COVID-19 Information You Can Use Spring

Information You Can Use

Information You Can Use

From holidays and community events to travel and family gatherings, get the latest updates and health and safety considerations for COVID-19.

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Spring Considerations

Attending spring celebrations with family and friends

Fully vaccinated people should continue to take precautions in public including wearing a well-fitted mask, physical distancing, and other measures when visiting unvaccinated people in your family or group of friends. It is still recommended to avoid medium and large-sized in-person gatherings. Fully vaccinated people can visit other fully vaccinated people indoors without wearing masks or physical distancing, or unvaccinated people from a single household at low risk for severe COVID-19 disease.

If you are not fully vaccinated, it is recommended to actively avoid medium- and large-sized in-person gatherings. You will need to keep taking the precautions of wearing a well-fitted mask, physical distancing, hand washing, and avoidance of crowds and poorly ventilated spaces. You should get a COVID-19 vaccine when it is available to you. When you are fully vaccinated, there is less risk for certain activities.

Attending worship gatherings this spring

CDC continues to recommend that large gatherings be avoided, particularly those in which physical distancing cannot be maintained between people who live in different households. Indoor, crowded gatherings are still best to avoid even if you are fully vaccinated.

Spring Travel

Once vaccinated, the main worry for a traveler is giving COVID-19 to other people while in transit to or at a destination. It is still important to practice precautions known to mitigate risk to you and to others: wear a mask, keep your distance, wash your hands, [choose] outdoors over indoors, and avoid crowded spaces.
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Considerations before traveling

Travel increases your chance of spreading and getting COVID-19. Delay travel and stay home to protect yourself and others from COVID-19, even if you are vaccinated.

If you must travel, take steps to protect yourself and others:

  • If you are eligible, get fully vaccinated for COVID-19.
  • Before you travel, get tested with a viral test 1-3 days before your trip.
  • Wear a mask over your nose and mouth when in public.
  • Avoid crowds and stay at least 6 feet/2 meters (about 2 arm lengths) from anyone who did not travel with you.
  • Get tested 3-5 days after your trip and stay home and self-quarantine for a full 7 days after travel, even if your test is negative. If you don’t get tested, stay home and self-quarantine for 10 days after travel.
  • Follow all state and local recommendations or requirements after travel.
If you must travel

Take these steps to protect yourself and others from COVID-19:

  • If you are eligible, get fully vaccinated for COVID-19. Wait 2 weeks after getting fully vaccinated – it takes time for your body to build protection after any vaccination.
  • Get tested with a viral test 1-3 days before you travel. Keep a copy of your test results with you during travel in case you are asked for them. Do NOT travel if you test positive.
  • Check travel restrictions before you go.
  • Wear a mask over your nose and mouth when in public settings. Masks are required on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within, or out of the United States and in U.S. transportation hubs such as airports and stations.
  • Avoid crowds and stay at least 6 feet/2 meters (about 2 arm lengths) from anyone who did not travel with you. It’s important to do this everywhere – both indoors and outdoors.
  • Wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer (with at least 60% alcohol).
  • Bring extra supplies, such as masks and hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid contact with anyone who is sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Avoid being around people who are at increased risk for severe illness.
  • Watch your health: Look for symptoms of COVID-19.

Do NOT travel if you were exposed to COVID-19, you are sick or you test positive for COVID-19. Learn when it is safe for you to travel. Don’t travel with someone who is sick.

Types of Travel and Considerations

Air Travel

Air Travel

Air travel requires spending time in security lines and airport terminals, which can bring you in close contact with other people and frequently touched surfaces. Most viruses and other germs do not spread easily on flights because of how air is circulated and filtered on airplanes. However, social distancing is difficult on crowded flights and sitting within 6 feet of others, sometimes for hours, may increase your risk of getting COVID-19. How you get to and from the airport, such as with public transportation and ridesharing, can also increase your chances of being exposed to the virus.

Bus or Train Travel

Bus or Train Travel

Traveling on buses and trains for any length of time can involve being in crowded terminals and sitting or standing within 6 feet of others, which may increase your risk of getting COVID-19. If you choose to travel by bus or train, learn what you can do to protect yourself on public transportation.

Car Travel

Car Travel

Making stops along the way for gas, food, or bathroom breaks can put you and your traveling companions in close contact with other people and frequently touched surfaces.

RV Travel

RV Travel

You may have to stop less often for food or bathroom breaks, but RV travel usually means staying at RV parks overnight and getting gas and supplies at other public places. These stops may put you and those with you in the RV in close contact with others.

