#TeamKentucky is our Commonwealth’s state-wide mission to “flatten the curve” of the spread of the coronavirus, an effort spearheaded by the calm and decisive leadership of newly-elected Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear.
Governor Beshear’s early actions to mobilize the state’s resources and the entire citizenry in the fight against this global pandemic have drawn both local praise and national recognition. So much so that social media has sprouted proposed trades from various other states to lure Governor Beshear away: Florida has offered Disney World, Texas is willing to give up Matthew McConaughey, Maryland would hand over The Preakness, etc. A graph is circulating in the media updates daily with the number of confirmed coronavirus cases by date, plotting Kentucky’s numbers against Tennessee’s. Tennessee Governor Bill Lee was much slower to action, and the data bears that out in simple visual form.
Governor Beshear’s streamed and televised 5pm daily briefings have become must-see TV with the latest guidelines, new actions taken by state government, videos geared to children of different age groups, graphics by Kenneth, and ASL translation from newly-appointed Kentucky Colonel, Virginia. Kenneth and Virginia have been memed and become household names as well. On the subject of memes, Governor Beshear has inspired the Facebook Group “andy beshear memes for social distancing teens” that, as of press time, has nearly 150,000 members. He has been compared to Mr. Rogers and Franklin D. Roosevelt for his extraordinary ability to inform and reassure the people of Kentucky. #BeerWithBeshear photos pop up each day on social media as “Andy Hour” draws near. But rest assured that Governor Beshear takes his duties seriously and soberly as he guides Kentuckians through the maze of confusion and fear that could otherwise threaten to overwhelm them.
Stay connected to family and friends. Share your feelings. Talk instead of texting. Take advantage of technology for video chats and conferences.
TOPS Louisville Magazine prides itself as your local source for “Who’s Who, What’s New, and What to Do in Louisville”. That mission now has added gravitas with the spread of the novel coronavirus and its impact on our own Louisville communities, and around the world, with the threat of COVID-19. With our work, family, and social lives turned upside down in this time of social distancing, finding ways to stay connected, access information, and develop new routines are more important than ever before. The intent here is to provide information and reliable sources of additional information, to understand public health response and preparation of first responders, and to suggest positive ways of navigating the new reality in which we all find ourselves.
In addition to the CDC information included with this article and on cdc.gov, credible, fact-based coverage of coronavirus/COVID-19 can be found through the following agencies: Louisville Metro Governmentlouisvilleky.gov, Team Kentuckykycovid19.ky.gov, and the World Health Organizationwho.int. While social media is so important right now for a sense of community and connection, it can also be a source of misinformation, rumors, and fear-mongering. Be discerning with what you read online and avoid aiding in the spread of any false or speculative content.
A direct source of information in Louisville Metro Government right now is Amy Hess. Amy is Chief of Public Services overseeing Emergency Services, Fire, Public Works, Corrections, Fleet and Facilities, and Animal Services. Before taking office on February 3, Amy was Executive Assistant Director of the FBI’s Criminal, Cyber, Response, and Services Branch in Washington DC. She was the highest-ranking woman in the FBI, having served in the Bureau for 29 years before returning to Louisville, where she had been Special Agent in charge of the Louisville Field Office. Amy is a native of Jeffersonville, Indiana, and her husband is an FBI agent. “So much for a retirement job!” he has joked with her.
Amy Hess was forced to hit the ground running when the Coronavirus pandemic emerged in Louisville during her fifth week of service. She oversaw the establishment of the 75-person Incident Management Team, composed of departments across Louisville Metro Government, who have been affected themselves by social distancing restrictions. Typically, they would meet together in the Emergency Operations Center, located in the MetroSafe building. Now, the IMT teams are spread throughout the building. Each department created and implemented its own Continuity of Operations Plan to identify priorities and the people needed to execute them. Then as a team, they established communications, set goals and objectives, and handled resource management to respond to this crisis. Amy points out the global nature of the event “beyond anything any individual local government has dealt with before.”
Under her leadership, emergency call center MetroSafe 911 and city customer service center Metro311 are currently fully staffed and coordinating with the Incident Management Team. 911 calls are screened to inform first responders of the level of personal protective equipment (PPE) required to respond to each call. Ambulances are cleaned more often and equipped with plastic sheeting and UV lights to mitigate possible contamination. PPE is prioritized, rationed, and evaluated for safe use and disposal. Although the city received a shipment of PPE from the federal national stockpile in mid-March, Amy says it will not be enough and “We are looking for our own solutions, not waiting for federal or state supplies of PPE. We can’t wait that long. We need it fast. We need it now.”
