Medical experts on Covid-19 pandemic and how it affects immigrant communities and people of color
What is Covid-19 and how does it spread? What are the symptoms and when should you seek help? How does it affect mental health? How does the pandemic affect immigrants and communities of color?
Ding Ding TV participated in a telebriefing organized by the Ethnic Media Services and sponsored by Blue Shield of America Foundation. It gathered medical experts, community public health advocates, and activists to brief the ethnic media representatives on all the crucial information you need to know about Covid-19.
Dr. Tung Nguyen of the University of California, San Francisco, is currently on the frontline and fighting the pandemic. He shared the most relevant information about the Covid-19 virus.
What is Covid-19?
It is a newly discovered and highly infections coronavirus that affects the respiratory system. At-risk groups include the elderly and people with preexisting or underlying conditions (like diabetes or heart disease). The majority of people infected with Covid-19 will have mild or moderate symptoms and will recover. However, during the time of the infection, they are still contagious and can transmit the disease to others.
How does Covid-19 spread?
It spreads primarily through saliva (when coughing) and nose discharge when a person sneezes or coughs.
Because there is no cure or vaccine at the moment, the only option available is preventative measures. Social distancing is crucial. STAY AT HOME. There is no good reason to get out of the house unless necessary. Some data suggests the virus stays in the air for about 3 hours, on cardboard for 24 hours, and plastic and steel for 72 hours.
What can you do to protect yourselves and your families?
• STAY AT HOME.
• Wash your hand frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If that is not an option, use a hand sanitizer with at least 70% alcohol to disinfect your hands.
• Disinfect commonly used objects like doorknobs, taps, mobile phones, etc.
• When out, keep the distance of at least 3 feet between other people.
• Avoid touching your face, eyes, nose, and mouth when out.
• Practice good respiratory etiquette – sneeze/cough in a flexed elbow or a tissue. If using a tissue, throw it away immediately.
Covid-19 disease symptoms include fever and dry cough. Some of the other symptoms reported include aches and pains, runny nose, sore throat, and diarrhea.
What to do if you develop mild symptoms?
If you have no symptoms, chances are you will recover quickly. You can still spread the disease, and that is why it is crucial to stay at home. If you have no symptoms, you DO NOT NEED to get tested. The Covid-19 testing kits are for people who already have the symptoms. Please, do not overburden the healthcare system.
People who display mild symptoms, recover without needing any treatment. You can take Tylenol (acetaminophen) to reduce fever and over-the-counter cough medication. Drink plenty of fluids to keep hydrated. If you have mild symptoms, you need to self-isolate. Ideally, that means staying in one room in your home, without contact with other members of your household.
What to do if symptoms persist?
If your symptoms persist for longer than 7 days – call your health care provider first to seek advice. Do not go into an emergency room unless necessary, because that means you are exposing both yourself and others.
People with high fever, shortness of breath, chest pains, extreme fatigue, and vomiting need to seek treatment immediately. Call your doctor, healthcare provider, or 911 if you can’t wait.
Since many of the communities of color and immigrants live in multi-generation homes, how can we protect our elderly parents?
If possible, designate one room in your home as a decontamination area. This is a room you go into before you enter the rest of the house (it could be a garage, a hallway, or even a car). Take off your shoes, change your clothes, and wash your hands. The only way to stop the spread of the pandemic is to STAY AT HOME. Do not go out for non-essential reasons.
Likewise, think ahead – who are you going to call if you or a family member gets sick? Have that phone number ready. Reach out to your doctor or healthcare provider via telephone to get help.
How to stay healthy during the pandemic?
Dr. Nguyen suggests getting some form of exercise and limiting exposure to the news.
“We always recommend exercise. Walk outdoors if you are able to while keeping physical distancing. If not, try exercising indoor, from calisthenics to yoga to aerobic exercise using assistance from TV or Youtube. It is important to take frequent breaks from watching things on TV or the computer, and not to do it a couple of hours before sleep. Try to keep regular hours as our mood is dependent on cycles and getting enough sleep (8 hours or more). Keep in touch with others through whatever works best—text, phone calls, FaceTime, or other similar. When it feels like the news or other social media sources is overwhelming or making you anxious, take a break and walk away.”
What about possible treatments, namely hydroxychloroquine, which President Trump mentioned in one of his briefings?
The Covid-19 disease is new and there is no cure or a vaccine. There have been reports that the drug was used to treat Covid-19. But, at the moment, there is not enough evidence to support it. All medical experts cautioned against taking any medication without consulting a medical professional.
The impact of Covid-19 on the immigrant communities and people of color
Dr. Daniel Turner-Lloveras works at the Harbour UCLA Medical Clinic and is also fighting the pandemic.
As Turner-Lloveras explained, the majority of the immigrant community relies on public health facilities to receive medical care. But on February 23rd, Trump’s administration established a new public charge rule by which immigrants that seek federal public aid can be denied permanent status in the US. Around 43% of undocumented immigrants have no health insurance. As Turner-Lloveras rightly points out: “You cannot successfully contain an outbreak if there are those among us who are afraid to seek care”.
He also advocates for hospitals to be “ICE-Free Zones.” This means immigrant officers could not detain and arrest people who are seeking medical care. Likewise, ICE detention centers can turn into virus hotspots due to overcrowding.
Rishi Manchanda, the founder of HealthBegins and a public health innovator, explained why the pandemic disproportionately affects the immigrant communities and people of color. It affects both their health and economic well-being. It is down to many factors – the lack of medical coverage, lower wages, and usually front-facing jobs (like the service industry). Certain minorities are also more predisposed to certain medical conditions (like heart disease and diabetes) that put them at greater risk of contracting the disease. When you combine all of that with limited access to testing and language barriers, it is apparent why the pandemic disproportionately affects our communities.
How Covid-19 pandemic affects mental health and the rise of hate crimes
Dr. Sampat Shivangi, a psychiatrist who is currently serving on the Trump administration’s Council for Mental Health and Substance Abuse, explained how self-isolation and quarantine affect our mental health. It can also lead to relapses and a possible increase in substance abuse.
One of the questions asked was: “Mental health is a taboo topic among many ethnic communities. During this period, those with mental issues may get worse and exhibit anger that would affect family members who are now staying at home. How would you advise these individuals and their families in taking steps to be open about mental illness to cope as a family and even seeking professional help?”
Dr. Shivangi suggests to “follow the strict regime on medication, make sure there are enough medications in hand and medical and psychiatric follow up as scheduled and good old TLC.”
Manju Kulkarni, the executive director of A3PCON (Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council), spoke about the rise of xenophobia against Asian Americans. Over the past month, A3PCON received over 750 reports of hate crimes.