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
Local ‘Save Our Children’ efforts focus on substantial issues rather than conspiracy theories
On Friday, September 18, “Save Our Children Front Royal” held the first of a series of planned events to bring attention to a perceived gap in the state or U.S. Justice systems that many feel “under-punishes” convicted pedophiles. The late afternoon march assembled at the Warren County Government Center around 5:30 p.m. proceeded down Commerce Avenue and Water Street to the Front Royal Village Commons/Gazebo area and circled back on Chester and Second Streets to the government center.
Organizer Brittany Lewis says the march and coming events are designed “to bring awareness to child abuse and sex trafficking” issues. She stressed that “Save Our Children Front Royal” is not associated with recent efforts of the factually-discredited Q-Anon political conspiracy theory group to latch onto the ‘#saveourchildren’ logo to its own ends, or for that matter to the 1970s origin of the slogan in Florida tied to an anti-gay agenda celebrity Anita Bryant served as the spokesperson for.
“No, when I was starting this up someone asked about that and I had to tell them I wasn’t with those groups. I put ‘Front Royal’ on at end … to try and distance us from that,” Lewis told Royal Examiner.
Rather, “Save Our Children Front Royal” is born of experience closer to home. That experience was her becoming aware of a young child’s abuse locally and deciding that abuse was too close to home. And while the alleged perpetrator has been arrested and is awaiting trial, it is the end result of such prosecutions on pedophile charges that Lewis says is one of the primary reasons she began “Save Our Children Front Royal”.
“The average jail sentence is 3-1/2 years,” she said of pedophile convictions.
And for Lewis, and others rallying to her cause, that is not enough time behind bars for the sexual victimization of her or any of our society’s children.
Upcoming events include a “Paint Night” fundraiser for the Laurel Center for victims of sexual abuse that will be held in the Washington Suite of the Blue Ridge Shadows Holiday Inn on October 11, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and another march on October 24, slated to begin at 10 a.m. at the WCGC parking lot.
For further information see the “Save Our Children Front Royal” Facebook page or contact Brittany Lewis by email at email@example.com or by phone at (540) 692-9893.
VOA reports worldwide from Front Royal on the death of U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Ginsburg
A visitor to Front Royal last weekend (September 18-19) could provide a footnote to the history of our town.
A guest of ours, Steve Herman, now living in Alexandria and working out of the White House, is the Voice of America’s (VOA) bureau chief in Washington. After connecting through the AP Retirees online bulletin, Herman brought his wife, Rosyla, specifically to attend the weekly “Yappy Hour” on Main Street Friday evening, September 18.
Rosyla loves dogs!
It was to be a relaxing weekend for the Hermans. Or so the busy journalist had planned. I’d advised him of our weekly Wagner Animal Shelter fundraiser a few weeks ago and it caught the eye of his wife who agreed to, or perhaps proposed, the overnight trip.
We made it a meet and greet with local reporters Roger Bianchini (Royal Examiner) and Josh Gully (late of the NV Daily). Herman, 60, and me, 87, worked at different times for The Associated Press, me in the U.S., Herman in cities throughout Asia.
Events changed quickly for our guest when news of Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death came up on his phone while we were socializing at ViNoVa’s outdoor “Yappy Hour” seating.
Saturday over lunch Herman told us that after returning to their Remount Road B&B Friday night, “BBC World TV rang him” asking if he could appear live, “preferably from the White House, to discuss how the associate justice’s death would affected the (U.S.) election.”
With no time to return to Washington, Herman said he went on the air via Skype on a slow-speed Internet connection from his Front Royal B&B bedroom to carry his VOA bureau chief report to BBC World’s international audience. Routinely, his VOA broadcasts are translated into 47 languages for 350 million people through a network of more than 2,500 local broadcast affiliates. He said he did his reporting sitting on the floor using a mid-19th century fireplace as a backdrop for his appearance on BBC’s worldwide broadcast.
Is that another first for Front Royal, a town of many firsts recorded since the Civil War? Maybe so. Local historians take note.
We invited Steve and Rosyla back to Warren County for “another relaxing weekend” where Rosyla fell in love – with our dog, the rescue Siberian husky, Diva (hamming it up in accompanying photos).
Meet the Candidates: Eugene Tewalt – Front Royal Town Council
Meet the Candidates is a series on the Royal Examiner where we will sit down with each candidate in our local election and discuss issues that are important to all of us. The Royal Examiner asked Michael Graham, a former Town Manager of Front Royal to host these conversations. As a former Town Manager, Michael has an insight into the issues facing the Town and hopefully be able to bring out from each candidate their vision and plan if they are to be elected in the November 3rd election.
In this conversation, Michael will speak with Eugene Tewalt. Tewalt is seeking a seat on the Front Royal Town Council.
