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From the Experts Uncategorized

Impact of non-COVID-19 related illness treatment from the global pandemic

COVID-19 has heightened physical and mental health concerns on a global scale. The media and medical professionals emphasize the importance of staying safe from COVID-19, but many people are neglecting non-COVID-19 related health issues. Hospitals and medical clinics have been overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients, so non-COVID individuals are afraid to seek medical attention for other illnesses. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, a major consequence of this pandemic has been the lack of utilization of many important medical services that people require to maintain good health (Non-COVID-19, 2020). These medical services also include urgent and emergent medical needs, which are often severe and time-sensitive. Mayo Clinic has also reported nearly 30% of people are delaying or avoiding seeking medical attention due to COVID-19 concerns (Getting safe, 2020).  

In order to combat the fear that people face when deciding whether or not to receive medical attention, many medical professionals have opted to use telehealth systems instead of face-to-face medical appointments. Telehealth appointments are proficient for many minor medical needs but cannot help in urgent situations. These appointments are mostly used for follow-up meetings, medication management, chronic disease management, lifestyle coaching, and for the sharing of test results (Smith, 2015). There are many benefits of telehealth such as lower costs, increased accessibility, and convenience (Villines, 2020). However, in situations where urgent life saving care is needed, telehealth appointments are not useful. Major burns, cuts, or pain should be directed to the nearest emergency room or urgent care for in person treatment (Villines, 2020). 

In more emergent situations, people must make the decision to receive care at an emergency room or to avoid medical attention all together. Currently, hospital emergency rooms nationwide are seeing half of the normal amount of patients that they would have seen pre-COVID (Getting safe, 2020). Additionally, about 80% of adults fear they could contract COVID-19 from an emergency room (Getting safe, 2020).  However, this fear should not prevent individuals from seeking medical attention when needed. According to a recent study, which evaluated 39 hospitals’ emergency rooms, there is no increased risk for contracting COVID-19 in an emergency room than in other public settings (Templeton, 2020).  Most emergency rooms are equipped with ventilation systems and partake in strong infection control practices to reduce the chance of spreading COVID-19 from patient to patient or among employees (Templeton, 2020).

Dr. Steven Woolf reported to the American Heart Association that “we need to assure them that the danger of not getting care is greater than the danger of getting exposed to the virus” (Precker, 2020). Not receiving crucial medical care can have a more severe negative impact on health than possibly contracting COVID-19. Hospitals, although home to the most severe COVID-19 patients, are also the cleanest and most equipt place to prevent viral spread. Typical hospital precautionary measures include routine cleaning and disinfecting, use of personal protective equipment, and expertise of medical professionals (Precker, 2020). 

A nationwide study reported 87,000 excessive deaths in a two-month period, only two thirds of which were COVID-19 related. In 14 states, more than half of the excessive deaths were due to non-COVID related deaths (Precker, 2020). While staying safe from COVID-19 is important, taking necessary steps to ensure the quality of your health is just as crucial. If you begin to feel ill, or have any other medical issue arise, call your doctor or set up a telehealth appointment for non-emergent cases. For urgent cases, do not fear the prospect of seeking medical care, even amidst a public health crisis. Medical professionals encourage individuals to seek care and treatment in order to remain safe and healthy. Promotion of this behavior can prevent urgent health problems from going unnoticed and untreated, potentially saving lives. 

References 

Getting safe emergency care during COVID-19. (2020, July 16). Retrieved November 18, 2020, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/coronavirus/in-depth/safe-emergency-care-during-covid-19/art-20487829

Healthcare Facilities: Managing Operations During the COVID-19 Pandemic. (2020, June 28). Retrieved November 18, 2020, from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/guidance-hcf.html

Non-COVID-19 Care Framework. (2020, June 30). Retrieved November 18, 2020, from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/framework-non-COVID-care.html

Precker, M. (2020, July 10). More people are dying during the pandemic – and not just from COVID-19. Retrieved November 18, 2020, from https://www.heart.org/en/news/2020/07/10/more-people-are-dying-during-the-pandemic-and-not-just-from-covid-19

Smith, A. (2015, November 23). Which Types of Visits Are Perfect for Virtual Care? Retrieved November 23, 2020, from https://chironhealth.com/blog/which-types-of-visits-are-perfect-for-virtual-care/

Templeton, A. (2020, November 24). Risk of catching COVID-19 in the emergency room is likely low, study shows. Retrieved December 01, 2020, from https://www.opb.org/article/2020/11/24/risk-of-catching-covid-19-in-the-emergency-room-is-likely-low-study-shows/

Villines, Z. (2020, April 20). Telemedicine benefits, disadvantages, and uses. Retrieved November 23, 2020, from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/telemedicine-benefits

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From the Experts Public Health Restaurants Small Business

How to Enjoy this Holiday Season Safely

Happy Holidays!


The holiday season has fastly approached and many people are deciding how they are going to spend their holidays this year. As much as we all want to partake in many of our traditional holiday celebrations it is important that we all remain following the CDC guidelines regarding the coronavirus. We all want to spend time with our families and friends but we also need to limit the amount of contact with people to help reduce the spread of the coronavirus. The recent trends in cases mean we need to make changes to our traditional holiday celebrations to keep everyone around us safe. This year instead of dining-in at a restaurant consider take-out to help reduce any possible transmissions of coronavirus or try to utilize virtual options of holiday activities instead of face-to-face holiday activities. We have compiled a few activities that are safe and fun for your whole family to enjoy. 

One fun option of holiday festivities you can do with the people you love while still staying safe is to grab some food and go to an activity nearby.

