What You Need to Know-Week of August 10th

The most important weekly updates for you to keep your community healthy




In this Update:

1. Pandemic Preparedness: What to expect if you are contacted by a contact tracer?

2. Mask Up and Make a Difference: Mask myths

3. Interview with an Expert: Having Awkward Conversations Related to COVID-19




1. Pandemic Preparedness: What to expect if you are contacted by a contact tracer?


Universities, health departments, and health services are partnering with communities and counties to assist with contact tracing. Contact tracing efforts have significantly increased statewide in hopes of reaching more positive COVID-19 cases and their close contacts. For more information about what contact tracing is, visit this link. As COVID-19 contact tracing ramps up, you may be wondering what to expect if you are contacted. 

How should I be prepared to speak with a contact tracer?

  • To be prepared in the event that either you contract the virus or have had contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19, it is important to:

1.     Be aware of anyone you have had close contact with. A close contact includes anyone that you have been less than 6 feet away from for 15 or more minutes (regardless of if you were wearing a mask). You may also download an exposure notification app, if one is available in your area. These apps work best if everyone uses them. Your phone exchanges anonymous codes with other devices that are close to yours through Bluetooth. When someone tests positive for COVID they enter a code that then sends a notice to all devices that received the Bluetooth codes. This will tell you if and when you were exposed AND tell you how long to quarantine to keep others safe. But it won’t be able to tell you about contacts with people who don’t have the app or never enter their positive COVID code.

2.     Watch for signs and symptoms and write down the date and time and your symptoms if you begin feeling ill. 

3.     Get tested if you begin to show symptoms or believe that you may have COVID-19.

What should you do if you are contacted by a Contact Tracer?

IF YOU ARE SICKIF YOU ARE A CLOSE CONTACT OF SOMEONE WHO IS SICK
You have been tested for COVID-19 and received a positive result.You have been less than 6 feet away from a confirmed COVID-19 case for 15 minutes or more (with or without a mask).
Please answer the phone if you see a phone number associated with a University or Health Department. Also remember to check your voicemail regularly.
 
Remember: Your name will be kept confidential. The contact tracer(s) will not reveal your name or other personal information to any of your contacts
1. Contact tracers will ask you a series of questions about your illness. For example, if you have or had any symptoms, the date you began feeling ill, if you were tested, etc.


2. They will also ask questions about who you have had close contact with before you began feeling ill (including household members, family, friends, neighbors, etc).


3.   Listen to the contact tracer, they may have specific guidance for you to follow.

Here is additional guidance to remember:

 Self-isolate for 10 days after you received your positive test result.

 Stay home in a specific room away from other people and pets in your home and use a separate bathroom, if possible. For more information about what to do if someone in your household is sick, visit this link.

Maintain physical distancing from others and wear a cloth face covering regardless if you are showing symptoms or not.

 Monitor your symptoms of COVID-19 and if your symptoms become severe (trouble breathing, persistent pain or chest pressure, confusion, inability to wake or stay awake, or bluish lips or face), seek medical care.

Remember some COVID-19 cases do not show any symptoms but may still be contagious

1. The contact tracer will make you aware that you were listed as a close contact of someone who tested positive for COVID-19.     
Be sure to listen to the contact tracer, they may have specific guidance for you to follow.

2.     Stay home and self-quarantine (this means staying away from others) for 14 days starting from the last day you were exposed to COVID-19 (the contact tracer can help you identify the dates of your self-quarantine and provide resources about COVID-19 testing in your area).

3.     Maintain physical distancing from others and wear a cloth face covering regardless if you are showing symptoms or not.

4.     Take your temperature twice a day and watch for symptoms of COVID-19

5.     If you begin to show symptoms, get tested for COVID-19. You should also remember that many COVID-19 cases do not show any symptoms of the virus but may still be contagious.

6.     Seek medical care if your symptoms become severe (trouble breathing, persistent pain or chest pressure, confusion, inability to wake or stay awake, or bluish lips or face.

7.     Since contact tracing may take time to reach your contacts, you should also notify your close contacts that you are a contact of someone who tested positive so that they can self-quarantine and monitor any symptoms.
For more information about what to expect if a contact tracer calls, visit this link.


2. Mask Up and Make a Difference: Mask myths


There is so much information circulating about COVID-19 and about how to prevent it. Unfortunately, not all of this information is accurate or helpful in preventing the spread of the virus. In this article, we’ve collected a few myths that our team has encountered about wearing masks. In doing so, we hope to clear up any ambiguity that may surround this specific safety guideline.

