After 95694845 days of quarantine (I lost count), our collective #QuarantineClub efforts have not been in vain. And now I’m actually seeing other humans IRL (yay!) out and about. We’re getting our lives back in this so-called “new normal” and cautiously doing all right in Phase 3 with non-essential businesses opening up. Parts of New York are allegedly even entering Phase 4, but that seems too good to be true.
The light at the end of the tunnel seems to be within our reach, but remember—it’s a marathon, not a sprint. All things considered, we can keep up our momentum so long as a few bad apples don’t f*ck over the entire cart. Unfortunately, parts of the U.S. are experiencing just that—sheer amounts of stupidity (i.e. COVID-19 parties… seriously, WTF Alabama??).
Extreme cases aside, I understand that at this point, you’re saying to yourself “omg, I’m so over COVID-19. O-VeR. IT.” And I get it. 2020 is canceled. The pandemic was not exactly what we wanted for summer. But think about how the frontline workers must feel? My close friend Mira MacLeod, a Registered Nurse who works in the COVID-19 ward of a major Toronto hospital (which was also the same converted facility used to treat the first SARS patients) said, “hell (lol) I’M OVeR IT. If anyone has COVID fatigue, it’s me, girl.”
So for her sake and for every one of these caregiving heroes, when it comes to our collective health, reckless behavior is inexcusable. In fact, it’s NOT okay when you decide to be a d*ck by not wearing a mask in a shared public space and jeopardize the lives of others. Additionally, I honestly feel like the warm weather must be frying off some of the common sense in some people’s brains. I guess when you throw sunny skies and balmy weather into the mix, it’s like everyone suddenly forgot that there’s still a deadly pandemic in our presence which, may I remind you, still has the power to come back to bite us again (like it did to South Korea and their second wave) and force us back into our homes.
Do the people begging for stuff to reopen not realize that means having to wear a bra on a regular basis?
— The Salty Mamas (@saltymamas) May 17, 2020
In light of people filling up their social calendars once again and taking to the city streets, the Department of Health released some guidelines on how we can all be safe when gathering together and dining out. However, what these documents neglect to state or inform us about is how the heck these rules will be consistently enforced. Mayor Bill de Blasio is essentially telling us all of this is based on “trust” and calling people out when you see them breaking the rules. Basically like “if you see something, say something.” While that’s definitely one way of approaching it, despite reporting the situation, the damage will have already been done.
Dr. Sidney Chiu, an emergency doctor at North York General Hospital, reminds us that we must each do our part and continue to take initiatives in safeguarding our community. Furthermore, we made it this far in flattening the curve—let’s not f*ck it up folks! Here are useful guidelines to keep in mind:
When In Doubt, Wear A Mask
MacLeod says that if you want to be safe, you should wear a mask indoors—even if the business doesn’t state that it’s mandatory. “You should be wearing one in confined spaces like at the grocery store, on the transit system, or at a retail store—places where you’re touching a lot of things.” You should be wearing disposable rubber and/or plastic gloves for this as well (think clothing items, transit railing, etc).
Wear A Mask When Walking On The Sidewalk
MacLeod says her major pet peeve is when people don’t walk around each other on the sidewalk: “It irks me that some just don’t care and/or take liberties. They walk by you in close proximity, and this is particularly troublesome when there are small children nearby.” As a mom of two kids, this is especially triggering for her. So she advises that when you see someone approaching, go around them, if you can. Remember, social distancing means you should be six feet apart, which is further than you think.
There Is Still NO Vaccine
“Just based on how I’m seeing some people behave, I think many believe that the pandemic has mostly passed—and that’s certainly not the situation. The reality is that although we’ve passed the first wave, we are constantly at risk of new cases,” MacLeod says. She adds that precautionary measures should be as routine as checking for your wallet, phone and keys before leaving the house. “A mask, disposable gloves, hand sanitizer (making sure that it contains 60-95 percent alcohol), and disinfecting wipes should all be a part of your ‘toolkit,’” which means that these items should be considered part of your “new normal” for the foreseeable future. If you’re forgetful, a good strategy is to set up a daily pop-up alert on your phone to remind yourself of these essential items. Or consider keeping it all in a stylish bag near your door.
No Hugging Or Shaking Hands
“This is tough, understandably, because we are by nature, social creatures,” explains Dr. Chiu. He adds that “in lieu of physical touching, air hugs/air high fives, or toe tapping is better than exposing any part of your body to someone else. You just don’t want to run the risk.” As a friendly reminder, he says that COVID-19 is spread through droplets and/or physical contact. “Just think that when you’re embracing someone and that close face-to-face, any number of things could happen: coughing, sneezing—even talking and breathing could aid in transmission.” He adds that what could then theoretically occur is that even though it appears that “nothing happened” during the hug, since you effectively touched that person, you could then absentmindedly touch your mouth, nose and eyes, thereby spreading the virus.