For a lot of people, going to look at Christmas lights is a must-do during the holidays. Viewing the decorations of the beautiful colors from bright lights during a starry brisk night always fills your heart with the meaning of Christmas. This activity could be a little difficult to attend, especially if you don’t want to be in a crowd of people. But don’t worry there are still drive-through light shows to attend, one in particular called Winter Lights Festival in Seneca Creek State Park in Gaithersburg, Maryland. This show is a completely socially distanced event where you will be in the comfort of your own vehicle! It consists of over 450 intricate light displays and enchanting lit trees that go on for 3.5 miles. It will last between November 27 to December 31 so go while you can!  All of the tickets are only available online at the moment so make sure you visit their website to purchase tickets and more information. Right before you go, you should pick up dinner from Peter Chang, the restaurant is 15 minutes away from the Winter Lights Festival and follows all of the CDC guidelines that keep you safe. They only do to-go orders, and make it easy for you to make online orders through their website and walk in to pick it up. Peter Chang is a Szechuan cuisine restaurant and some of their signature dishes include, soup steam pork buns, crispy pork belly, duck in a stone pot, beef in Sichuan chili, dry-fried eggplant, and chicken with onion & chili. Grab some food from Peter Chang and take the time to stop by and drive through the Winter Lights Festival while enjoying some authentic Szechuan cuisine with some family, friends, or on a nice date with your significant other. 

If you’re looking for a cozy night in, we have the perfect plan for you. If you and your friends enjoy binge watching shows and movies, but due to COVID are limited to social distancing, we recommend Netflix Party. This is a chrome extension that allows you to interact with your friends while using netflix to make it possible for you to connect from the comfort of your own home. You can interact by typing in the chat box as your show or movie is playing. It will broadcast the show or movies onto the screens of those who have decided to watch.To plan out your netflix party, we recommend getting together with some of your closest friends and creating a theme for the night. For the holidays coming up, we recommend the classics, like “How the Grinch stole Christmas,” or “Klaus” for a more family centered focus. To pair with your movie we recommend doing some research into the show to see the variety of foods they plan to eat. Now is a great time to order out and support your local business. Through apps like Doordash, Uber eats, and many more, you are able to support these businesses and drivers from your own bed. It is recommended that you maintain a six-feet distance from and when choosing to carry out or have contactless delivery, you are still able to enjoy the same meals now just in the comfort of your own home. 

Another fun activity to spend time with family and friends this holiday season to grab takeout food and eat together while staying socially distanced.

Great places to meet your friends and family include meeting at a family or friend’s home that allows for safe social distancing or an outdoor area such as a park. In order to keep this gathering and everyone safe, you should limit the number of people in attendance and wear a mask unless you are eating. The CDC recommends that people who decide to partake in this type of holiday gathering bring their own food, drinks, plates, cups, and utensils. Ruth Chris’s Steakhouse D.C. is a great option to pick up take out if you are interested in a safe restaurant that follows all COVID-19 safety measures. Ruth Chris’s Steakhouse offers menu items including steaks, seafood, chicken, and more while also keeping their customers and staff safe during this pandemic. Another great and safe option for takeout in the DC area is The Fancy Radish. The Fancy Radish is a vegetable-based restaurant. In addition to their wide variety of vegetarian-based food options, The Fancy Radish also offers wine and cocktails to go. Spending time with family and friends can still be an option this holiday season but it may seem a little bit different. The CDC also recommends having a conversation with guests before you have an event to set expectations for the holiday celebration.  

If looking to play the holiday extra safe – another wholesome feast option is meal kits. Meal kits are overall well-rounded to minimize virus exposure because they allow for purchasing the kits ahead of time, while calling for cooking and preparations at home. This is a perfect sister-activity to traditional takeout methods – where the family can spend some quality time together preparing a safe, personalized meal. Centrolina (D.C.) offers holiday packages that may be delivered straight to your door. The popular restaurant options include a Chef’s Market Basket, consisting of spaghetti, pizza dough, and sauce. Centrolina also offers a Holiday-Cookie Box extravaganza, perfect for the family member with a sweet tooth. On the flip side, the Centrolina restaurant website offers another great option for non-traditional takeout – recipes for popular dinner dishes with video-tutorials. 

This leads into a final option for non-traditional takeout, virtual D.C. based do-it-yourself tasting options. These options are perfect for those looking to tap into their taste-tester abilities. Holiday options are available for wine-drinking connoisseurs. D.C.’s own District Winery is offering a unique alternative to partying this year by promoting their wine through virtual taste testings, including blending classes as well. These virtual events bring out the inner-party planner, while adhering to safe practices and risk mitigation.

Links: 

Winter Lights Festival: https://www.gaithersburgmd.gov/recreation/special-events/winter-lights-festival

Peter Chang: https://peterchangarlington.com/learn/

Ruth Chris’s Steakhouse: https://www.ruthschris.com/restaurant-locations/washington-dc-3/

The Fancy Radish: https://www.fancyradishdc.com/

Centrolina & DC area Meal Kits: https://www.thrillist.com/eat/washington-dc/best-meal-kits-washington-dc-restaurants-dishes-to-go 

Centrolina: https://www.centrolinadc.com/store 

District Winery Wine Tasting: https://districtwinery.com/virtual-wine-tasting-event 

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From the Experts

CLEANLINESS RATINGS AS THE NEW STANDARD: Hospitality Edition

CLEANLINESS RATINGS AS THE NEW STANDARD: Hospitality Edition

It is undoubtedly so that COVID-19 has affected our economy and business immensely… The hospitality industry may just be feeling the effects greater than any other. 

A cleanly shift

The industry has new, pressing concerns centering around safe, habitable environments for its staff and guests. With promising, revamped preparedness plans and new innovations of technology,  businesses can shift focus towards preventative measures. Vanessa Ogle, CEO of the hotel technology company Enseo, notes technology as the primitive ingredient of success for the hotel industry amidst a global pandemic (Business Insider, 2020). Hotels around the nation are adopting new COVID-19 precautions, such as enhanced disinfection, cleaning, sanitation, and social distancing, all while adhering to CDC guidelines. The most pressing priority begins with addressing future hotel guests’ safety and hygienic concerns from the get-go. There has been a push for the use of communicative technology outlets, such as social media, to efficiently assist future hotel go-ers by providing answers to their direct questions and further information. The industry has utilized social media communication as a recovery strategy idea that keeps everyone informed on updated safety protocols (Five Star Content Co., 2020). This type of strategy shows consumers that the hotel industry is focused on the health of its current and future guests. The result: when post-COVID tourism strikes, hotel go-ers will feel more comfortable staying at a hotel that promotes communicative transparency and loyalty to its lodgers.