Mental Health and COVID-19

While the holidays are supposed to be times of joy and good cheer, for many, they instead produce undo stress and anxiety. When you add on the fear, worry and stress that are normal responses to perceived or real threats like COVID-19, it’s understandable that people are experiencing heightened mental health struggles as we move into winter.

Whether it’s staring at a second wave, anticipating a holiday season limited by COVID-19, or battling the seasonal “blues” while also staying safer at home, this Wisconsin winter undoubtedly will be a challenge. It’s important we emphasize taking care of our mental health in the months ahead and know we are not alone with any struggles.

Coping with a COVID-19 crisis

While the nice summer weather gave Wisconsinites some reprieve from isolation using safe social distancing activities outdoors, winter sends us back indoors. And the continuing surge of cases means it’s time to stay safer at home as much as possible again, even if there is no statewide mandate for it. Our behavioral health experts recommend the following to help address the fear and anxiety that for many will likely go hand-in-hand with this second wave.

Sources: CDC; WHO; Drs. Cipriano and Larsen
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Name it and claim it

It’s normal to feel a sense of loss with this isolation, and it’s OK to grieve and not be OK. Acknowledge these emotions because if you don’t, those feelings will just stir deep down and become worse.

Talk it out

Talking about our emotions with trusted friends and family allows us to calm down and develop coping strategies such as making time to unwind, regularly connecting with others (even virtually), trying out meditation, focusing on a new hobby or taking a break from the news.

Focus on what you can control

So much is out of our control right now, which can lead to increased anxiety. Instead of swirling in the unknown, focus on things you can control, like creating a “new” normal routine and taking care of your physical health, including healthy eating, exercise and sleep. For many with anxiety, this also means having a plan in place should anyone in your household become exposed to COVID-19, including where to get tested and seek treatment if necessary and how to deal with quarantine.

Gain insight from the past

While none of us have ever experienced a pandemic before, everyone has dealt with other challenges throughout our lives. Draw on the coping strategies that helped you manage past adversities – from the loss of employment to a serious injury to a death of a loved one – to help you manage your emotions today.

Look forward to the future

Think about the positive events in your life that will happen in the future. While we can never be sure what the new normal will look like, with the advancement of vaccines and therapies, there most certainly will be a time in the future where we can resume some of the fun activities and events that we have had to forego during the pandemic.

Take time for awe and savoring

Even though the current situation can seem overwhelming, there still are wonderful things happening each day. Savoring the present moment is related to higher levels of positive emotion.

Bring up happy memories

Remember the good times that you have had in the past with loved ones. By being able to recall happy memories, we can remember that our lives have been blessed even during a particularly difficult time.

Know when to get help

More people than ever are reaching out for mental health services in 2020, which means you’re not alone if you also feel like you need additional assistance. Signs that you might need professional guidance include any of these prolonged behaviors that interfere with your everyday responsibilities:

  • Feelings of fear, anger, worry, numbness or frustration
  • Changes in appetite, energy and activity levels
  • Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
  • Difficulty sleeping or nightmares
  • Worsening of chronic health problems
  • Increased use of alcohol, tobacco or other drugs

Managing stress during an unusual holiday

Whether you love all the festivities surrounding the holidays or dread the seasonal stress, this holiday season will look different for all of us amid the ongoing pandemic. As change is difficult for most people, our behavioral health experts recommend the following for preparing mentally and emotionally for the months ahead.

Sources: Mental Health America; Mayo Clinic; Cleveland Clinic
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Identify and acknowledge your feelings

Figuring out your emotions related to the upcoming unusual holiday season will allow you to cope better, so take the time to really listen to yourself. You can do this by journaling, talking to a friend or loved one or just spending some mindful time thinking about your feelings.

Cope ahead

Now that you’ve acknowledge your feelings, don’t wait to deal with them until the holidays are in full swing. Start thinking and planning now, especially as not everyone in your extended circle will have the same thoughts on how to navigate the season, which could lead to some difficult conversations.

Make the most of strange circumstances

Part of coping ahead should be focusing on how you can make the most of having some change of traditions. While you might be losing some favorite activities, you’re probably going to be able to leave behind some stressors too. You don’t need to always be happy about our current situation, but you can always look for a silver lining – like more quality time at home with your immediate family instead of running around to different celebrations! – and not distort reality to make things worse than they are.