All local candidates have been invited to participate in this ‘Meet the Candidate’ series. Please be sure to vote.
Virginia Beer Museum marks 4 years of celebrating state’s brewing history
On Saturday, September 19, the Virginia Beer Museum cut the cake on its fourth anniversary of lauding, not only the Commonwealth’s current barley crop of crafted beers, but noted Virginians like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson’s contributions to Virginia and the American colonies history of brewing their way right up to independence.
And that’s something worth raising a glass of fine Virginia-brewed beer to – the museum’s fourth and America’s history of a march toward “all men created equal” under the law celebrated every 4th – of July. Keep the faith in that march, kids – someday.
The appropriately named Play the Changes band mixed classic rock covers and original material to an enthusiastic crowd spanning a several generation gap that appeared to agree that BEER was the vote to make, at least for those of age that Saturday evening in Historic Downtown Front Royal, Virginia.
Check the band out on its Facebook page and website.
And check the Virginia Beer Museum out on Facebook and at its website.
Another 5-year wait for essential bridge over Rockland Road railroad crossing in Warren County
A long-awaited overpass needed to help emergency services, fire trucks and ambulances react to urgent 911 calls may become a reality, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) – but not until 2025, if then.
In a presentation to the Rotary Club of Front Royal, September 18, Ed Carter, a VDOT official with an office in Edinburg, estimated a fall construction date starting in 2023 which should see the bridge opening in the spring of 2025 – a date that will be 25 years in the making.
According to Rotarian and former Warren County Administrator Doug Stanley in a telephone exchange last year, it had been 20 years since problems with the railroad companies first surfaced, but then, complaints were scarce. In the past several years, however, rail traffic has increased to the extent that traffic holdups at some crossings have been reported to range to an hour, if not longer.
In addition to emergency service inaccessibility, another effect of increased train traffic for residents of the area is the wait for drivers who need to be downtown or elsewhere to keep doctors and dentists appointments, veterinarian treatments for sick animals, or other scheduled meetings – even shoppers are becoming more irritated by the train crossing barriers coming down.
While describing the noticeable increase in train traffic and the length of many trains, some requiring two and three locomotives to pull and/or push heavier loads, Carter suggested some of the complaints may be overblown – “when sitting waiting, four minutes might seem like an hour.” (see editor’s note at story’s conclusion)
The railroad companies estimate a top waiting time of about 15 minutes. Carter also blamed the current installation of “third rails” for the extra train traffic that have added to the cost of a bridge.
The original estimate for the overpass was $15.5 million, which effectively is in the bank; and pre-construction work has begun. However, the railroad companies’ “third rail” has added almost $6 million to the project, and all that extra money is not yet in hand.
“(Residents) are going to have to put up with train blockages for quite a while longer,” Carter said, adding that a public hearing on the project is slated for the spring of next year.
The estimated 200-foot long bridge, two lanes (24-feet) wide, will “straighten out the two curves on the Rockland Road approach. He also observed that the bridge would be “quite high.”
Answering a question, Carter said trucks will be fed on to the relatively narrow country road, up to and including the size of tractor trailers. A questioner suggested that two trucks coming along the road in separate directions may not be able to pass one another without one pulling over.
Another Rotarian observed that there are already distinctive marks on either side of the road where mostly cars apparently have run off the road in passing from opposite directions.
While announcing that preparations for bridge construction had already begun despite the wait for extra (federal/state) funds, he described initial problems where underground caverns “close to the right of way” had been discovered and were a concern to engineering crews.
Carter, answering another question, said it would help if drivers held up for long periods would call the sheriff’s office for the record, suggesting that “we cannot control the railroads which got the right of way… many years ago” but observing that record-keeping of delays would be helpful in future discussions.
(Editor’s note: While driving to his Rockland home following the Rotary meeting, the writer was held up by a train at the Rockland Road crossing for a measured four minutes. “It seemed like an hour,” he confirmed.)
Statewide teen seat belt challenge launches “Buckle Up” design contest and free traffic safety kits
SALEM, VA — Students, schools, and youth groups across Virginia are kicking off a statewide campaign this week to increase seat belt usage rates among teens and youth.
Through a new, virtual format, the five‐week campaign, Drive for Change: Buckle Up and Slow Down will encourage youth and teens to develop a lifelong buckle up habit by reminding them that seat belts are their best defense against injury and death in a crash. In 2019, 65 teens aged 15-20 were killed in crashes in Virginia and of those teens, 56% were not wearing seat belts. According to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), 2020 preliminary data reveals 37 teens have been killed on Virginia’s roadways from January 1 through August 31, 2020 and of those, 19 (59%) were unbelted.