Upgrading technology & services

In addition to keeping consumers informed, the industry has even gone out of its way to adopting new innovative technologies and upgraded service options. Some of these contactless features include touchless lavatories, online reservations, and contactless room service delivery (American Hotel & Lodging Association, 2020). Services are getting an upgrade as well. This includes outdoor picnic areas, solo activities, and upgraded restaurant options. Most notable of all is a flexible cancellation policy (Five Star Content Co., 2020). In addition, signage relating to best COVID-19 practices and social distancing guidelines posted throughout the hotel prepares guests from the moment they walk through the door (Five Star Content Co., 2020). Visual reminders show customers the hotel is committed to their wellbeing and limits confusion of practices.

Strategic communications

In terms of strategic brand management, the hotel industry has really stepped up its game. Most chains are offering personalized, revised experiences to increase guest satisfaction and referral, including loyalty program evaluation and implementation (Hotelivate, 2020). Some chains may even see the benefit of offering virtual tour options of hotel rooms and services to maximize social distancing practice. In addition, maximizing brand strategy requires a commitment to optimization and strategic reviews of the competition, past protocols, and current concerns (Hotel Marketing Association, 2020). Brand commitment is the main ingredient in the marketing strategy and contributes to revenue greatly. Hotels nationwide are committing to adhere to the American Hotel & Lodging Association’s “Safe Stay” campaign – an industry-wide initiative that focuses on achieving hygienic expectations and guest satisfaction. Stay Safe has updated their hotel cleaning checklist, now including enhanced protocol surrounding COVID-19 positive staff and guests. This includes routine cleaning of tools and equipment between uses and the replacement of air filters to increase maximum fresh air exchange (AHLA, 2020). In addition, nationwide there is an overwhelming commitment from the hotel industry to follow the best health and safety protocol available. Therefore, all states and major hotel chains are adhering to the American Hotel & Lodging Association recommendations. These are the beginning strides to leveling pre-lockdown and post-lockdown experiences. 

How BioPrep can help

Whatever the cost of revamping hotel standards and increasing positive, safe guest experiences, BioPrep Solutions has you covered. BioPrep is full of public health professionals with decades worth of experience devoted to transforming environments and keeping businesses in business. BioPrep is committed to cleaning up the litter of confusion and uncertainty by promoting safer practices and educating businesses on the most effective standards.

References:

American Hotel & Lodging Association. (n.d.). Enhanced industry-wide hotel 

cleaning guidelines in response to COVID-19. 

Retrieved December 8, 2020 from 

American Hotel & Lodging Association. (n.d.). Hotel industry releases top 5 

requirements to travel safely. Retrieved December 8, 2020, from 

https://www.ahla.com/press-release/hotel-industry-releases-top-5-requirements-travel-safely

Business Insider. (2020). Staying in a hotel will be very different post-pandemic – here 

are new safety and cleaning precautions being implemented by major hotel 

brands. Travel. Retrieved December 8, 2020, from https://www.businessinsider.com/hotel-precautions-coronavirus

Carreirao, P., & Hannan, C. (2020). The covid-19 hotel marketing survival guide: 4 

innovative strategies. Hotel management. Retrieved December 8, 2020, from https://asksuite.com/blog/covid-19-hotel-marketing-guide/

Five Star Content. (2020). Hotel recovery strategy ideas to prepare you for reopening 

during covid-19. Retrieved December 8 2020, from 

https://fivestarcontent.co/blog/hotel-recovery-strategy-and-reopening-marketing-covid

Hotelivate. (2020). Hotel marketing strategies for covid-19 business recovery

Retrieved December 8, 2020, from https://insights.ehotelier.com/insights/2020/09/17/hotel-marketing-strategies-for-covid-19-business-recovery/

Hotel Marketing Association. (n.d.). A guide for hotel marketers through covid-19

Retrieved December 8, 2020, from https://hotelmarketingassociation.com/blog/a-guide-for-hotel-marketers-through-covid-19/

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From the Experts

Cleaning, Sanitation, and Disinfection: Not Quite the Same, Knowing the Difference

COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that is spread from person to person through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes.  Though less likely, there is a possibility of contracting COVID-19 from touching an infected surface and subsequently touching one’s nose or mouth (Parker-Pope, 2020). Research has demonstrated that frequently touched hard-surfaces can play a role in the transmission of COVID-19 (Watson, 2020).  Therefore, cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting, which all reduce the risk of viral transmission, are vital in mitigating COVID-19 spread.  This much is evident by the shelves that still remain empty of most cleaning products in our grocery stores. But what good is it to have these products at your disposal without knowing their protocols of use? It is important to be able to distinguish between these tasks to perform them properly and optimize health and safety. 

Sanitizing 

99.999% Effective?

Sanitizers do not eliminate all types of germs. Sanitizing is only the reduction of germs, mostly bacteria, from surfaces. While studies support that sanitizers with a 60-95% alcohol concentration are effective at killing most microbes, they are not recommended for use on heavy soiled surfaces (“Community, Schools, Workplaces, & Events”, 2020). Sanitizing does not remove all germs or dirt from hands and surfaces. 

Cleaning

SCRUB. WASH. RINSE, REPEAT

Cleaning refers to the removal of dirt, germs, and impurities through the use of a detergent or soap and water. This method is considered the best practice to cleanse dirty hands and surfaces. Though soap and water does not kill germs, it lowers the amount of germs present and decreases the risk of spreading infection (“Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) – Symptoms”, 2020).

