Special thanks to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services for sponsoring today’s post.
It has been a long ten months and, like you, our family is ready for a break from COVID. We really miss all of our former socialization and interactions with loved ones and it is so tempting to waver in our precautions. Despite our frustrations with the current situation, we are determined to stay vigilant and do our part to help slow the spread of COVID through social distancing, mask-wearing, and hand washing. Flu season is upon us and new strains of COVID are emerging, which serve as important reminders that we need to remain steadfast for the sake of our community. Following the recommended health precautions help to keep the economy running and schools open, while preventing too much stress on our hospitals and health care system so they can continue to provide critical care to everyone who needs it. Together, we can all spread hope, not COVID.
Just the other day, I was scrolling through my phone and couldn’t help but linger on all the photos I took just before COVID struck. Everything was so normal at the time and we had no idea what was coming our way. Randomly shopping at the mall, crowding around a table with our friends, taking Dessa to Mommy & Me preschool, eating at restaurants… all of those activities now seem like they were another lifetime ago, rather than just ten months. This pandemic has changed our way of life and tried to threaten our freedoms to live, work and follow the American Dream. It has been a long journey already and COVID isn’t going anywhere, so our family is choosing to continue spreading hope, not COVID as we continue to adjust to this new way of life.
Our family has been fortunate this past year, which we are so incredibly thankful for, but the pandemic hasn’t spared us from challenges and frustrations. The absolute worst of it came during the first few months of quarantine when it was too cold to take Harvey outside for any extent of time, so it was just the four of us in our 1,300 square foot home all day, every day. We went nearly four months without any child care assistance, which meant the childcare duties fell on me during the day while Rob worked in the front foyer.
You might recall that I was sharing weekly updates on our time at home way back in the early days of the pandemic. By the fifth week, I was a wreck and cried nearly every day. I sort of hit rock bottom on Easter Sunday when we celebrated the first of many holidays at home. That was around the time it became apparent that COVID wasn’t going anywhere and I needed to concentrate on making it through. The only way we are going to regain our freedoms is by doing our part to keep our family and our community healthy and safe.
There are many simple practices that each of us can take every single day to protect ourselves and others from COVID-19. We need to remember that nobody is immune to COVID-19 and for now, masking up and continuing to stay six feet from others is the best chance to avoid bringing the virus home and to try and contain this virus. Our little bubble expanded to include contact with our nanny (thank God), one family in the neighborhood that has become some of our best friends, and our parents.
The most frustrating thing about COVID is that every time it feels like the health community finally has a handle on it, there’s a new strain or variant to worry about. COVID-19 is still considered a new virus and there is so much we still don’t know. The recent rollout of COVID vaccines is encouraging, but the virus remains highly contagious and our family keeps doing our best to stay diligent for our own health, as well as the people we love – especially since 40% of people who have COVID-19 may be asymptomatic. I know it feels frustrating, but here are some recommendations from MDHHS that we can all do to spread hope, not COVID.
Wear a mask. Be diligent about wearing a face covering when you’re in indoor public spaces or crowded outdoor spaces. It’s also a good idea to wear a mask when you may be in close contact with people outside of your household. Health experts agree that masks can help reduce the spread of COVID by about 70%.
Be aware that cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children under age 2 (which is why Harvey doesn’t wear one) or on anyone who has trouble breathing or is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.
Stay mindful about germs. We all know the importance of covering your mouth and nose with a tissue or your arm when you have to cough or sneeze. These common-sense precautions are especially important because droplets from coughing, sneezing, and even talking can carry COVID-19 to other people – and sneeze droplets can travel as far as 27 feet. Try your best to give the people around you six feet of space in public spaces and keep washing your hands with soap and water. Use hand sanitizer if you are unable to wash and try not to touch your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
We hunker down and stay home 95% of the time. Rob continues to work from our foyer instead of going into the office each day. When we leave the house, we frequently clean our hands while we are away and properly wear our masks. Masks do not have to be worn at all times but we of course wear them in required settings such as indoor public places and crowded outdoor spaces when we are in close contact with those not in our household. I can’t tell you how many times one of us has walked out the door without a mask, only to return two minutes later and grab one to resume a trip or errand. We finally put a stop to that madness and keep a stock of clean masks in the cars and diaper bag. We also hung a small rack to hold all of our masks next to the door. It has been a game-changer and I love that the clean masks don’t come into contact with our keys, coats, or anything else that may harbor germs from outside the house.
In many ways, COVID-19 has robbed us of memories, opportunities, and our time. And yet, there is something it can never take away. Hope. Even though the past ten months have been difficult for all of us and I occasionally find myself mourning the aspects of our lives that are currently paused, we have diligently tried to make the best of a difficult time – especially for the kids. I hope that the most striking memories they recall are the fact that there was some talk of germs, that Rob worked at home each day, that we made special projects to keep our neighbors’ spirits up, and that it was extra fun when we left the house to visit a friend or go see grandma. We have tried to remain positive and find silver linings in what feels like a nightmare, but Rob and I remind ourselves daily that we need to do our part so that one day soon we will be able to regain all of our freedoms, to get our jobs and economy back, to see our kids play sports, to gather with friends and family and to live the life we want.
