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
Randolph-Macon Academy hosts virtual graduation Saturday
Randolph-Macon Academy’s 56 soon-to-be-graduates successfully navigated a rapid transition to online learning in March. Now, having earned a combined total of 211 college acceptances and over $5.2 million in college scholarship offers, they are about to celebrate their graduation online and on time. R-MA’s graduation was originally scheduled for Saturday, May 30th, and the Academy is able to adhere to that date thanks to the quick pivot to online learning in mid-March.
The guest speaker for the event is Rear Admiral John Stufflebeem, USN, Retired, a 1970 graduate of Randolph-Macon Academy, and the Chairman of the R-MA Board of Trustees.
During his Naval career, Rear Adm. Stufflebeem commanded Fighter Squadron 84 and Carrier Air Wing 1 during combat operations in the Balkans and Persian Gulf and Carrier Group 2/Task Force 60 during Operation Iraqi Freedom. His assignment prior to returning to Washington was Commander 6th Fleet, Deputy Commander Naval Forces Europe, Joint Force Maritime Component Commander Europe, Commander Strike and Support Forces NATO, and Allied Commander Joint Command Lisbon.
Additionally, Rear Adm. Stufflebeem served in staff assignments including Military Aide to President George H.W. Bush, Deputy Executive Assistant and later, Executive Assistant to the Chief of Naval Operations. His first assignment as a flag officer was Deputy Director for Global Operations (J-3) on the Joint Staff during Operation Enduring Freedom. Subsequent to Operation Iraqi Freedom he was the Assistant Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Information, Plans and Strategy.
Stufflebeem is now an independent consultant and sole proprietor of the NJS Group LLC, a strategic and crisis communications consulting firm in Alexandria, VA, established after he retired from the U.S. Navy in 2008. He is also a life member of the National Football League Players Association, having played football for the Detroit Lions in the late 1970s.
All of R-MA’s end-of-year events will be released via YouTube Premiere, culminating with the Graduation Ceremony on May 30th. YouTube Premiere will allow students, families, faculty and staff to watch the event as if it were live, and “chat” with each other as the video plays. The Graduation Ceremony Premiere will begin at 9:15am, with a series of tributes to the seniors from their teachers, parents, and even local businesses. The graduation ceremony itself will begin playing at 10:00am.
In addition to Stufflebeem, the Class of 2020 will hear from their Salutatorian and Valedictorian during the end-of-year ceremonies. Class Night on May 28th will feature Salutatorian Jonathan Bunker of Berryville, VA. Bunker is the third member of his family to graduate from R-MA and the second to earn Salutatorian honors. He has been a member of the R-MA Virginia State Championship Drill Team and is the Vice President of the Senior Class.
The Commencement audience on May 30th will hear from R-MA Valedictorian Benjamin Kopjanski of Boston, VA. Kopjanski holds the second-highest position in the Academy’s Air Force Junior ROTC program, and was recently recognized as the Top Cadet in the Nation by the Association of Military Colleges and Schools of the U.S. He was also a member of the Academy’s championship drill team.
“We are incredibly proud of our graduates, and though we wish we could be together physically to celebrate their accomplishments, we are pleased to be able to offer this virtual way to celebrate together,” said R-MA President Brigadier General David C. Wesley, USAF, Retired. Wesley served in the Air Force for 26 years, most recently as the Staff Judge Advocate for Headquarters Air Force Material Command; his service also included time as an instructor at and the Commandant of the Air Force Judge Advocate General’s School at Maxwell Air Force Base, AL. He has been Randolph-Macon Academy’s president since 2015.
The Class of 2020 college acceptances included prestigious universities such as University of Pennsylvania, Brandeis University, Duke University, Case Western University, Drexel University, Fordham University, George Mason University, James Madison University, New York University, Northeastern University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, University of British Columbia, University of Virginia, University of Sydney and Virginia Tech. In addition, the eight postgraduate Falcon Scholars of 2020 all earned appointments to the Air Force Academy.
To access the YouTube Premiere videos, visit R-MA’s YouTube channel.
Randolph-Macon Academy (R-MA), founded in 1892, is a college-preparatory, coeducational boarding school for students in grades 6 through 12. Students in grades 9-12 participate in R-MA’s 91st Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC), and have the opportunity to learn to fly through a unique flight program. The Academy, which is one of only six Falcon Foundation Schools in the U.S., also offers several summer programs. R-MA is affiliated with the United Methodist Church and is located in Front Royal, VA.
Downtown Rebound – Week 2
Once again the Town of Front Royal and specifically Family Fun Day, Inc. is excited to announce ‘Downtown Rebound’ – a plan to assist our beloved downtown businesses while adhering to safety guidelines, and mandates set forth by Phase One of the Governor’s “Virginia Forward” re-opening plan.
During this time, downtown businesses and restaurants will be able to expand their services, displays, and seating areas onto the sidewalks and Main Street. Additionally, the Royal Cinema will be showing an outdoor movie at 8:30 PM on Friday and Saturday, weather permitting.