Disinfection 

INACTIVATION STATION

Disinfection refers to the killing or “inactivation” of germs on a surface. This process typically involves the use of chemical agents that have bactericidal, fungicidal, and virucidal properties (“Chemical Disinfectants | Disinfection & Sterilization Guidelines | Guidelines Library | Infection Control | CDC”, 2020).

The CDC recommends the following chemical disinfectants for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19:

Alcohol: Alcohol weakens proteins that make up surface-level microorganisms, destroying their structural integrity and neutralizing them. This type of disinfectant is not to be confused with some grain alcohols in beverages, including ethanol (ethyl alcohol) and rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol). Alcohol-based solutions for disinfection should be at a minimum of 70% concentration to verifiably eliminate SARS-CoV-2 from surfaces. 

Chlorine and chlorine compounds: Chlorine compounds inactivate harmful microorganisms. Most commonly found in bleach, these compounds are generally available as 5.25-6.15% solutions of sodium hypochlorite (“Coronavirus Disease 2019 – Environmental Cleaning and Disinfection Recommendations”, 2020). When using bleach, take the proper precautions and read the specific dilution instructions on the product label.  Temperate water should be used for dilute bleach solutions.  Handle these solutions with gloves in a well-ventilated area. Never use bleach on food products, apply to skin, ingest bleach, or mix bleach with other chemicals (Ghapure, Hunter, Schnall, et al., 2020).

Hydrogen Peroxide: This disinfectant is most commonly used as an over-the-counter antiseptic. Hydrogen peroxide produces “free radical” compounds that interfere with crucial cellular components, neutralizing microorganisms. A 7% hydrogen peroxide solution is completely virucidal after 5 minutes of activity. 

The CDC recommends the cleaning of visibly dirty surfaces followed by disinfection for the prevention of COVID-19 and other viral respiratory illnesses in households and community settings (“Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) – Environmental Cleaning and Disinfection Recommendations”, 2020). When in doubt, you can always refer to the EPA’s “List N” tool, which lists every product confirmed to meet criteria for use on surfaces against COVID-19. Remember to take the appropriate safety measures when using these products to prevent injury to yourself and others.

References

Chemical Disinfectants | Disinfection & Sterilization Guidelines | Guidelines Library | Infection Control | CDC. Cdc.gov. (2020). https://www.cdc.gov/infectioncontrol/guidelines/disinfection/disinfection-methods/chemical.html#Alcohol

Communities, Schools, Workplaces, & Events. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/disinfecting-building-facility.html

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) – Environmental Cleaning and Disinfection Recommendations. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020).https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/cleaning-disinfection.html.

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) – Symptoms. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/symptoms-testing/symptoms.html

Gharpure R, Hunter CM, Schnall AH, et al. Knowledge and Practices Regarding Safe Household Cleaning and Disinfection for COVID-19 Prevention — United States, May 2020. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2020;69:705–709. DOI:http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6923e2external icon. 

Parker-Pope, T. (2020). What’s the Risk of Catching Coronavirus From a Surface?. Nytimes.com.  https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/28/well/live/whats-the-risk-of-catching-coronavirus-from-a-surface.html

Watson, S. (2020). Coronavirus on Surfaces: What’s the Real Risk?. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/lung/news/20200903/coronavirus-on-surfaces-whats-the-real-risk

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From the Experts

Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Mental Health in College Students

General Impact

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, millions of students across the United States have had to adjust to an online educational format. In March, many colleges forced their students off-campus within the span of a few days. Thus, the college experience was transformed into classes at childhood homes with little social interaction. In turn, this drastic change in learning has impacted college students’ mental health. Students from different universities have shared their feelings about online school and its impact on their emotional health and wellbeing. A recent study assessed 195 students at a Texas university that closed all campuses in March (Son et al., 2020). The vast majority of respondents expressed increased levels of stress and anxiety due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Higher stress levels among this group are associated with increased levels of depressive thoughts (Son et al., 2020). Additionally, 91% of students reported fear and worry about their health and the health of their loved ones amidst the public health crisis (Son et al., 2020). The COVID-19 pandemic has detrimentally impacted higher education, demonstrating the urgent need to develop interventions and preventative strategies to address the mental health of college students (Son et al., 2020). Michigan State University has adjusted to the changing academic circumstances by offering more mental health services, as there was a significant increase in their usage this summer compared to last year (Ciechalski et al., 2020). COVID-19 has impacted our need to adjust and adapt to a different lifestyle at a rapid pace. Responding to the changing environment can be overwhelming, especially as we come across more unfamiliar situations with the progression of the pandemic (Wiles, 2020). 

Pros and Cons to Online School

Many students have reported feelings of isolation due to the lack of in-person relationships and face-to-face interactions with digital learning (Wiles, 2020). Increased screen time has negatively impacted student health, causing headaches, fatigue, lack of motivation, procrastination, avoidance, ineffective time management, and minimized awareness and understanding of others (Wiles, 2020). As schools increasingly adopt an online format, and several students require counseling and psychiatric services, it has become difficult for students to easily access these resources. However, there are advantages to online learning. Digital education can increase students’ levels of safety and allow them to willingly engage with learning materials from a comforting space (Wiles, 2020). This learning style also alleviates strict schedules, as many professors record lectures or conduct asynchronous sessions. Additionally, professors are understanding of this unprecedented situation and emphasize taking breaks to enhance student wellbeing. Lastly, online learning helps students practice effective time management through the “work at your own pace” model (Wiles, 2020). Establishing school routines are important coping mechanisms for young people with mental health issues. If adjustments to these new settings are not made, students could lose an anchor in their life and symptoms could worsen (Lee, 2020).