“The simple step of buckling a seat belt saves lives but, sadly, we are seeing an increase in the percentage of unrestrained teens killed in crashes in Virginia this year,” said Mary King, YOVASO Program Manager. “Through the ‘Drive for Change’ campaign, we are challenging our teens to change that statistic by influencing and encouraging each other to always buckle up. We hope every teen in Virginia will join the campaign and use their creativity to help save lives.”
In addition to buckling up, the campaign will also address speed prevention which remains a key factor in all fatal crashes involving a young driver with approximately half of fatal teen crashes being caused by excessive speed.
As part of the campaign, Virginia students ages 11-20 will be encouraged to participate in the #DriveForChange Sticker Design Contest by designing a sticker/decal with a buckle up and/or slow down message that will influence youth and teens to wear their seat belt and follow posted speed limits. The winning design will be selected by popular vote on social media during National Teen Driver Safety Week (October 18-24) and announced on October 23. Prizes will be awarded for the top five designs with first place receiving $100, having their artwork produced as a sticker for YOVASO’s 2021 Arrive Alive campaign, and will also receive 100 stickers to share with his/her friends. The other four finalists will receive $25. Contest Guidelines can be found online at www.yovaso.org/driveforchange.
Students may also participate in the campaign by registering for a #DriveForChange kit that includes driver and passenger safety resources, project ideas, and other fun items! Additional options for schools, youth groups, and parents to get involved can be explored on YOVASO’s website.
Drive for Change: Buckle Up and Slow Down is funded by a grant from the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles with additional funding from State Farm, which supports prizes and educational incentives and materials.
“State Farm’s primary goal is to keep drivers safe behind the wheel,” said State Farm spokesperson Kate Beadle. “This campaign is a creative reminder to young drivers to always wear seat belts and obey the speed limit. With these actions, the number of accidents, serious injuries and deaths will be reduced.”
For more information or to register for free campaign materials for your school or youth group, contact Casey Taylor, Program Development Coordinator at 540-739-4392 or visit yovaso.org.
Schools and Youth Groups participating in the 2020 Drive for Change: Buckle Up and Slow Down campaign:
- Auburn Middle School, Montgomery Co.
- Bristol’s Promise, Washington Co.
- Central Academy Middle School, Botetourt Co.
- Eastern Montgomery High School, Montgomery Co.
- Fluvanna County High School, Fluvanna Co.
- Forest Middle School, Bedford Co.
- Galileo Magnet High School, Danville City
- George Wythe High School, Richmond City
- Heritage High School, Newport News City
- Hidden Valley High School, Roanoke Co.
- Jefferson Forest High School, Bedford Co.
- L.C. Bird High School, Chesterfield Co.
- Liberty High School, Bedford Co.
- Louisa County High School, Louisa Co.
- Louisa County Middle School, Louisa Co.
- Luray High School, Page Co.
- Mallory’s Movement Against Drunk Driving, Chesterfield Co.
- Narrows High School, Giles co.
- Page County High School, Page Co.
- Randolph-Henry High School, Charlotte Co.
- REACH Homeschool Group, Orange Co.
- Rockbridge County High School, Rockbridge Co.
- Walker-Grant Middle School, Stafford Co.
- Woodrow Wilson High School, Portsmouth City
- William Byrd High School, Roanoke Co.
Students are also participating from the following schools and universities:
- Beverley Manor Middle School, Augusta Co.
- Breckinridge Middle School, Roanoke City
- Bridgeway Academy, Chesapeake City
- Broadwater Academy, Northampton Co.
- Broadway High School, Rockingham Co.
- Brooke Point High School, Stafford Co.
- Centerville High School, Fairfax Co.
- Christiansburg High School
- Christopher Newport University
- Colgan High School, Prince William Co.
- Dinwiddie County High School, Dinwiddie Co.
- Floyd County High school, Floyd Co.
- George Wythe High School, Wythe Co.
- Glenvar High School, Roanoke Co.
- Graham High School, Tazewell Co.
- Hanover County High School, Hanover Co.
- James Madison University
- John I Burton High School, Norton City
- John P. Fishwick Middle School, Roanoke City
- Jouett Elementary School, Louisa Co.
- King George High School, King George Co.
- Lancaster High School, Lancaster Co.
- Menchville High School, Newport News City
- Milboro Elementary School, Bath Co.
- Monacan High School, Chesterfield Co.
- North Stafford High School, Stafford Co.
- Oak Knoll Middle School, Hanover Co.
- Park View High School, Mecklenburg Co.
- Patrick Henry High School, Roanoke City
- Penn Foster High School, King George Co.
- Prices Fork Elementary, Montgomery Co.
- Radford High School, Montgomery Co.
- Rodney Thompson Middle School, Stafford Co.
- Salem High School, Salem City
- South County High School, Fairfax Co.
- Staunton River High School, Bedford Co.
- Stuarts Draft High School, Augusta Co.
- Tabb High School, York Co.
- William Campbell Combined School, Campbell Co.