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For some, necessary isolation from virus is detrimental to mental, physical health

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Social distancing and staying home have proven essential for flattening the coronavirus curve and minimizing harm from the virus, but research shows that these unprecedented guidelines to match our unprecedented times may negatively impact mental and physical health among Americans.

According to a study in The Lancet, symptoms of post-traumatic stress, anger, and heightened stress may come as side effects of the nation-wide quarantine, and they may be long-lasting. Stressors for symptoms of poor mental health include lack of resources (medical and otherwise), extended quarantining, fears surrounding the virus, monetary loss, stigmatization of the illness, and boredom. Lack of information and quarantining with no end in sight are also risk factors for declining mental health.

Health workers putting in long, grueling hours are heavily affected.

But COVID-19 is unique in the high degree to which it also affects Americans behind the front lines. A study conducted by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Network warns that, while the need for social distancing guidelines in this country is quite apparent, the effects of social isolation and being home bound could contribute to heightened suicide and overdose rates in the United States.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, racial minorities, particularly black and Hispanic people, are more likely to live in densely populated areas due to the effects of institutional racism and/or housing segregation.

Because of this, they may have a harder time socially distancing.

Almost a quarter of black and Hispanic workers are in the service industry or employed by businesses deemed essential during the quarantine, meaning they’re at higher risk of coming into contact with the virus.

These factors, combined with the healthcare disadvantages racial minorities face due to decreased access, could in part explain why black and Hispanic Americans are disproportionately affected and killed by COVID-19. The CDC said it is working to address these racial disparities, according to its page, COVID-19 in Racial and Ethnic Minority Groups.

Tanya Shah, vice president of the Commonwealth Fund, said that isolation isn’t just a social issue, but something that affects mental and physical health as well. She started researching social isolation, particularly in adults, about three years ago, and the Fund has been working to raise awareness of this issue in terms of the policy, research, and screening ever since.

Isolation has a large impact on mortality and morbidity, according to Shah.

“We need to be paying attention to social isolation,” Shah said in an interview with Capital News Service. “Just like we ask if you’re a smoker or how many drinks you have a week, we need to be asking about your social structural context, because it has such a tremendous impact on health or vice versa. How your health changes have a huge impact on how you’re able to connect with others.”

Lack of social connection and a solid support system can contribute not just to mental health conditions like depression and anxiety, but also to cardiovascular risks and decreased cognitive and physical function. These risk factors overlap a lot with those of COVID-19, Shah said.

“Social isolation really means… a structural construct of being alone,” she said. “Not everyone who is socially isolated would say they’re lonely… Loneliness is more than a perception of being isolated, but they’re very interrelated.”

This isn’t to say that isolating isn’t essential to flattening the COVID-19 curve. Shah said that the elderly, poor, and sick people are the most at risk of contracting the virus because they’re more likely to live in intergenerational dwellings or to have to continue working to provide for the family.

44% of women over 75 living alone and 50% of low-income people who report suffering from loneliness are at a higher risk of suffering from social isolation, Shah said.

One in four non-institutionalized older adults reports feeling socially isolated. Together, these groups constitute tens of millions of Americans, according to Shah.

When social distancing and the subsequent loss of social support are added into the equation, these individuals are more at risk for serious health issues and 25% more at risk dying prematurely.

Shah said some research indicates that being socially isolated, whether from a group a person was once active in, like a church, or from loss of contact with healthcare providers, can be as or more harmful to health than smoking, obesity or physical inactivity.

Isolation-related illnesses also are not confined to the most at-risk groups.

“To be honest, we have not, in modern scientific history, experienced a pandemic of this proportion with these types of measures of physical distancing and social isolation and sheltering in place,” Shah said.

There are some hints from past pandemics, though.

A couple of studies done on SARS survivors a year after the 2003 outbreak found evidence of still-elevated levels of stress and psychological distress, especially among healthcare workers.

Quarantined Liberians during the Ebola epidemic from 2013 to 2016 said stigma related to the illness led to the exclusion and disenfranchisement of minority groups in the country. Many who were quarantined may have avoided seeking medical help for treatable, non-Ebola-related illnesses out of fear of further stigmatization, according to The Lancet.