Psychological Resilience and Adjustment

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many people, especially students, to adjust to different social and academic situations and build resilience. Improved psychological resilience has been shown through social factors and daily activities including daily sunshine for at least 10 minutes, daily exercise, perceived family and friend support, and low severity of insomnia (Killgore et al., 2020). Additionally, students have sought support from others and adopted positive or negative coping mechanisms for stress and anxiety (Son et. al, 2020). Flexibility is another important factor that allows for adaptation and strategy modification. This is a fundamental component of resilience, especially for college students (Chen & Bonanno, 2020). Moreover, mental health services at schools have utilized telehealth to continue providing students with counseling services and support groups while creating task forces dedicated to mental health (Ciechalski et al., 2020). Also, for students whose home environments are toxic and abusive, universities have reached out to students through the expansion of their social media presence and sent encouraging messages over the past few months. Bolstering psychological resilience should be a primary public health emphasis during the COVID-19 pandemic (Killgore et al., 2020). Those who actively engage in outdoor activities, exercise, and spiritual health tend to be the most resilient to the challenges to mental health imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic (Killgore et al., 2020).

Conclusion

Mental health is a prevalent public health issue that is increasingly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, especially among college students across the United States. Initiatives must be taken to encourage psychological resilience and provide mental health services to those in need. Now more than ever, it is crucial that every college student has a support system and can adapt to these unprecedented times.

References

Chen, S., & Bonanno, G. A. (2020). Psychological adjustment during the global outbreak of

COVID-19: A resilience perspective. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice,

and Policy, 12(S1), S51-S54. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/tra0000685 

Ciechalski, S., Walters, S., & Kaufman, S. (2020, September 3). College students brace for the

‘second curve’ of COVID-19 – its mental health impact.

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/college-students-brace-second-curve-covid-19-its-mental-health-n1238740.

Killgore, W., Taylor, E. C., Cloonan, S. A., & Dailey, N. S. (2020). Psychological resilience during

the COVID-19 lockdown. Psychiatry research, 291, 113216. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psychres.2020.113216

Lee, J. (2020). Mental health effects of school closures during COVID-19. The Lancet Child 

Adolescent Health, 4(6), 421. https://doi.org/10.1016/s2352-4642(20)30109-7  

Son C, Hegde S, Smith A, Wang X, Sasangohar F. (2020, September). Effects of COVID-19 on

College Students’ Mental Health in the United States: Interview Survey Study. J Med

Internet Res 2020;22(9):e21279. https://www.jmir.org/2020/9/e21279

Wiles, G. (2020, July 30). Students share impact of online classes on their mental health. 

Students share impact of online classes on their mental health – The State News.

https://statenews.com/article/2020/07/students-share-impact-of-online-classes-on-their-mental-health?ct=content_open.

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From the Experts

What We Can Learn from East Asia about COVID-19 Strategies

The COVID-19 pandemic has taught lessons about developing personal responsibility, adapting to societal changes, and executing strategies as a means to protect the health of all individuals. Countries around the world are discovering and reinventing new ways to respond to the global pandemic. With immense time pressure and lives at stake, it is no surprise that many countries are struggling. The United States has attempted to ensure adherence to specific guidelines such as wearing a face mask in public, practicing proper social distancing, and maintaining personal responsibility in preventing the virus. East Asian countries such as Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and Hong Kong have effectively and efficiently implemented strategies that have been relatively successful in containing COVID-19. The United States can recognize the efforts East Asian countries have made to combat COVID-19 in its own mitigation strategy improvements. In particular, Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan’s strategies can serve as an example for pandemic response and assist in improving future guidelines and plans. 

Enforced Plan and Guidelines with No Exceptions

Taiwan has a population of more than 23 million people and, at the beginning of the spread of COVID-19 in March, the country only had 451 cases and seven deaths (Farr & Gao, 2020). Taiwan had taken fast and efficient action in creating enforcements for their population and implemented consequences if individuals did not follow the specific guidelines. For most countries in the world, individuals are required to wear face masks before entering public buildings. Yet, Taiwan also established large fines if people were caught without wearing face masks in designated areas or breaking their two week quarantine requirements (Farr & Gao, 2020). This encouraged people to maintain their personal responsibility by wearing face masks and abiding by the rules. Taiwan effectively imposed restrictions for its population as a way to contain the virus. In addition to strong enforcement, Taiwan implemented travel restrictions such as limiting air travel and increasing border control. With the country’s proximity to China, the epicenter of the pandemic, public health experts urged the importance of these travel restrictions (Farr & Gao, 2020).

Digital Technology and Effective Communication 

In May 2020, South Korea had the highest number of cases outside of China, but the country successfully utilized their strategies to control the spread during the summer (Zhou, 2020). Officials established drive-thru testing centers and created digital tracking technology including “CCTV footage, credit card transactions and smartphone location data to monitor potential patients” (Zhou, 2020). South Korea employed technology as a means to track potentially infected individuals and ensure quarantine compliance. South Korea’s use of technology allowed the government to stay connected with its population to ensure the proper health information was given. Their connectedness via technology advanced the South Korean population not only in contact tracing, but in providing health resources for their testing centers and treatments (Zhou, 2020). 

Pandemic Contingency Plan

East Asian countries benefited from having closer and simpler supply chains that provided essentials during the COVID-19 pandemic. Utilizing resources that were closer to home made it easier to distribute for medical and individual uses (Hub staff, 2020). Additionally, South Korean and Japanese governments stepped in to “incentivize production when the medical system lacked essential supplies” (Hub staff, 2020). This plan accounts for potential future pandemics, incorporates use of digital technology, and localizes vital supply chains to prevent lack of essential supplies (Hub staff, 2020). 

It is important to recognize other countries that could positively impact plans and guidelines for future pandemics. With the uncertainty of this public health crisis, we have embarked on this journey of learning and discovering more on how to handle pandemics and also ourselves. In the end, many countries have provided and implemented strategies on how to handle the pandemic but it is crucial to look to successful strategies as examples. 