Just Because They “Look Healthy” Doesn’t Mean They Are
“We always assume there are obvious visual cues to someone being ill. However this is certainly not the case when someone is asymptomatic and can transmit the virus to you,” says Dr. Chiu, who adds that these individuals may not even be aware they have COVID-19. “So for your sake, it’s better to err on the side of caution and to wear a mask whatever the social situation may be.” Another scary and not-so-fun fact from him: “the chance of a test detecting COVID-19 is very low if you are asymptomatic, and it is unlikely to be helpful in determining if you have COVID-19 if you have zero symptoms.”
Invest In Anti-Technology For Your Sunnies
Dr. Chiu says that “I’ve heard some people complain about their sun/glasses getting fogged up due to the mask wearing.” To remedy this, he says to do the following: “mold your mask to the bridge of your nose, tighten the mask, or simply invest in some anti-fog spray or wipes which will do the trick nicely (and you should be prepping all of this before you leave your home).” This is an overlooked issue but an important one, and he explains that “you want to minimize the amount of time touching your face. If your glasses are fogged/smudged, etc and you’re constantly readjusting them, you’re increasing your chances of exposure.”
Invest In An Automatic Soap Dispenser
When returning home, immediately wash your hands with hot soapy water before doing anything else (the CDC advises you do this within 20 seconds of entering your home.). To avoid contamination, MacLeod advises people to get one of those automated hand soap dispensers.” Additionally, she says that bar soaps are a big no-no because bacteria and germs CAN survive on them (ewwww).
And in terms of venturing out in the world à la Oh, The Places You’ll Go Post-Pandemic (!), here are a few tips and best practices to be mindful of in the following social scenarios:
If available to you, always opt to use the restaurant’s QR code, which allows you to see the menu on your smartphone rather than touching paper. An exception to this is if you have a visual impairment and require a hard copy.
Wearing a mask while dining in a patio/restaurant space isn’t required (cuz um, how else can you eat that food if your mouth is covered?!); however, you should absolutely wear one when walking to your table and using well-ventilated washroom facilities (which are 99% of the time located inside of a confined restaurant space).
Another food-related issue is regarding pick-up and take-out: you just grab the order and go. Don’t linger and/or congregate on the sidewalks.
The CDC recommends that if you’re welcoming people into your home for, say, a BBQ cookout (specifically an outdoor space like the backyard) to consider keeping a guestbook of attendees for contact tracing needs. Disposable but recycle-friendly cutlery, plates, and cups should be used in lieu of the silverware you have at home.
Both Dr. Chiu and MacLeod say that if you can, visit these spaces on a weekday when it’s less crowded. “Because it’s an outdoor setting, it’s technically safer than, say, a shopping mall because these types of places are conducive to offering more room and fresh air.” For any communal seating (such as park benches and beach chairs), use hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes prior to use.
Individual Appointments (Including, But Not Limited To, Dental And Medical Offices, Nail Salons, And Hair Salons)
Ensure that it’s not a walk-in situation, and whenever possible, book your appointment in advance. If you’re feeling uncertain, ask what sorts of protocols the business or service has implemented, such as adequate HEPA filters/ventilation, PPEs, and plexiglass barriers to minimize the risk of exposure. When you do arrive for your appointment, wait outside and arrange for the staff to text or give you a call when they’re ready for you. Lastly, if you know you have to fill out any documentation, bring your own pen—don’t use the communal ones supplied at the office/salon.
With all the news and Karen-shaming, I’d like to think that the majority of us are better than that. However, we’re all human and can still be prone to slipping up once in a while. So I recommend screenshotting this handy color-coded infographic to act as your “pocket guide” if you are ever uncertain about venturing into a specific social situation. It’s nice that we can FINALLY see our loved ones IRL again, so let’s not take any of it for granted and remember to be considerate of each other by adhering to these practical and safe protocols.
Just this morning, I jolted wide awake wayyy before my alarm clock went off. I’d had the craziest dream: I had a boyfriend who was not only really cute, but smart in a hot way, rich, and super attentive but not clingy. After an initial moment of joy (the coronavirus thirst is real), I quickly realized that this dream guy was, in fact, a dream. Let’s be honest, none of us have ever met a man that checks all these boxes. Turns out, I’m not the only one having f*cking bizarre dreams during the COVID-19 pandemic. The other day on the Diet Starts Tomorrow podcast, Betches co-founders Aleen and Sami sat down with Dr. Deirdre Barrett, professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, to discuss why our dream lives have gotten all screwed up from being stuck at home.