The Department of Public Health & Wellness keeps citizens informed by funneling all necessary guidance from the CDC and disseminating that information in ways that will reach every segment of the local population. The general public can best assist the city in its efforts by heeding the guidance. “The statistics and data will show you how the infection rate can exponentially increase. The fewer people you have contact with, the better.” Amy also acknowledges that people are social creatures and that social distancing goes against our nature in many ways. But staying home as much as possible and staying at least six feet apart from those outside our immediate households is key to preventing hospitals from becoming overwhelmed.
Fear of the virus itself, possible financial repercussions, and the temporary restriction of certain freedoms and social interactions have the potential to impact mental health negatively. Increased stress levels have significant effects on the immune system and the physical body. Taking care of yourself is vital to your ability to take care of your family, friends, and community, and to find ways to thrive and be resilient in tough times.
Recommendations for supporting yourself and coping through the COVID-19 outbreak:
• Put yourself on a news and social media diet. For example, check the headlines briefly in the morning. Look up specific information only on an as-needed basis. Check for updated information just once more later in the day, perhaps by tuning into daily updates from Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer or Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear.
• Be mindful of your physical health. Practice relaxation techniques, use breathing exercises, or download a meditation app. Eat healthily, get regular exercise and plenty of sleep, and avoid substance abuse.
• Engage in activities you enjoy. Delve into a hobby, play games, read books or watch movies as a diversion.
• Stay connected to family and friends. Share your feelings. Talk instead of texting. Take advantage of technology for video chats and conferences.
For more on being proactive and productive during this time, Louisville’s own Laura Wagner, Licensed Psychotherapist, Life Coach, and Fitness Professional, has developed a three-part strategy around Coping, Community, and Connection. In addition to the suggestions above, Laura recommends Coping through “preparedness and routine” by buying only what you need, creating a daily schedule, washing your hands, curating your social media feeds for more uplifting content, and journaling. You can aid your Community by supporting local restaurants and small businesses, donating to local organizations, running errands, or picking up groceries for health care workers. Checking on neighbors, and expressing appreciation for clerks in essential businesses, all while practicing social distancing adds to this support. Maintain Connections by getting outside for a walk and speaking with neighbors from across the yard, taking virtual museum tours and watching online concerts, and tuning into podcasts and streamed religious services.
Laura concludes with this thought, “Constraints give birth to creativity. When your fear leads you to ‘what will happen to us?’ - pivot and embrace this: What will I create during this unprecedented time? How can I make my life, and that of others, better than it was mere weeks ago?” For more helpful ideas, visit LiftUpLou.com and Laura-Wagner.com.
What is a novel coronavirus?
“A novel coronavirus is a new coronavirus that has not been previously identified. The virus causing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), is not the same as the coronaviruses that commonly circulate among humans and cause mild illness, like the common cold.”
Why is the disease being called coronavirus disease 2019, COVID-19?
“On February 11, 2020 the World Health Organization announced an official name for the disease that is causing the 2019 novel coronavirus outbreak, first identified in Wuhan China. The new name of this disease is coronavirus disease 2019, abbreviated as COVID-19. In COVID-19, ‘CO’ stands for ‘corona,’ ‘VI’ for ‘virus,’ and ‘D’ for disease.”
How can people help stop stigma related to COVID-19?
“People can fight stigma and help, not hurt, others by providing social support. Counter stigma by learning and sharing facts. Communicating the facts that viruses do not target specific racial or ethnic groups and how COVID-19 actually spreads can help stop stigma.”
What are the symptoms and complications that COVID-19 can cause?
“Current symptoms reported for patients with COVID-19 have included mild to severe respiratory illness with fever, cough, and difficulty breathing.”
How to Protect Yourself:
• “The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person: Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet). Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.”
• “Avoid close contact with people who are sick.”
• “Put distance between yourself and other people.”
• “Wash your hands, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol, and avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.”
• “Stay home if you’re sick, except to get medical care.”
• Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or the inside of your elbow. Wash hands immediately after.
• “Wear a facemask if you are sick.”
• “Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily.”
(Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)