings if I ever quote anyone. “Ms. K., according to my records which are based on audio recordings of our IEP meetings, it shows you said x,y,z, in our meeting two years ago regarding this matter.” It sounds a little crazy, but it is hard for people to argue with themselves. Extensive records are also helpful when we move, as we all know how hard it can be to get new services set in place for our neediest children — the best thing we can do is lay it all out for the gaining school so that an IEP and services can be put into place as soon as possible.
Partners in Promise is also a great resource for IEP families, and is currently introducing legislation that would make it easier for children to take an IEP with them to a gaining school and allow the IEP to remain in place for six months.
For quite some time I have joked that God thinks I am hard of hearing and that He needs to scream at me to get a message. Case in point, this year I picked rest as my word of the year. I thought I needed to figure out how to slow down, enjoy the moment, not over-commit myself to so much. Somewhere around late February, after I’d committed to yet another summer camp teaching position, it must have become apparent to God that I was not following through on my word of the year. So, what does He do? He shut down EVERYTHING to make sure I have to rest and slow down. All I could do after getting the call that I would be switching to digital teaching and be at home, alone, for an undetermined amount of time was look up at the heavens and laugh. Well played, God.
All joking aside, when the pandemic and quarantine first began, I was a little nervous. Not only am I really bad at slowing down (hence the neon sign from God to do so), but I am also not great at being alone a lot. I was just starting to feel like I had my feet back under me after the divorce and had almost mastered cooking for one again. But I wasn’t quite prepared to be in my own company, and my own head, all day. I am by nature a very social person. I teach. I have 85 kids a day to educate and interact with. During my planning period I am usually visiting with other teachers and walking laps around the school to get my steps in. I am active in my church and on a coed softball team that is more family than just team. I had finally started to tiptoe into dating. And all the sudden, all of that had to stop. It was not a good feeling.
As I looked at my friends that have spouses and kids, I could joke that I was thankful my only company was a dog that doesn’t talk, but truly, I was lonely and struggling. I didn’t feel like I could say that because we were quarantining for a good purpose. It was a safety-for-all thing that I understood. My anxiety and mental health issues didn’t want to get on the same page with me though. I was envious of those that had a spouse to interact with when I was home alone with no human contact for weeks on end. I was trying to pretend like it was great being able to eat popcorn for dinner in my undies since there was no one to judge me on my behavior. I let my friends vent about how lucky I was not to have kids, so I didn’t have to educate and entertain at the same time. I could put on the happy face and lighthearted social media posts with the best of them. At least for a while.
About a month into quarantine I had a phone appointment with my mental health doctor and finally everything spilled out. How isolated I felt. How lonely I was. How scared I would get some days at the idea of going to the store even though I wanted to get out of the house and feel normal for a moment or two. I was able to babble and cry and express how hard it was to be alone with my thoughts all the time. I was sure she was going to tell me I was overreacting and that when this was all over, I’d feel foolish for making such a big deal about things. I mean, I was feeling pretty crazy!
Lucky for me she is a better shrink than I am a patient!
She told me that if I wasn’t feeling out of sorts, she would be far more worried about me. She reminded me that this is an abnormal situation that no one was prepared to take on and that anyone who wasn’t getting a little emotional about the upheaval of their life would be an anomaly. She reminded me that dealing with anxiety was already a hard enough challenge for me, so it was completely understandable that my brain may be going into overdrive about even the smallest things right now trying to find what I consider normalcy in the chaos. And she reminded me that I’m not alone. I may be lonely, but I have a network of family, friends, colleagues, and mental health professionals that are just a call away when things get to be too much to handle.
Once my brain was able to process all of the things we talked about I was finally able to open up to my friends about my struggles and it was amazing to me how many of them felt the same way. I know I’m not the only one out there struggling. So many of us are alone for one reason or another. Maybe your spouse is deployed during this crazy time and you are not just alone, but now unsure when homecoming will ever come. Maybe you’re an essential worker that is camping out at work to protect your family from germs you could potentially bring home. Maybe you’re in the post-divorce phase where you’re trying to figure out who you are on your own again. Whatever the reason, you may be lonely, but know you are not alone. Reach out to your friends, your family, your coworkers that you trust. Let them know you are struggling. You will be surprised by how many of them might understand better than expected what it means to be all on your own during such a scary time. And if talking with them is not enough, there are so many mental health resources available to you now. Take advantage of them and let a professional walk you through the chaos until you feel a bit more grounded. There is nothing wrong with admitting you need that help. Trust me on that.
Mental Health America – Provides resources for finding local mental health professional, digital outreach, and care specific to your living situation.