References:

Farr, C., & Gao, M. (2020, July 15). How Taiwan beat the coronavirus. CNBC. 

https://www.cnbc.com/2020/07/15/how-taiwan-beat-the-coronavirus.html

Hub staff. (2020, May 13). East asia offers mixed lessons in COVID-19 response. Johns Hopkins University. https://hub.jhu.edu/2020/05/13/east-asian-response-to-coronavirus/

Zhou, C. (2020, April 23). Why are western countries being hit harder than east asian countries by coronavirus? ABC NEWS. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-04-24/coronavirus-response-in-china-south-korea-italy-uk-us-singapore/12158504

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From the Experts

Air Quality and COVID-19: Impacts on Human Health

One of the major global health concerns involves air pollution. Research has demonstrated air pollution-related diseases have an extremely high mortality rate (Narain, 2020). Air pollution irritates a person’s airways and causes shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing, and other symptoms that can lead to further complications (Respiratory Health Association, 2020). This air quality issue has steadily worsened in recent years as humans have increased rates of burning fossil fuels and emitting pollutants into the atmosphere. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused lots of concern regarding air pollution as it has an overlapping negative effect on respiratory health. Air pollution has been proven to increase transmission, increase susceptibility, and worsen the severity of COVID-19 infection (Narain, 2020). Yet, even before the pandemic, health concerns linked to air pollution have been one of the leading causes of death around the world (Narain, 2020). These deaths are a result of lung cancer, heart attacks, strokes, and other health-related complications (Respiratory Health Association, 2020). Experts have shown that poor air quality makes individuals more susceptible to infection of COVID-19, a virus that attacks the respiratory system. As countries went into lockdown to prevent the transmission of COVID-19, the rate of air pollution was significantly reduced worldwide (Narain, 2020). While this decrease is reassuring for the future, data has not suggested that this decrease has had any positive immediate effects on COVID-19 transmission and further health complications (Narain, 2020).

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association defines air quality as a measure of how clean or polluted the air is. The top five air pollutants include ground-level ozone, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, and airborne particles, or aerosols (NOAA). These pollutants come from burning fossil fuels and everyday human activities such as driving. Although air pollution has been consistently increasing, the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted this pattern. As countries were forced into isolation for months, and some still are, emission rates have decreased drastically. For example, New York City only produced ¼ of its usual nitrogen dioxide emissions in September compared to in February, prior to lockdown (NASA, 2020).  While this decrease in air pollution is certainly reassuring, it is only a short-term effect unless further government and policy measures are taken. Countries such as China have already emitted dangerous levels of pollutants and, as a protective measure, incorporated masks into everyday life. Air pollution is one of many environmental risk factors that impact human health. Poor air quality specifically impacts humans as it is linked to the incidence and progression of asthma, COPD, lung cancer, ventricular hypertrophy, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, psychological complications, autism, retinopathy, fetal growth, and low birth weight (Ghorani-Azam, 2016). Many of these respiratory diseases such as COPD put individuals more at risk if infected with COVID-19. 

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a respiratory disease that places diagnosed individuals who are also infected with COVID-19 at higher risk of a negative outcome (Leung, 2020). Since COPD is an inflammatory lung disease that prevents airflow from the lungs, individuals experience breathing problems, coughing, and wheezing. The primary cause of COPD is smoking. Early research showing that there are more negative COVID-19 outcomes associated with COPD has indicated that this is most likely a result of poor underlying lung reserves or increased expression of the ACE-2 receptor in small airways. (Leung, 2020). 

While air quality is a pressing issue for all, as it leads to health problems with high mortality rates, it disproportionately affects individuals of vulnerable populations. Minority groups and low-income individuals are more at risk of exposure to air pollution and, in turn, the health problems associated with exposure (American Lung Association, 2020). These groups of people are typically forced to live in areas with poor environmental factors as a result of racial and socioeconomic disparities. Health care access barriers also contribute to health disparities, preventing these individuals from seeking medical attention (American Lung Association, 2020). Often, this attention is crucial to prevent and treat respiratory problems that result from air pollution. 

In order to take steps toward cleaner air that will ultimately benefit human health outcomes, policy implementations must be made. Specifically, Americans can look to scientific experts. Scientists recommend policies that promote renewable energy sources rather than fossil fuels, carbon emission regulations, and an overall reduction in waste (Narain, 2020). Neither the Earth nor humans can sustain the effects of climate change much longer and the immense amount of pollutants emitted into the atmosphere before COVID-19 detrimentally impacts human health. This unprecedented decrease in global pollution as a result of the pandemic is an opportunity for humans to combat this crisis and prolong health outcomes (Moynihan, 2020). 

Reference 

American Lung Association. (2020, April 20). Disparities in the Impact of Air Pollution. Retrieved November 03, 2020, from https://www.lung.org/clean-air/outdoors/who-is-at-risk/disparities

Ghorani-Azam, A., Riahi-Zanjani, B., & Balali-Mood, M. (2016). Effects of air pollution on human health and practical measures for prevention in Iran. Journal of Research in Medical Sciences, 21(1), 65. https://doi.org/10.4103/1735-1995.189646

Harvard School of Public Health. (2020, September 11). Coronavirus and Air Pollution. Retrieved November 03, 2020, from https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/c-change/subtopics/coronavirus-and-pollution/

He, G., Pan, Y., & Tanaka, T. (2020). The short-term impacts of COVID-19 lockdown on urban air pollution in China. Nature Sustainability. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41893-020-0581-y

Leung, J. M., Niikura, M., Yang, C. W. T., & Sin, D. D. (2020). COVID-19 and COPD. European Respiratory Journal, 56(2), 2002108. https://doi.org/10.1183/13993003.02108-2020

Moynihan, C. (2020, September 20). A New York Clock That Told Time Now Tells the Time Remaining. Retrieved November 07, 2020, from https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/20/arts/design/climate-clock-metronome-nyc.html

Narain, U. (2020, July 2). Air Pollution: Locked Down by COVID-19 but Not Arrested. Retrieved November 03, 2020, from https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/immersive-story/2020/07/01/air-pollution-locked-down-by-covid-19-but-not-arrested

NASA, ESA, JAXA. (2020). Earth Observing Dashboard. https://eodashboard.org/?indicator=N1.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. US Department of Commerce. https://www.noaa.gov/.