Don't abandon healthy habits

If you have already been working on coping strategies throughout the pandemic, don’t let them go during the holidays and allow the season to become a free-for-all, which will only add to your stress. If you haven’t started, consider balancing the indulgence of the holiday season with some of the following:

  • Have a healthy snack before holiday meals so that you don't go overeat later.
  • Prioritize sleep.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Try deep-breathing exercises, meditation or yoga.
  • Avoid excessive tobacco, alcohol and drug use.
  • Adjust the time you spend reading news and social media that can cause undo stress and anxiety.
Practice gratitude

While it might be difficult to focus on the bright side during a pandemic, deep down we know there is still plenty to be thankful for. Make a concerted effort to identify things you’re grateful for, whether it’s something as broad as your family or something as specific as the friendly smile and wave of a neighbor walking by.

Exercise compassion

Being kind to people we encounter throughout the day can in turn help improve our own mood. Even imagining ourselves acting compassionately toward others can produce this effect.

Practice mindfulness

Throughout the day, take a moment for yourself, breathe and conduct a wellbeing self-check. You can often do this during mundane or daily tasks (e.g. brushing your teeth, waiting at a red light, etc.).

Seek professional health if you need it

Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling persistently sad or anxious, irritable or hopeless and unable to face routine chores. At that point, it’s OK to use the Resources section below to seek additional help for your mental health.

Battling Seasonal Affective Disorder during a pandemic

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, millions of American adults likely suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression that recurs during the same season each year, particularly winter. While behavioral health professionals aren’t certain SAD will be amplified with the pandemic, they do anticipate that those who have never experienced the disorder before might have a more difficult time this year. As such, it’s important to be prepared as we head into the winter months.

Sources: American Psychiatric Association; Souzan Swift, PsyD, at HealVaile Wright, PhD, with the American Psychological Association
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Maximize light in your life

Whether you go for the natural source or try light therapy, maximize the amount of sunlight you encounter each day. Bundle up and take a walk, rearrange your home office space to be near a window and keep all the blinds open in your house to get those extra rays.

Stay social

As loneliness and isolation make SAD worse, prioritize your social connections this winter, even if they must be virtual. Make regular “dates” with friends and families to catch up over phone or video chat or plan virtual game or movie nights.

Additionally, if your “bubble” does include a few people outside your household, lean on them heavily for social interaction and get creative with your activities.

Maintain your healthy routine

While self-care looks different for everyone, in general it’s important to maintain a regular routine that includes healthy eating, exercise and adequate sleep.

Reach out for help

If you are experiencing any prolonged symptoms of SAD – including a depressed mood, loss of interest in activities, excessive sleep yet loss of energy and difficulty thinking – it’s best to reach out to a professional earlier rather than later. You can contact your primary care physician or access other professional help in the Resources section below.

Resources

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Crisis Help

Disaster Distress Helpline: 1 (800) 985-5990 (press 2 for Spanish), or text TalkWithUs for English or Hablanos for Spanish to 66746.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1 (800) 273-TALK (8255) for English, 1 (888) 628-9454 for Spanish, or Lifeline Crisis Chat.

The Milwaukee County Behavioral Health Division offers a crisis support line: (414) 257-7222, and (414) 257-6300 (for deaf accessibility)

Professional Resources

Milwaukee County Behavioral Health Division: (414) 257-8085 for adults; (414) 257-7607 for children 23 or younger

SAMHSA’s National Helpline: 1 (800) 662-HELP (4357) and TTY 1 (800) 487-4889

SAMHSA’s Treatment Services Locator Website

Mental Health America of Wisconsin: (414) 276-3122 and TTY 1 (866) 948-6483

Self-Help Apps and Websites

COVID Coach: App created for everyone, including Veterans and Service members, to support self-care and overall mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic

7cups.com: Free online chat for emotional support and counseling

Lyf: App where users share highly personal aspects of themselves without the fear of judgment

Calm: App for meditation and sleep stories

General COVID-19 precautions

Educate yourself on how COVID-19 spreads – by close contact, through respiratory droplets (when an infected person coughs, sneezes, breathes, sings, or talks), and by asymptomatic carriers. In less common cases, COVID-19 can be spread by airborne transmission or on contaminated surfaces.

To protect yourself from COVID-19:

  • Wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick or those who live outside your home.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a mask when around others.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces.
  • Monitor your health daily.
  • Avoid crowds.

Sources: Joyce Sanchez, MCW (where noted); CDC