Mental health has long been under-resourced in this country, according to Shah, who added that benefits should be expanded to pay for these types of services.

“Mental health services need to play a much bigger role in our response efforts as well as in our rehabilitation in the longer-term post this pandemic… The research shows it’s a long-term impact, not just the six weeks or the three months that we have to be socially isolated,” Shah said. “We definitely need to be doing more.”

Abiding by social distancing guidelines doesn’t mean people have to be lonely, experts say. There are some precautions people can take in order to care for themselves in the short term, but larger, more systemic changes must take place to deal with bigger picture issues presented by the pandemic.

Go for walks, FaceTime friends, or talk to neighbors (from a safe distance), experts recommend.

The Washington State Department of Health recommends that individuals struggling with anxiety, depression, or other symptoms of poor mental health should avoid watching distressing news coverage of the virus when possible.

Health experts also advise people to structure their days and keep to a routine, especially those who are prone to depression or anxiety. The more life in quarantine reflects normal life, the better, they say.

Go to the following links. For help dealing with coronavirus anxieties: virusanxiety.com. For advice on helping others who may be struggling: mentalhealthfirstaid.org. For other support services, including suicide prevention: sprc.org.

By ANNA HOVEY
Capital News Service

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Valley Health, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield announce new network agreement; ensures members continued in-network access to Valley Health caregivers and services

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After working for several months on a new contract, Valley Health and Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield today announced a new agreement that will keep Valley Health physicians and hospitals in Anthem’s provider networks. Details of the new agreement were not disclosed.

Mark Nantz, Valley Health System’s President, and Chief Executive Officer

“We are pleased to announce a new long-term agreement with Anthem that ensures in-network access to the physicians and caregivers our patients know and trust,” said Valley Health President and Chief Executive Officer Mark Nantz. “We recognize negotiations have been stressful for our patients and are pleased to bring this matter to a close.”

Anthem is the largest health insurer in Virginia and it was essential that Valley Health reach an agreement to serve thousands of community members who rely on Anthem or other Blue Cross and Blue Shield affiliates for their health insurance.

“We appreciate Anthem’s trust in Valley Health as their partner and their willingness to make the investment in high-quality healthcare for their members,” Nantz said.

The new agreement provides Anthem customers uninterrupted, in-network access to Valley Health caregivers and services through 2023.

“Prioritizing the health of our communities is more important than ever, which is why we are pleased to have reached this agreement, which protects affordability for consumers and ensures our members have access to quality care at Valley Health,” said Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield President Jeff Ricketts. “We value this continued partnership with Valley as we work together to tackle the current pandemic and improve lives and communities here in Virginia.”

Valley Health encourages patients with any additional questions to call 1-866-414-4576. Anthem members can call Member Services using the phone number on the back of their member I.D. card.

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American Cancer Society asks for support for #GivingTuesday and beyond

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In the midst of a devastating pandemic, Americans are facing  unprecedented challenges. This is especially true for the 1.8 million Americans diagnosed with cancer during 2020.  In addition to being especially vulnerable to coronavirus, more than one of every four cancer patients and survivors had delays in care due to COVID-19, which has upended lives and uniquely challenged cancer patients, survivors and their families.  Patients have had to go through treatment alone and the need to quarantine has created isolation.  To fill this void, the American Cancer Society added face-to-face video chats to its free, 24-hour cancer hotline that provides cancer support and resources at 1-800-227-2345.

COVID-19 has placed the American Cancer Society (ACS) in crisis for the first time in the Society’s 107-year history, creating a $200 million shortfall in fundraising, reducing cancer research funding by 50% this year, and challenging the Society’s ability to provide cancer patients and their caregivers support during an unprecedented time.

Nancy Marx, an American Cancer Society volunteer, has been the primary caregiver to her best friend Pat Burger, who was treated for breast cancer during COVID-19.  “No one could go in with my friend to support her during her treatment.  Her sister, her husband and I had to quarantine so we could safely take care of her.  Other family couldn’t come visit.  When she finished radiation treatment and rang the bell at the cancer center, no family or friends were with her.  All her conferences with doctors and the cancer team were virtual.  I was so upset for her.”