Respiratory Health Association (2020, October 07). Understanding Air Pollution. Retrieved November 07, 2020, from https://resphealth.org/clean-air/understanding-air-pollution/

Venter, Z. S., Aunan, K., Chowdhury, S., & Lelieveld, J. (2020). COVID-19 lockdowns cause global air pollution declines. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 117(32), 18984–18990. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2006853117

Zinke, L. (2020). Air quality during COVID-19. Nature Reviews Earth & Environment, 1(8), 386–386. https://doi.org/10.1038/s43017-020-0087-1

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From the Experts

Safe Eats for this Holiday Season

Can you believe the holidays are already upon us? 2020 has been a long year filled with twists and turns most of us never would never have imagined. Many of us are looking forward to time with our friends and family, however are fully aware of the consequences if we don’t take proper public health precautions. BioPrep Solutions’ public health experts have compiled a few important reminders, plus a few safe eats recommendations for you, your family, and friends to enjoy this holiday season.

As the U.S. is now averaging about 100,000 new coronavirus cases a day, we are now seeing the largest increase in infections since the lockdown began, and it is important now more than ever to maintain safety and public health regulations. Many Americans this time of year will make the yearly migration home for the holidays, and this means increased contact in public places and airports. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, indoor gatherings with friends and family is still considered a high-risk activity, and quarantining before and after making large visits would be necessary to reduce the risk of contracting the disease. 14 days is still the standard amount of time to quarantine for any group activity, with the knowledge that outdoor events are considerably safer than indoor functions and socials.

As we are now past the quarantining deadline for Thanksgiving testing is an alternative option. According to the CDC, two kinds of tests are available for COVID diagnosis. A viral test would signal current infection while an antibody test would show the results for a past infection. Currently, there are two types of viral tests: molecular tests (such as RT-PCR tests) that identify virus’ genetic material and the antigen tests that detect specific proteins in the virus. The first method to obtain the results are nasal swabs, in which an applicator is inserted into the nostrils for testing, while the second detects the saliva for any data on a positive or negative diagnosis. Both kinds will give relatively reliable results within the span of a few days for convenient and rapid diagnosis.

The pandemic is still ongoing, and there are small steps that everyone can take to prevent and minimize the spread of the coronavirus. One of which would be choosing outside dining at any restaurant or establishment. With any outdoor activity, the risk of contracting COVID-19 is significantly reduced, allowing the maintenance of healthy, disease-free environments. Although the Thanksgiving season usually involves fun, indoor activity with family, friends, and loved ones, it is far safer to consider outside seating options for the holiday to reduce the risk of spreading this disease and keeping your loved ones safe. Furthermore, it decreases the amount of contact needed to prepare for the holiday, such as grocery shopping and errand running.

Based on a randomized survey created by BioPrep Solutions’ public health experts, we are excited to highlight three restaurants in the D.C. area that have worked hard at creating the safest possible environment for their customers and employees.

  1. Clare & Don’s is a great option for restaurant dining with outdoor seating in Falls Church.

  1. Luke’s Lobster Quarter Penn is a top notch choice for a restaurant in D.C.
  2. The Red Hen is the place to go if you are looking for the safest possible takeout in D.C.

We hope you all stay healthy and safe this holiday season! Enjoy your family and friends and keep an eye out for the rest of BioPrep Solutions’ Safe Eats articles from public health experts aiming to keep you and your family as safe as possible.

About BioPrep Solutions

BioPrep Solutions, LLC (BioPrep) was founded by public health professionals with over 40 years of biodefense, epidemiology, and infection control experience. We are here to provide customized Public Health guidance that will help keep your business in business, with the expertise to strengthen your defense against infectious disease threats. We know that each business is different and that the base CDC, local, state, and federal Public Health recommendations aren’t customized to your space and business needs. This is a problem, and the lack of access to Public Health experts with customized solutions is too. That is why we’re here.

Visit our website at https://bioprepsolutions.com/

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From the Experts

Staying Safe While Voting

This is an important time in America and, if eligible to, you should vote by November 3rd. Less than a week away, many people worry about whether it is safe to vote in-person on election day amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. There are several safe practices to engage in while voting to limit the risk of viral transmission. To reduce the number of people at poll locations on election day and maintain social distancing, voters are not limited to casting ballots in person. Alternative options include early voting, mail-in ballots, and designated drop-off boxes. 

Mail-In Ballot or Drop Off

In Maryland, the last day to request a mail-in ballot was October 20th (Maryland State Board of Elections, 2020). If you are one of the many Americans who requested a ballot through this service, you have two options on how to submit it. You can either send the ballot via mail or drop it off at a designated drop-off box location. Drop off locations are listed on the ballot and available at iwillvote.com, along with nearby voting locations. Make sure to follow all directions carefully when you receive and fill out your ballot so your vote can be counted. This is the safest option for voting because the risk of viral transmission is lowest. Some Americans are choosing one of these two options but others believe that in-person is the best way possible to vote. 

Vote Early

Voting early will likely reduce the risk of transmission due to fewer crowds and lines. In Maryland, anyone who is registered to vote can vote early. States have different rules and dates when it comes to voting early. Visit https://www.usa.gov/election-office to find your official state voting website. For example, Maryland’s State Board of Elections has a website for people to learn how to register to vote, where to vote, and how to check their ballot status (Maryland State Board of Elections, 2020). Voting early is another great option if you are worried about the number of people you will be around on election day. It is still crucial to maintain social distancing of at least six feet whenever possible and to adhere to state and local guidelines for public health precautions (CDC, 2020). 

