By Cameron Autry
What are the main concerns people should have in terms of catching Covid-19?
I would refer people to the Centers for Disease Control’s website. They have really good resources there. And I would highly advise people to use that website as opposed to Googling it. When you Google something, you never know what you’re going to get. You’re going to have information from doctors right along with information from bloggers, and folks are just expressing feelings on the Internet.
I think it’s really important to vet your resources, especially in a situation where there’s a lot of emerging evidence all the time. So just go to the CDC website and look at what they’re recommending. It’s common sense stuff like washing your hands and not going to crowded places.
What precautions are you taking personally?
For me personally, I’ve been following the CDC guidelines and the state public health guidelines. So, I wash my hands every time I come home. Whether I’m out shopping or walking the dog, I wash my hands when I get in the house, wash my hands after I use the bathroom, and I wash my hands before I eat. I think those are the times when you’re at highest risk of contaminating yourself. And then the social distancing part is just the new normal for everybody. But I try to get outside at least once a day. I think it’s really important to get fresh air and exercise, since our normal routines are super disrupted.
Maine is a very rural state with lots of wide-open spaces. Does this put us in a place where Maine might not get hit as hard with Covid-19 as more urban areas like New York City?
Well, if you look at the nature of this disease, it’s a respiratory disease. And you have to come in contact with another person to be able to spread it. Even though Maine is super rural, we all have friends and neighbors. I don’t think there’s any town where you’re completely disconnected from friends and neighbors. So as long as you have contact with somebody else, it’s possible that Covid-19 can be spread.
But I do think we’re better off than some of these super densely populated cities – because the number of interactions is so much higher there, and the potential to spread is so much higher. If you ride the subway in New York, you’re potentially going to be within an arm’s reach of several hundred people in a matter of minutes. We just don’t have a place like that in Maine. So it’s different. I think our risk is lower, but that doesn’t mean our risk is zero.
How does the immune system fight viruses like the one that causes Covid-19?
The general overview of the immune system is that we are surrounded by microorganisms living on you and me right now. In fact, some of these are helpful. Our intestines have tons of healthy gut bacteria that help us digest things. They make important vitamins that we need to sustain life. But there are pathological microorganisms that make us sick. And so, the immune system’s job is to identify those pathologic organisms and get rid of them.
What are some tips for staying healthy – both physically and mentally – during social distancing?
My worry is that people have stockpiled things that are not that healthy to eat, like highly processed foods, prepared foods, ramen noodles, and things like that. Those are not great things to eat on a daily basis. Stick to fruits and vegetables and foods without a lot of sugar.
Getting some exercise is really important, too. You can do free yoga classes on YouTube. You can do body weight resistance even without weights at home – like push-ups, sit-ups, and planks. That’s more than enough to keep people in shape.
And then the social part of things is really important. There was a huge loneliness epidemic – especially around our elderly populations – and we know there has been research previously to show that loneliness can be a risk factor for illness and death. So, I think keeping up social connections, even if it’s just through phone calls or video visits or talking to your neighbor across the driveway from a safe distance. I don’t think we need to be scared of each other. If you’re keeping a safe distance from folks, socializing is perfectly acceptable.
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