Caregivers, not only cancer patients, need support during the stress of a cancer journey.  Nancy, a long-time Relay For Life participant, called the American Cancer Society’s 800 number cancer hotline for support.  “The 800 number is there for everything you want to know about cancer.  I didn’t understand certain medical terms and new medicines.  The Society’s trained cancer specialists are there to talk and help.  I felt much better after my call,” said Nancy.

On #GivingTuesday and throughout the month of December, the Society is asking for the public’s support.  ACS is the largest non-profit funder of cancer research outside the federal government and provides vital services addressing health disparities and round-the-clock patient support despite the times.  Due to the pandemic’s crippling impact, cancer patients, caregivers and survivors are turning to the American Cancer Society for information and resources to navigate COVID-19.

To donate to the American Cancer Society on #GivingTuesday or throughout the month of December, go to: cancer.org or go to Warren County/Front Royal Relay For Life at www.relayforlife.org/warrenva and donate locally to the American Cancer Society.

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Edward Jones financial advisor Bret Hrbek receives Spirit of Caring Award

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Bret Hrbek of the financial services firm Edward Jones in Front Royal recently received the firm’s exclusive Spirit of Caring Award designed to recognize those financial advisors who exemplify the values, culture and spirit of giving back.

Hrbek is a leader in the firm and an example of what a dedicated Edward Jones financial advisor can achieve. He has demonstrated unyielding dedication to giving back to his clients, community, other financial advisors, branch teams and their regional network.

Hrbek said he is honored to receive the award.

“Edward Jones is a partnership. That structure is not just financial, it’s a philosophy,” Hrbek said. “We work together, help each other and all share in the rewards of working with long-term individual investors. That brings out the best in everyone.”

Hrbek was one of only 295 of the firm’s more than 19,000 financial advisors to receive the award.

Bret Hrbek’s office is located at 986 John Marshall Highway, Front Royal, Virginia.

Edward Jones, a Fortune 500 company headquartered in St. Louis, provides financial services in the U.S. and, through its affiliate, in Canada. Every aspect of the firm’s business, from the investments offered to the location of branch offices, caters to individual investors. The firm’s 19,000-plus financial advisors serve more than 7 million clients with a total of $1.2 trillion in client assets under care. Visit edwardjones.com or the recruiting website at careers.edwardjones.com. Member SIPC.

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Shopping Small promotion announces first winners

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Shopping Small does have its rewards in Front Royal.

Sue Laurence of Key Move Properties announced the winners of the first drawing this week. Weekly winners will receive gift bags of local business donated goods including gift cards. The value of gift bags may vary.

The BIG prize goes to Bridget Barker – A gift certificate/vouchers from the following merchants –  C&C Frozen Treats, Try Thai, White Picket Fence, Ole Timers Antiques, and Key Move Properties.

Other winners:

Joe Nelson – A gift certificate from Royal Bowling Center

Jen Avery – A gift certificate from Royal Bowling Center

Nancy Nelson – A gift certificate from Jennerations Hair Studio

Tina Paulisch – A gift certificate from The Studio

Karen Moxie  – A gift certificate from Sensational Hair Cutters

Shopping Small has its rewards

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VAEA recognizes Andrea Stuart as a 2020 VAEA Distinguished Fellow

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Andrea Stuart, high school art educator for Warren County Public Schools in Front Royal, Virginia, has been inducted into the VAEA Distinguished Fellows, an honored group of members who have performed extraordinary service. A virtual ceremony took place during the VAEA Professional Development Conference on November 14, 2020.

Ms. Stuart has taught at Warren County High School in the Visual Arts Department since 1994 and is currently teaching photography and graphic arts. Through Advanced Placement art courses and an independent study program, she mentors students who express an interest in pursuing careers in photography or graphic design. As Art Department Chair, she has steered the art department to participate in VAEA Youth Art Month programs and local, regional, and state exhibitions. She was recognized as the VAEA Blue Ridge Region Art Teacher of the Year in 2003 and VAEA Secondary Art Educator of the Year in 2013. Ms. Stuart’s role as an adjunct professor at Lord Fairfax Community College helped lead to dual enrollment programs which enabled high school art students to earn college credit.