I urge our community here in Michigan to rally together so we can make this happen! There are many ways we can help slow the spread. For instance, making use of contact tracing. You’ve probably heard a lot about contact tracing but might not quite know how it works. Simply put, contact tracing is the process of contacting everyone in Michigan who has had contact with an individual who tested positive for COVID-19. Public health employees reach out and ask about close contacts they’ve had during the time when they may have been infectious.
It’s a bit of a balancing act because a positive COVID-19 result can be scary, and everyone has a right to their personal health information privacy, but COVID is a public-health issue and lives may truly be at stake. Fortunately, public health contact tracers work to protect the privacy of patients and their contacts. They don’t give the name of the patient, only that they may have been exposed to someone with the infection and all calls are handled as sensitively as possible.
If you get a call from 866-806-3447, MI COVID HELP, or your local health department, please answer and give any information that could help keep your community safe. It’s important to note that health department tracers will never ask you for personal identification like your Social Security Number, driver’s license, or credit card information.
Luckily, our kids don’t know anything different than their current situation, which has been a blessing. Even though the COVID outbreak has shaped so much of our life right now, it is not a significant theme in our life at home. As far as my kids are concerned, it’s just play and fun as usual – with Daddy working in the front office where they can peek in on him as often as they want. Dessa might be shielded from the brunt of scary COVID news and talk, but she remembers enough about life before the pandemic to occasionally ask questions about why we don’t go to certain places and visit people the way we used to. All it takes is a reminder that we are trying very hard not to spread or share germs, which she accepts and happily moves on to the next thing. I often ask myself, if I was to be exposed even when taking all of the recommended precautions, how would I handle it? Through some research, I learned about contact tracing as well as MI COVID Alert.
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has released a free and helpful app called MI COVID Alert to help users anonymously stay informed and protect themselves or others from spreading COVID-19. You may be aware that recent mobile phone operating system updates included exposure notification settings, but those settings will only work with a companion app, like MI COVID Alert. MI COVID Alert is a free, easy to use and anonymous app to help you stay informed and protect yourself or others from spreading COVID-19. If you have been in close contact (within 6 feet for at least 15 minutes) with someone who has COVID-19, you will receive a push notification to your mobile phone. The alert tells you that you may have been exposed to COVID-19 and how many days ago the exposure took place. This allows you to think about where exposure might have taken place, get tested, and consider quarantining. No personally identifiable information is collected and shared with other users. The more people who use the app, the more effective it will be in helping all of us prevent the spread of COVID-19. It will also work with apps in other states. Download and install the MI COVID app from Apple and Google app stores. MI COVID Alert is a very helpful, faster way to let you know if you may have been exposed to COVID, but it DOES NOT replace contact tracing, hand washing, or wearing face coverings in public. If you receive an alert that you may have been in close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19, get tested and consider quarantining. There are easy testing options, including no-cost testing. Additionally, it’s important to know where you can go to get reliable COVID tests if necessary. If you were exposed and/or begin to experience symptoms, it’s vitally important that you get tested to keep yourself and others safe.
I know this seems like so much and it can be overwhelming, but it’s also important to learn how to get a COVID-19 test. If you think you’ve been exposed and need a COVID test, visit Michigan.gov/CoronavirusTest to find testing locations near you and schedule an appointment. You can also dial 2-1-1 or call Michigan’s COVID Hotline at 888-535-6136 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, and press 1 to be connected to an operator who can help you find a nearby location and schedule an appointment.
Need more information to help you stay safe and help stop the spread of COVID? Visit the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Coronavirus page for more complete information.
As great as Dessa does with taking all of our pandemic precautions in stride, I have taken a few steps to help our outings feel extra special. It’s no secret in our house that Dessa’s greatest aspiration in her young life is to grow into a Mama just like me. Anytime we leave the house, we grab our matching masks. Dessa has always worn a mask without fussing or complaint because she knows that the reward for wearing a mask is getting to go somewhere outside of the house, but the coordinating masks help to make mask-wearing a little more fun. She also loves the novelty of scented hand-sanitizer and I bought her a cute little silicone holder for her very own sanitizer, which just sent her over the moon! In the photo below, her little bag contained hand sanitizer in addition to several pieces of “mail” she made for some of our neighbors that she and I set out to hand-deliver that day. As a parent, I have learned the importance of leading by example. Whether that be as an example to our children, our neighbors, our friends, or our family, we are all in this together and we spread hope in any way that we can!