By: Holly L. Thacker, MD • Posted on April 21, 2020 • Updated April 25, 2020
Mayday! Mayday! Mayday! is a term that has been used internationally as a distress signal. It derives from the French venez m'aider, meaning "come help me." On May 1, May Day also signifies an ancient spring festival in the Northern hemisphere: April showers bring May flowers! This year, May 1, 2020 also signifies the staged re-opening of the United States of several, but not all locales after months of closures and stay-at-home orders due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Lifting the Stay-At-Home Order
The plan to lift the US lockdown will be a three-phase approach and determined by individual governors and local authorities as suggested by the Federal government. Stay tuned to your local authorities. Some states have started this staged re-opening already with a few not even issuing sheltering in place orders due to low COVID-19 numbers. However, May 1 is a date for several states that have been more significantly affected and a day many have been focusing on. Areas have to 'be out of the gate' to consider these phases.
- Phase One – The plan recommends strict social distancing for all people in public. Gatherings larger than 10 people are to be avoided and nonessential travel is discouraged.
- Phase Two – People are encouraged to maximize social distancing where possible and limit gatherings to no more than 50 people unless precautionary measures are taken. Travel could resume.
- Phase Three – Envisions a return to a new normalcy for most Americans, with a focus on identification and isolation of any new infections.
As people liberalize activities and more and more people return to work and school, it is important to continue to protect those most vulnerable including the elderly, those with diabetes, obesity, asthma and other chronic medical conditions. The new normal of regular hand washing, avoiding crowded conditions, and wearing masks or facial coverings as indicated will continue. Staying home when ill with viral syndromes will be uniformly encouraged. One bright spot is perhaps future influenza and respiratory viral syndromes may have reduced effects on the general population as Americans are all more aware of viral transmissibility.
Overestimation, Misconception and Preparation
One of the reasons that the national models of infections, hospitalizations, need for ICU beds and ventilators were overestimated had to do with the overestimation of transmissibility in the United States. COVID-19 is a novel infectious virus that can be deadly in the elderly with chronic health diseases, especially obesity and diabetes but thankfully is not as highly transmissible as initially modeled.
A common misconception is that flattening the curve eliminates infections, hospitalizations, ventilator use, and deaths from COVID-19. Flattening the curve was done to prevent overwhelming our health care systems. In fact, flattening the curve and pushing peaks out to the autumn, when seasonal influenza re-occurs is a problem. Only immunization and herd immunity will stop infections. Heat and humidity and ultraviolet light have important effects on respiratory viruses and social behaviors also influence transmission. In fact, year round climate control and air-conditioning and inside living prolongs the natural influenza season.
As there will be continued threats of infections as you and your family liberalize activities - be prepared!
- Boost your immune system with good sleep, a healthy diet, adequate vitamin D, vitamin C and zinc. Ingest quercetin rich foods as it helps your body absorb zinc. Ingest a healthy diet rich in natural anti-oxidants.
- Maintain all hand washing and avoid touching your nose, eyes, and face.
- Keep hand washing supplies and wipes handy and continue cleaning all high touch surfaces.
- Do NOT delay getting needed medical care. We know that COVID-19 does NOT cure heart disease, diabetes, obesity, cancer and other medical conditions.
- Do NOT be afraid to see your physician in person if needed, to get needed blood work, X-rays and other diagnostic tests. Virtual visits are convenient but cannot substitute for all medical care. If you can go to the grocery store, you can visit your health care facilities with precautions as posted by local authorities.
Celebrating Women and Their Health During May
This month we also celebrate Osteoporosis Awareness Month and Mother's Day. For decades, Speaking of Women's Health has focused on providing women’s health information to help women make informed decisions about their own health and their family’s health. And May is a great time to share the importance of bone health and preventing osteoporosis in women.
Osteoporosis Awareness Month
From the time we are born until about age 30, women build more bone than we lose. After age 35, bone breakdown outpaces bone buildup, resulting in a gradual loss of bone mass. In the 5-7 years following menopause, a woman can lose up to 20-30 percent of her bone mass. This makes midlife a prime time to prevent and treat low bone density so that women stay strong in later years.
A combination of good health and exercise, supplementation with calcium (needed if you don’t get enough in your diet) and vitamin D3, and possibly a regimen of either hormone therapy or a prescribed bone therapy can treat osteopenia (less than average bone density) and help prevent osteoporosis. To maintain strong, healthy bones, you have to consume a diet rich in calcium throughout your life. Your need for calcium becomes even greater as you age especially if you are low in estrogen and low in vitamin D3.
Mother’s Day – A Time To Celebrate
So, as you begin the glorious month of May with fragrant flowers and spring in the air, be sure to stop and assess your health, your mom's health, your daughter's health and your own bone health. And check out our amazing, healthy recipes and make a special dish for your mom or any important woman in your life. These last few months have brought so much change and stress to everyone’s lives, we all deserve to sit back and enjoy this Mother’s Day!
You do not want to have to send out distress signals for yourself or a loved one because of broken bones or preventable illness, so be pro-active this month and learn more about preventing osteoporosis and preparing as we go forward in this age of COVID-19.
And this Mother's Day, remember to honor and support the special women and Moms in your life.
Be Strong, Be Healthy, Be in Charge!
-Holly L. Thacker, MD
Holly L. Thacker, MD, FACP is nationally known for her leadership in women’s health. She is the founder of the Cleveland Clinic Women’s Health Fellowship and is currently the Professor and Director of the Center for Specialized Women’s Health at Cleveland Clinic and Lerner College of Medicine at Case Western Reserve University. Dr. Thacker is also the Executive Director of Speaking of Women’s Health and the author of The Cleveland Clinic Guide to Menopause. Her special interests and areas of research include menopause and related medical problems including osteoporosis, hormone therapy, breast cancer risk assessment, menstrual disorders, female sexual dysfunction and interdisciplinary women’s health.
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