Ms. Stuart has spent her lengthy career enhancing the quality of Virginia art education and supporting her colleagues at the regional and state levels. A member of the VAEA Blue Ridge Region Board since 1996, Ms. Stuart has facilitated many professional development activities for the membership, participated as local chair/co-chair for state conferences, and has been a frequent presenter. She is also an avid learner, participating often in workshops, conferences, and educational travel to enhance her own knowledge and effectiveness. She is a prolific artist, exhibits regularly, and owns her own photography business. According to her nominator, Ms. Stuart is “a consummate professional, creative artist, and compassionate teacher” and the VAEA is proud to recognize her accomplishments and contributions.

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Community-driven report reflects recommendations of the Virginia Marijuana Legalization Work Group

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Governor Ralph Northam has released the Administration’s report on the impact of legalizing adult-use marijuana in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

The report is the final product of the Virginia Marijuana Legalization Work Group, and it results from a diverse, stakeholder-driven process that involved community leaders, healthcare professionals, policy experts, and government officials. This month-long effort was a key part of marijuana decriminalization legislation passed by the General Assembly earlier this year and follows Governor Northam’s recent announcement that he intends to advance marijuana legalization in Virginia.

“We will advance new laws to make sure that our Commonwealth legalizes marijuana the right way,” said Governor Northam. “Virginia has studied the experience of other states and this report lays out a path forward that leads with social equity, public health, and public safety.”

The comprehensive report includes nearly 400 pages of meeting minutes and outlines various aspects of marijuana legalization in the Commonwealth, including taxation, banking, criminal justice, licensing and regulation, and consumer safety. It also provides additional details on the five key principles that Governor Northam wants to see in any final legalization bill:

  • Social equity, racial equity, and economic equity. Marijuana prohibition historically has been based on discrimination, and criminalization laws have disproportionately harmed minority communities. Legislation should focus on undoing these harms by including initiatives such as social equity license programs, access to capital, community reinvestment, and sealing or expunging records of past marijuana-related convictions.
  • Public health. Legislation should include substance abuse prevention efforts in schools and communities. 
  • Protections for young people. As a pediatrician, Governor Northam will require any legislation that includes protections for Virginia’s youth, including age limits, mandatory ID checks, and education campaigns. 
  • Upholding the Virginia Indoor Clean Air Act. Legislation should be aligned with the Virginia Indoor Clean Air Act prohibiting indoor tobacco use, which Governor Northam championed as a state Senator. 
  • Data collection. Legislation should ensure Virginia collects appropriate and ongoing information on safety, health, and equity.

The Virginia Marijuana Work Group consulted with dozens of subject-matter experts in compiling its recommendations, including organizations focused on ensuring social and racial equity, such as the Minority Cannabis Business Association, NoLef Turns, and Decriminalize Virginia. Health experts, including public health policy consultants and practicing physicians, were extensively involved, and the team worked closely with government officials from states that have already legalized marijuana, such as Washington, Massachusetts, and Illinois.

The Work Group was led by the Secretaries of Agriculture and Forestry, Finance, Health and Human Resources, and Public Safety and Homeland Security. The group held a total of 15 public meetings between July and October 2020.

The full report (482 pages) is available here. Additional information about the Virginia Marijuana Work Group and its membership can be found here.