Why Our Sleep Is Being Affected
One huge reason we’re all experiencing weird dream lives is because we’re literally just sleeping more, according to Dr. Barrett. With state-wide lockdowns and shelter-in-place orders in effect, people are spending way more time at home than usual, allowing for random naps, late wake-ups, and passing out on the couch at 8pm from your fourth glass of wine (not judging—it’s always Wine Wednesday in quarantine). While we tend to have ramped-up anxiety dreams during any crisis, the extra sleep we’re getting is pretty unique to this pandemic. According to Dr. Barrett, “In most crises, people end up getting less sleep, but in this one, the average person is getting more because of the lockdown orders and the furloughs from work and school. I think we go around a little bit chronically sleep-deprived and we’re catching up on sleep right now, and so we have a big rebound in our dream life.”
What Types of Dreams People Are Having
If you’re having crazy anxiety dreams rn, you’re not alone. Turns out, if you’re freaked out about the virus IRL, it’s likely that you’ll be angsty in your sleeping state, too. For a lot of people, these panicky dreams don’t mention the virus outright, but manifest their anxiety in metaphorical—and freaky—ways. In a recent survey, Dr. Barrett found that bug-themed nightmares are the most common metaphor for corona (so yeah, murder hornets are def coming for you during your next REM cycle). She thinks part of this is due to our use of the word “bug” as slang for a virus, “but in a deeper sense, just lots of little things that cumulatively could kill you make them a good metaphor.” Great, time to go lock all of my windows.
If you’re on the more ~practical~ side (I’m talking about you, fellow quarantined Virgos), you might have dreamt that you actually had the virus. Waking up thinking you’re spiking a fever or having trouble breathing is really common, Dr. Barrett says. Virus dreams can also be super absurd (the dream sequence in The Big Lebowski, anyone?). One woman in Dr. Barrett’s survey reported dreaming that she looked down at her stomach and saw blue stripes on it, which dreamt-up medical authorities had told her was the first sign of COVID-19.
While the average person’s dreams are all wack because of general pandemic anxiety, many healthcare workers are having the ultra-realistic trauma dreams often experienced by combat veterans. “They’re dreaming literally about a patient who’s dying of the disease,” says Dr. Barrett. “They’re trying to put a tube down them, or the respirator is malfunctioning, and they’re trying to save their life and failing. That’s the nightmare, based on something that happens to them by day.” Because real life isn’t stressful enough for those on the front lines—they get to relive their daily pressures in their dreams too.
What These Dreams Mean
Apparently, these same types of dream patterns happened post-9/11. Like our present-day healthcare heroes, Dr. Barrett recalls, “the first responders and the people who’d barely gotten out of the lower floors, and the people working in Manhattan…were the ones that had nightmares as bad as wartime.” At the same time, average people were anxiously dreaming about the attacks, like most of us are dream-panicking about the virus today.
And as if they weren’t already suffering enough, lots of patients with COVID-19 are experiencing fever dreams. One patient in her survey dreamt that doctors were replacing his lungs with robot parts (can you imagine??). “In the dream, he was ascribing his trouble breathing to the fact that he didn’t know how to use the robot lungs,” says Dr. Barrett. She says this type of fever dream likely signifies the patient’s “fear of having to be on a ventilator, but maybe just more broadly, a fear of what was happening in his lungs.”
Fever dreams can also make normal things totally terrifying. While I wouldn’t mind a dream transporting me from my couch to a tropical island, for patients who are stuck in hospital rooms, changes in location can be completely jarring. According to Dr. Barrett, fever dreams “are probably not from a normal state of sleep. We think they’re sort of a hybrid of sleeping brain states, waking brain states, and just completely abnormal brain states all superimposed on each other.” Fever dreams can throw you for a loop and completely blur the lines between hallucination and reality.
How To Get Better Sleep
If you’ve been experiencing especially weird dreams since quarantine started, Dr. Barrett recommends keeping a dream journal in your spare time (which you now have plenty of). After all, Twilight was based off of a dream Stephenie Meyer had, so who knows? You could soon be sitting on the next hit YA series. And if you’re not sleeping well, crazy dreams might not be the only culprit, so be sure to practice good sleep hygiene. We all love a good late-night Netflix binge, but the blue light from our precious phones screws with our bodies’ ability to produce melatonin, a sleep-inducing hormone. Dr. Philip Westbrook, former president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, recommends that we put down electronics an hour before bedtime so our brains can relax. Establishing a pre-bedtime routine also helps our bodies destress and prepare for a good night’s sleep. This might include taking an Epsom salt bath, flowing through a few yoga poses, or doing your daily skin care routine. Do whatever helps you destress, but avoid getting too emotional. Texting your ex is NOT an appropriate activity when turning in for the night (or ever, tbh), because it makes your body produce stress hormones.
The pandemic won’t last forever (right, Dr. Fauci?? Please confirm), but know that you’re probably not the only one in your group chat having crazy dreams. For now, focus on making changes that will help you get better sleep, and you’ll hopefully avoid further dreams about wasp attacks or unrealistic boyfriends.
For more insight from Dr. Barrett, listen to the Diet Starts Tomorrow episode below.
Images: Andrea Piacquadio / Pexels; Gregory Pappas / Unsplash; Giphy (2)