Veterans Crisis Line – Call 1-800-273-8255 press 1, or text 838255, to get help from someone trained to help the veteran community.
Crisis Text Line – Text 741741 to connect with a trained crisis counselor. The website also has articles and advice for those just looking for coping techniques but that do not want to talk to someone yet.
Imagine your spouse or family member is deployed on a carrier. Now, imagine it’s during a global pandemic, which has notoriously infiltrated cruise ships, rendering hundreds of passengers ill. Finally, imagine you learn that your loved one’s ship is impacted by scrolling through Facebook and reading a headline.
Unfortunately, this imagined scenario is one military spouse’s reality.
Elizabeth (whose last name we won’t use for personal security reasons) was looking at Facebook, taking a much-needed break from quarantine with her four kids, when she saw a friend (whose husband is deployed with hers) had posted an article by Business Insider that immediately stopped her scroll: “There has been a coronavirus outbreak aboard a deployed US Navy aircraft carrier.” The article states that there have been three confirmed cases of COVID-19 on the USS Theodore Roosevelt – Elizabeth’s husband’s ship.
Her heart sank. “We haven’t heard from them in awhile,” she said in an interview with WATM. “Anytime anything noteworthy happens, communication goes down whether on purpose or by coincidence,” she shared. She immediately got on the phone with other spouses to see if anyone had heard through official or personal channels what was going on.
Communication varied. One spouse got a voicemail from her sailor that he was fine. Another received a quick email saying there were only two cases on the ship, while one other had heard 15 sailors had it. This rumor mill is exactly why comms are shut down, to prevent misinformation for families desperate for an update.
When asked if she was upset she hadn’t heard from her husband, Elizabeth laughed. “Oh, I’m not surprised,” she said. “He’s a team player. I know he would make sure all of his people had a chance to use the phone or email if there was an opportunity to do so before he did. He’s been in for 14 years and he’s been deployed a lot — he’s had almost six years of sea time. Really, this is not even the worst communication he’s had on a deployment. I’ve gotten used to that — nobody has all of the information; you just hope for the best and wait for your family member to contact you.”
But in the meantime, Elizabeth feels the weight of the gravity of the situation.
“I’m trying not to go into panic mode yet,” she said. “It’s the military, you just don’t know, but I hope if my husband was sick, someone would tell me.” Elizabeth also wants to know what protective and preventive measures are being taken. “It sounds like from the article that the sick sailors were medevaced and now it’s just business as usual. But in my mind, the likelihood of it being isolated is very small. They’re on top of each other in close quarters and there are 5,000 of them. They use the same phones, touch the same doors, eat together, share work space. It’s a floating petri dish. I want to know what they’re doing to sanitize. How closely they’re monitoring things. Is someone asking them every day? Are they taking temperatures? Are they really doing everything they can to keep our sailors safe?”
While Elizabeth is worried about her husband, she also has a healthy dose of perspective and a great sense of humor. She’s thankful to be surrounded by family and a community that continues to support her. “I don’t know what I’d do without them,” she said. Elizabeth and her husband have a five year old, three year old and twins who are just one and a half. “We had a lot of time on shore duty,” she laughed. “We got cocky thinking we would have one more and then boom: twins.”
When asked how she’s really coping with four kids in quarantine and a spouse deployed on a “floating petri dish,” Elizabeth took a long sigh but said, “Honestly, I feel like military spouses are better prepared for this than anyone. With military life, we spend a decent amount of time figuring it out on our own. I wouldn’t say this is even the most isolated I’ve ever been. The ‘not knowing what’s going to happen,’ not knowing what the schedule is going to be in a few weeks or months, it’s par for the course for us. I’ve been through the ringer enough times with the Navy, but for a lot of our friends, this is their first deployment. Mostly my heart has been with the ones who haven’t been through this before because I remember how it felt when all of this was new.”
Elizabeth shared the importance of reaching out. “Military community is so, so important. I love that the word encourage literally means to impart courage … that’s who the military spouse community is for me — it’s courage by proxy. The news is full of stories of women who are worrying they might be forced to give birth alone due to coronavirus restrictions, but military spouses have been giving birth to babies without family or husbands there, often overseas, for as long as time. They’ve moved alone, pursued careers alone, overcome all of these obstacles. One of the things you deal with is that feeling of isolation, which is so perfectly themed for where we are in the world right now. But you’re never really alone.”
Elizabeth continued, “It was so hard to hear the news of coronavirus on the ship, but it was so great to be surrounded by so many people who exactly know what we’re going through. There is strength in numbers. We’re not the only family going through this. We’ll be okay.”