Ways the Coronavirus Is Changing Everyday Life

the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the novel coronavirus outbreak a pandemic, with cases reported on every continent except Antarctica. From social distancing to self-quarantine, the steady rise in COVID-19 cases is dramatically changing day-to-day life across the globe. 

Everyday Health wanted to know just how much the outbreak is affecting everyday life, so we surveyed our readers. Then we spoke with healthcare professionals about the most common responses, best practices during the virus outbreak, and how people can manage their stress levels.

1. I Am Using or Intend to Use Telemedicine More

Telemedicine is important to take advantage of during this time, says Tania Elliott, MD, a clinical instructor of medicine and an infectious-diseases specialist at New York University's Langone Health in New York City. According to Dr. Elliott, there are three reasons medical professionals should make use of virtual care; to minimize sick patients’ contact with others, to give mildly ill patients who don’t need hospitalization recommendations for symptomatic relief, and to enable people with chronic conditions to still have access to care.

“Telemedicine is also an approach to reduce person-to-person transmission of SARS-CoV2 through reducing person-to-person direct contact,” says Jill E. Weatherhead, MD, an assistant professor at the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

By participating in telemedicine there are reduced interactions between patients sitting out in waiting rooms and between patients and healthcare providers within the exam room, Dr. Weatherhead explains. This could also potentially reduce the rate of transmission within the community. But this practice should be used only if patients have mild SARS-CoV2 symptoms or are in need of non-SARS-CoV2-related and non-emergent medical care, such as refills on daily prescriptions or to discuss lab tests, she says. 

2. I Am Working From Home More

Working from home may aid in reducing the rate of community transmission of SARS-CoV2. If more people are at home it reduces potential interactions with sick individuals. According to experts, this is also why it is imperative for individuals who are sick to stay at home. 

“We determine the contagiousness of a virus by the reproductive number known as R0 (R-naught). This refers to how many people one single infected individual can transmit the virus to within the community,” explains Weatherhead. 

According to Weatherhead, the estimated R0, or how quickly SARS-CoV2 can spread in a community is between 2-4, meaning one sick individual can spread the virus to 2 to 4 other people. As a result of rapid spread, health systems can be overwhelmed with the volume of patients infected. 

"When social distancing is practiced, including telecommuting, the rate of transmission will be reduced, allowing hospital systems to better handle the pandemic [and] flatten the curve,” explains Weatherhead. 

RELATED: Pregnancy and Coronavirus: What Are the Risks?

3. I Am Stocking Up on Medications and OTC Medicines

“It’s essential for individuals to have their normal daily medical supplies available at home, particularly their medications,” says Weatherhead. This is important in case they develop symptoms and need to be quarantined at home for 14 days. 

For people with chronic conditions, it’s very important to make sure they get a minimum of a three-month supply of prescription medications, says Elliott. Keeping chronic conditions under control is very important, because people with them are at the highest risk for the COVID-19 disease. 

The CDC recommends considering mail-order services for medications, if you need to stay home for a prolonged period of time. 

Elliott also recommends keeping open communication with your doctor: telemedicine, email and patient portals are all good options during this time when we are practicing social distancing.

4. I Am Buying Medical Supplies I Wouldn’t Normally Purchase

A common survey response: People are buying medical supplies that they normally wouldn’t purchase. The two most popular? Thermometers and face masks. 

According to Weatherhead, face masks play a role for individuals who are infected who need to seek medical assistance and for caregivers of people who have become infected so they can protect themselves. It is not currently recommended for noninfected persons to wear a mask, according to the CDC. Preserving access to masks for those who need them the most is critical for their health, she says. 

Experts generally recommend keeping thermometers on hand to take your temperature if you feel feverish, a common symptom of COVID-19. 

“For people with chronic conditions, I recommend having a blood pressure cuff at home, ideally one with Bluetooth so you can upload the information easily to your doctor,” says Elliott. She says inexpensive blood pressure cuffs work fine, too. 

People with lung conditions may want to consider home digital stethoscopes that can listen to the heart and lungs and send information to your doctor. Elliott recommends Tytocare, an at-home medical exam kit that works in tandem with a healthcare provider.

5. I Will Be Practicing More Social Distancing

There are many things we can do to help protect ourselves against this novel coronavirus. These things include what we call social distancing, [which means] avoiding contact with sick individuals [and] trying to stay six feet away from somebody who’s coughing or might be sick, says Mark Mulligan, MD, the director of the division of infectious diseases and immunology at NYU Langone Health and the director of the NYU Langone Vaccine Center.

“Don’t feel shy on public transportation, for example, about moving away from somebody who’s coughing,” says Dr. Mulligan. He also recommends not going to work if you’re sick. Stay home until at least 24 hours after a fever. For elderly individuals, avoid unnecessary visits and interactions, he says. 

RELATED: Expert Tips on the Coronavirus Crisis: Be Prepared, Don’t Panic

How to Cope With Stress During a Pandemic 

Our survey results included responses related to stress, like avoiding too much news, staying home and watching Netflix, and other activities to quell anxiety

“We’re seeing people engaging in things that give them illusory control, like panic buying and compulsively checking the news as a reassurance,” says Vaile Wright, PhD, the director of clinical research and policy at the American Psychological Association. The level of uncertainty around the coronavirus brings a sense of threat or danger, which exacerbates people’s anxiety and stress, because the uncertainty reminds people of all the things out of their control, Dr. Wright explains. 

Her advice is to identify activities you do have control over. She said it’s good to stay aware of things like places closing in your neighborhood because of the coronavirus but otherwise limit the news you’re taking in, especially if you’re looking at the same headlines over and over again. Identify reliable sources like WHO and the CDC and your local government; she recommended avoiding platforms like Twitter and Facebook for news updates. 

“We see people — they can’t stop themselves from scrolling. They’re not posting about how many recoveries there have been but the number of deaths and the spread of the disease,” Wright explains. These are important to know but it’s not good to be overly saturated with them, she notes. 


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