In-Person

In-person voting carries the risk of COVID-19 transmission but these risks can be mitigated. If you plan to vote in-person, make sure to wear a mask or facial covering. Face shields, while not mandated, can provide extra protection to concerned individuals. Wearing gloves will minimize the risk of viral transmission through touching infected surfaces. Furthermore, it is important to be prepared and to keep your hands clean. Make sure you use hand sanitizer, whether you decide to wear gloves or not (CDC, 2020). Hand sanitizer may also be available at polling stations, along with extra masks and gloves. While voting can be stressful, especially amidst fear about COVID-19, the pandemic should certainly not dissuade anyone from doing so. Taking the proper precautions and evaluating all voting options, the risk of viral transmission can be mitigated and people can feel confident about safely voting. 

References

“Absentee and Early Voting.” USAGov, www.usa.gov/absentee-voting

Elections, Maryland State Board of. Early Voting, elections.maryland.gov/voting/early_voting.html. 

I Will Vote, iwillvote.com/

Mai Tuyet Pho, MD. “How to Stay Safe on Election Day When You’re Voting during a Pandemic.” UChicago Medicine, UChicago Medicine, 13 Oct. 2020, www.uchicagomedicine.org/forefront/coronavirus-disease-covid-19/voting-safety

Tips for Voters to Reduce Spread of COVID-19. (n.d.). Retrieved October 30, 2020, from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/going-out/voting-tips.html

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From the Experts

Ebola Outbreak in the DRC

On June 25, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) officially announced that the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s (DRC) northeast region, which has been ravaging the region since August of 2018, has officially ended. No new cases have been detected in the northeastern part of the DRC since April 27, 2020. Yet, this extraordinary achievement was overshadowed by the other long-standing health battles in the DRC: the world’s largest measles epidemic, the rising threat of COVID-19, and the new Ebola virus outbreak in the country’s northwest region. Since the outbreak was declared in August 2018, the virus has killed over 2,000 people, making it the world’s second-largest outbreak of Ebola, the first being the 2014–16 West Africa epidemic which killed more than 11,000 people (Maxmen, 2020). The Kivu and Ituri province’s 25 years of war and political unrest in the northeast region added to the health emergency’s complexity. Over the course of the outbreak, more than 70 Ebola patients and Ebola responders were injured in various targeted attacks by armed groups and at least 11 were killed (Maxmen, 2020). 

However, the epidemic did contribute to key victories in vaccination and treatment. This was the first Ebola outbreak in which a vaccine for the virus was widely deployed. Two vaccines, made by Merck and Johnson & Johnson, were distributed to over 300,000 people who had been in close proximity to people with Ebola and their contacts (Kudra Maliro & Larson, 2020). More than 80% of people who were vaccinated were reportedly not infected with Ebola, and those who were infected had relatively mild cases (Maxmen, 2020). A clinical trial conducted by the DRC’s National Institute for Biomedical Research (INRB) also found that two antibody-based drugs, mAB114 and REGN-EB3, reduced deaths dramatically among those hospitalized soon after being infected (Kudra Maliro & Larson, 2020). These were then given to all consenting patients in Ebola treatment centres in northeastern DRC.

First responders hope to replicate these tactics in Équateur, a province in the northwestern part of the country, where 18 people have been reported to be infected with Ebola virus since an outbreak was declared there on June 1, 2020. This is the 11th outbreak of Ebola in the DRC since the virus was first discovered in 1976 (Yeung, 2020). As of June 14, 2020, authorities have reported 14 confirmed infections and 11 deaths in and around the northwestern city of Mbandaka in the province of Équateur. The United Nations has also released $40 million from its Central Emergency Response Fund to help tackle the new outbreak of Ebola and other persistent health crises in the DRC (Yeung, 2020). Ibrahima Socé Fall, the assistant director-general for emergency response at the WHO, says “the region is difficult to reach by automobile which complicates the Ebola responders’ efforts”. He is worried about containing and treating Ebola patients in Équateur because of its inadequate health system and the extreme poverty and mobile nature of its population (Maxmen, 2020).

Although some doctors and researchers who were assisting in the northeast relocated to Équateur, many others stayed behind to help fight COVID-19. As of July 13, 2020 there have been at least 8,075 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country and 190 deaths (Johns Hopkins University, 2020). There is still a hopeful consensus among those in the region that the damage caused by the coronavirus can be minimal. Fortunately, people in the region are no strangers to the public health practice of social distancing. Schools and places of worship are already fully equipped with hand-washing kits (Kudra Maliro & Larson, 2020). The Ebola outbreak has truly changed these people’s way of life. Things such as not shaking hands is now culturally acceptable, although disrespectful under regular circumstances (Kudra Maliro & Larson, 2020). Now, maintaining good health is of the utmost importance.

References

Johns Hopkins University. (2020, July 13). COVID-19 Map. Retrieved July 13, 2020, from https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/map.html 

Kudra Maliro, A., & Larson, K. (2020, June 25). Congo announces end to 2nd deadliest Ebola outbreak ever. Retrieved July 09, 2020, from https://www.wbtv.com/2020/06/25/congo-announces-end-nd-deadliest-ebola-outbreak-ever/

Maxmen, A. (2020, June 29). World’s Second-Deadliest Ebola Outbreak Ends in Democratic Republic of the Congo. Retrieved July 09, 2020, from https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/worlds-second-deadliest-ebola-outbreak-ends-in-democratic-republic-of-the-congo/

Yeung, P. (2020, June 15). Democratic Republic of the Congo gears up to fight 11th Ebola outbreak. Retrieved July 09, 2020, from https://www.newscientist.com/article/2246095-democratic-republic-of-the-congo-gears-up-to-fight-11th-ebola-outbreak/