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Upcoming Events

Dec
5
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all-day Small Business Saturday @ Front Royal, Virginia
Small Business Saturday @ Front Royal, Virginia
Dec 5 all-day
Small Business Saturday @ Front Royal, Virginia
Why should Small Business Saturday just be celebrated on the Saturday after Thanksgiving? Buy Local – Shop Local – Eat Local – Support Front Royal’s Small Business Community and stay local! Small Business Saturdays –[...]
7:00 am 64th Annual Pancake Day @ Warren County High School
64th Annual Pancake Day @ Warren County High School
Dec 5 @ 7:00 am – 1:00 pm
64th Annual Pancake Day @ Warren County High School
The Kiwanis Club of Front Royal is celebrating its 75 anniversary this year and are committed to holding the annual Pancake Day fundraising event. This event raises significant funds which are put back directly into[...]
11:00 am Holiday House Tours @ Sky Meadows State Park
Holiday House Tours @ Sky Meadows State Park
Dec 5 @ 11:00 am – 4:00 pm
Holiday House Tours @ Sky Meadows State Park
Enjoy special tours of our Historic Mount Bleak house during this festive season. Visit each of the rooms in this stone manor and discover how the people who called Sky Meadows “home” celebrated the holidays[...]
7:00 pm Rotary Club Cash Fair @ Online Event
Rotary Club Cash Fair @ Online Event
Dec 5 @ 7:00 pm – 8:00 pm
Rotary Club Cash Fair @ Online Event
It’s that time of year for Rotary Club of Front Royal’s annual Cash Fair, and we are going virtual this year due to COVID. This is one of our biggest fundraisers of the year and[...]
Dec
6
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all-day 2021 Dare to Dream Enrichment Gr... @ Front Royal Women’s Resource Center
2021 Dare to Dream Enrichment Gr... @ Front Royal Women’s Resource Center
Dec 6 all-day
2021 Dare to Dream Enrichment Grant Application @ Front Royal Women’s Resource Center
Front Royal Women’s Resource Center (FRWRC) Beginning on November 1, 2020, to accept Applications for 2021 DARE TO DREAM GRANTS (Take classes, start a business, purchase a computer, learn a new skill, train for a[...]
11:00 am Holiday House Tours @ Sky Meadows State Park
Holiday House Tours @ Sky Meadows State Park
Dec 6 @ 11:00 am – 4:00 pm
Holiday House Tours @ Sky Meadows State Park
Enjoy special tours of our Historic Mount Bleak house during this festive season. Visit each of the rooms in this stone manor and discover how the people who called Sky Meadows “home” celebrated the holidays[...]
Dec
13
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all-day 2021 Dare to Dream Enrichment Gr... @ Front Royal Women’s Resource Center
2021 Dare to Dream Enrichment Gr... @ Front Royal Women’s Resource Center
Dec 13 all-day
2021 Dare to Dream Enrichment Grant Application @ Front Royal Women’s Resource Center
Front Royal Women’s Resource Center (FRWRC) Beginning on November 1, 2020, to accept Applications for 2021 DARE TO DREAM GRANTS (Take classes, start a business, purchase a computer, learn a new skill, train for a[...]
11:00 am Holiday House Tours @ Sky Meadows State Park
Holiday House Tours @ Sky Meadows State Park
Dec 13 @ 11:00 am – 4:00 pm
Holiday House Tours @ Sky Meadows State Park
Enjoy special tours of our Historic Mount Bleak house during this festive season. Visit each of the rooms in this stone manor and discover how the people who called Sky Meadows “home” celebrated the holidays[...]
Dec
19
Sat
11:00 am Holiday House Tours @ Sky Meadows State Park
Holiday House Tours @ Sky Meadows State Park
Dec 19 @ 11:00 am – 4:00 pm
Holiday House Tours @ Sky Meadows State Park
Enjoy special tours of our Historic Mount Bleak house during this festive season. Visit each of the rooms in this stone manor and discover how the people who called Sky Meadows “home” celebrated the holidays[...]
Dec
20
Sun
all-day 2021 Dare to Dream Enrichment Gr... @ Front Royal Women’s Resource Center
2021 Dare to Dream Enrichment Gr... @ Front Royal Women’s Resource Center
Dec 20 all-day
2021 Dare to Dream Enrichment Grant Application @ Front Royal Women’s Resource Center
Front Royal Women’s Resource Center (FRWRC) Beginning on November 1, 2020, to accept Applications for 2021 DARE TO DREAM GRANTS (Take classes, start a business, purchase a computer, learn a new skill, train for a[...]