There will be a temporary vehicular road closure of Main Street, Kidd Lane, and part of Chester beginning Friday, May 29, at 4:30 P.M. and ending on Monday, June 1, at 7 A.M. Parking will be available at the Gazebo entering from Virginia Hale Blvd only.
This is not a festival, but it is an opportunity for citizens to get out and visit our restaurants and businesses throughout Front Royal. All citizens are expected to maintain six feet social distancing and follow other guidelines as directed by Governor Northam’s Executive Orders. Restaurants may provide additional guidance as well.
Warren County Habitat for Humanity moves to new office and resumes Repair Program
Warren County Habitat for Humanity (WCHFH) will open in their new office located at 109 Water Street, in Front Royal, on June 1, 2020. Beginning June 1, the office will be open by appointment only. Normal office hours (Mon-Fri, 10-2) will resume June 15. The Habitat office will have hand sanitizer and masks available for clients and visitors.
“The Board is excited to be moving to this new space. The location will allow for better visibility and access for our current and future clients and partners.” According to Amanda Slate, WCHFH Board President.
Due to COVID-19 risks and in keeping with guidelines from Habitat International and the state government, Warren County Habitat for Humanity had suspended much of its activity and closed its office on March 31. With the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions through Governor Northam’s Forward Virginia Plan, WCHFH will begin implementing plans to reopen its office and resume programming. To see the full reopening plan, click here.
Applications for the WCHFH Home Repair Programs will be accepted from June 1-15. Work on new repairs should begin late July to early August, following stringent safety and health precautions. Warren County Habitat for Humanity offers home repairs with affordable financing to qualified homeowners living in Warren County, Virginia. The homeowner must be a full-time resident of the home and meet income guidelines below 60% of AMI. Mortgage, property taxes, and homeowner’s insurance accounts must be current. This program is not available to landlords, tenants, land contract holders, or trailer home residents. For more information on the home repair program and to complete the eligibility questionnaire, click here.
For more information about Habitat’s home repair program or to schedule an appointment, contact Jessica Priest-Cahill, WCHFH Executive Director, at (540)551-3232 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Founded locally in 1993, Warren County Habitat for Humanity seeks to build homes, community, and hope in Front Royal and Warren County. Habitat for Humanity homes are sold with no profit received. The homes are built utilizing volunteer labor, donated resources, and money from the community. Homeowners must meet three qualifications: willingness to partner; ability to pay; and have a need for decent, affordable, and safe housing. In addition to the Habitat Homeownership Program, WCHFH provides home repair programs for low-income homeowners, homeownership and home maintenance education, and advocacy for local affordable home ownership. To learn more visit www.warrencountyhabitat.org.
Town looks to expand, revisit success of weekend downtown ‘walking mall’
Early in its May 26th, post-Memorial Day, Tuesday evening meeting, the Front Royal Town Council got a glowingly positive report on the Memorial Day weekend downtown business re-opening event marked by the closure of a portion of East Main and Chester Streets to vehicular traffic.
Interim Town Manager Matt Tederick began the discussion by lauding the involvement of C&C Frozen Treats proprietor and Family Funday sponsor William Huck for his proactive involvement, including pulling the festival permit to allow the street closings.
“I think it was a wild success, frankly,” Tederick told council, adding, “I’ve gotten numerous text messages and phone calls from folks, businesses, restaurants sold out of food on Monday. I think it was just a really good event – a lot of citizens seemed to appreciate it.”
Tederick then urged town businesses outside the Historic Downtown area to contact the town manager’s office if they had ideas for “creative outdoor planning” in their areas to help resurrect the local business community from two months of COVID-19 pandemic mandated public health safety shutdowns.
“We’re being as flexible as we legally can be and we’re following the code, we’re following the laws but we’re doing everything we can to assist our local businesses, restaurants, as well as brick and mortar businesses,” Tederick enthused in the wake of the Saturday through Memorial Day Monday downtown event.
See Royal Examiner’s two-pronged photographic report on Saturday’s opening and Monday’s stirring, if brief, Memorial Day event at the Courthouse grounds.
Tederick then acknowledged an expected new executive order from Governor Ralph Northam’s office requiring the wearing of masks inside the re-opened business and government buildings. Virginia is in the process of moving from the Democratic governor’s Phase One reopening that kicked in Friday to Phase Two expected to launch June 10.
“My opinion, that’s going to come with a whole lot of cost, as well as preparation; and there’s going to be a whole lot of questions as well,” Front Royal’s interim town manager and longtime County Republican Committee officer and operative said, without elaboration on how those “lot of” costs and preparations would be generated from an anticipated mask-wearing order.
Noting his time downtown at about four hours on both Saturday and Monday, Mayor Gene Tewalt said, “The biggest question that I’ve been asked from people that ran their businesses is, are we going to keep doing this on a weekly basis. And I told them I wasn’t sure – that I’d get back with you and the council to see which way you guys want to handle this … It went very well, at least that’s what everybody told me and it was a great event.”
Gary Gillespie, Lori Cockrell, Chris Holloway, and Letasha Thompson added their positive reviews, and/or the positive reviews of those they had spoken to about the event as council pondered the potential of a regular weekend closing of a portion of the downtown business district to vehicular traffic to facilitate additional customer foot traffic in a walking mall-style downtown.
Vice Mayor Bill Sealock asked about the hours at the Finance Department’s Town Hall drive-thru payment window on Fridays, which would be blocked by the traditional closing of East Main at Royal Avenue. Told by Finance Director B. J. Wilson the window closed at 4:30 p.m., council pondered the possibility of adding Friday evenings to the walking mall concept beginning around 5 p.m.
“If the consensus of the council is let’s do it again this weekend, I think the staff and I are prepared to launch if that’s something you’d like to see be done,” Tederick told the council.
Council’s comments appeared to indicate that the positive feedback wasn’t only from the restaurants the outdoor street seating the street closures were designed to help facilitate with social distancing regulations. So, if that feedback is, in fact, broad-based and ongoing, it appears the Town is poised to move forward with a continued weekend, late Friday afternoon to Sunday evening downtown closings. – Get ready to pull some more permits, Huck.
And that with a call out to businesses in other areas of town for some “creative outdoor planning” to jump on the marketing of Front Royal’s Phase One business reopening bandwagon. – But don’t forget your masks and social distancing safeguards as we are likely to have increased visitation from residents from more highly contaminated areas to our east and south.
Also, on Tuesday’s agenda were two items that drew some discussion on the first readings of the two required for final approval. One was an ordinance amendment lowering water and sewer tap-in fees to developers; the other on approval of financial appropriations for the Fiscal Year 2021 Town Budget.
See all these discussions and votes in the linked Royal Examiner virtual meeting recording; and more detail on the two ordinance amendment proposals in forthcoming Royal Examiner stories.
Governor Northam announces face covering requirement and workplace safety regulations
~ Face coverings required in public settings starting Friday, May 29 ~
Governor Ralph Northam today, May 26, 2020, signed Executive Order Sixty-Three, requiring Virginians to wear face coverings in public indoor settings to help contain the spread of the novel coronavirus. The Governor also directed the Department of Labor and Industry to develop emergency temporary standards to prevent workplace exposure to COVID-19.
Governor Northam also signed an amended Executive Order Fifty-One, extending Virginia’s state of emergency declaration.
The new executive order supports previous actions the Governor has taken to respond to COVID-19 in Virginia and ensures workers and consumers are protected as the Commonwealth gradually eases public health restrictions. The Governor’s statewide requirement for wearing face coverings is grounded in science and data, including recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that individuals should wear face coverings in public settings. Face coverings do not take the place of public health guidelines to maintain six feet of physical distancing, increase cleaning and sanitation, and wash hands regularly.
“We are making progress to contain the spread of the COVID-19 and now is not the time for Virginians to get complacent,” said Governor Northam. “Science shows that face coverings are an effective way to prevent transmission of the virus, but wearing them is also a sign of respect. This is about doing the right thing to protect the people around us and keep everyone safe, especially as we continue to slowly lift public health restrictions in our Commonwealth.”
A face covering includes anything that covers your nose and mouth, such as a mask, scarf, or bandana. Medical-grade masks and personal protective equipment should be reserved for health care professionals. Under the Governor’s executive order, any person age ten and older must wear a mask or face covering at all times while entering, exiting, traveling through, and spending time in the following public settings:
• Personal care and grooming businesses
• Essential and non-essential brick and mortar retailers including grocery stores and pharmacies
• Food and beverage establishments
• Entertainment or public amusement establishments when permitted to open
• Train stations, bus stations, and on intrastate public transportation, including in waiting or congregating areas
• State and local government buildings and areas where the public accesses services
• Any indoor space shared by groups of people who may congregate within six feet of one another or who are in close proximity to each other for more than ten minutes
Exemptions to these guidelines include while eating and drinking at a food and beverage establishment; individuals who are exercising; children under the age of two; a person seeking to communicate with a hearing-impaired person, for which the mouth needs to be visible; and anyone with a health condition that keeps them from wearing a face covering. Children over the age of two are strongly encouraged to wear a face-covering to the extent possible.
The Governor is also directing the Commissioner of the Department of Labor and Industry to develop emergency temporary standards for occupational safety that will protect employees from the spread of COVID-19 in their workplaces. These occupational safety standards will require the approval by vote of the Virginia Safety and Health Codes Board and must address personal protective equipment, sanitation, record-keeping of incidents, and hazard communication. Upon approval, the Department of Labor and Industry will be able to enforce the standards through civil penalties and business closures.
LFK Graduates 101 5th graders
On May 26, 2020, students from LFK Elementary School in Front Royal held their graduation ceremony, drive-in style. Lines of cars started to form about 1:30 pm on the street in front of the school. With the Warren County Sheriff’s Office leading the way, the graduation ceremony began at 2 pm.
Ginger Newton, a 5th-grade teacher at LFK spoke with our publisher Mike McCool about the event.