What are some myths about wearing masks?What You Should Know:

MYTH: Wearing a face mask or covering will give you CO2 poisoning or decrease oxygen levels in the body.
Wearing a face mask or covering does not cause CO2 poisoning. Please consider that medical personnel can and do wear face masks for long hours without illness. However, there are people who need to be concerned about their breathing while wearing a mask: (1) those who have some form of respiratory illness (such as COPD, pneumonia, etc.) and (2) those who are wearing a respirator (N-95 or similar) mask which fits tightly because they may not be able to exhale fully.
MYTH: Wearing a face mask or covering will give you a lung infection.Face coverings do not cause lung infections as long as they are clean. It’s important to wash and dry your face covering thoroughly before wearing. Having a clean and dry mask, hands, and face can eliminate risk of skin irritation, acne, and any potential risk from breathing through a wet, dirty mask.
MYTH: I don’t feel sick, so I shouldn’t have to wear a face covering.Wearing a mask isn’t for your protection; it protects those around you. You may not think that you’re sick, but recent studies have found that a large number of people with COVID-19 are either pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic. Since it is impossible to know if you have been exposed to an asymptomatic or presymptomatic carrier of the virus, or to know if you yourself are asymptomatic or presymptomatic, it is critical that you protect others by wearing your mask.
MYTH: All masks are created equal. As long as I’m covering my mouth, I’m following the guideline.Not all face coverings are equally effective to prevent transmission of COVID-19, but any face covering is more effective than none at all at protecting the people around you. Also, remember that some masks are reserved for specific groups, such as healthcare providers or tradespeople. Masks should cover both your nose and your mouth as respiratory droplets carrying the virus could potentially spread from either place.

MYTH: If I’m wearing a face covering, I can return to my normal routine.
Even with a mask, it is extremely important to continue avoiding crowds, maintaining a 6-foot distance from others, and practicing excellent hand washing. These precautions mean that, even as businesses and services reopen, it will not be possible to return to the old normal.
MYTH: Wearing a face covering is a substitute for the other guidelines; as long as I’m wearing a face covering, I don’t have to physically distance from others, worry about disinfecting, or worry about washing my hands often.Even with a mask, it is extremely important to continue avoiding crowds, maintaining a 6-foot distance from others, and practicing excellent hand washing. Face masks are a powerful tool, but still only one tool in the toolkit for stopping the spread of COVID-19.
MYTH: There’s no proof that masks even work.There is rapidly increasing evidence that wearing a mask does make a difference. Two case studies published very recently addressed the effectiveness of mask-wearing in both a large hospital system in Boston as well as a community-based hair salon. Despite being two very different scenarios, it was possible to see in both that mask-wearing dramatically reduced the potential spread of COVID-19.


3. Interview with an Expert: Having Awkward Conversations Related to COVID-19


In the past few weeks, we’ve received a lot of questions about how to navigate difficult conversations about COVID-19, and how to stay physically distant from those outside of your household while minimizing any related tension or conflict that may arise from those situations. To address your questions, we’ve asked Dr. Maggie Pitts to share her thoughts. Her perspective and expertise are invaluable, especially within the context of handling awkward or difficult conversations during this time of societal transition. 

Q: Do you have any advice for how to handle difficult conversations about COVID-19? 

What I try to do is to start with an empathic, other-centered approach. It helps me to frame these conversations as opportunities for “curiosity and compassion” – I am curious about what my conversation partner believes or feels and I can show compassion for their experiences/beliefs even if they don’t match my own. I try to consider the perspective of my conversational partner and where that comes from. I might start by acknowledging this is a difficult conversation occurring in the midst of a global crisis that has affected all of us in ways that we can’t yet appreciate or understand. Knowing that this has deeply, and unequally, affected everyone gives me a sense of compassion. I might then ask open questions to understand the other’s perspective – “how are you handling the pandemic?” “what’s hard for you?” I try to listen with curiosity. I’ve also asked people if they’ve noticed increased experiences of gratitude or new opportunities to enjoy and notice. When you ask people what good they’ve noticed… they often tell you!

Q: How might these communication strategies differ whenever you’re talking to those that you live with? 

I live in a very small house with 6 members of 3 generations. I share a long history with each member in my household, and yet, we don’t all agree about the science, the impact, the recommendations, or the policies/laws (and lack thereof) related to Covid-19. We argue. We get emotionally overwhelmed. We’re frustrated and feeling “caged in.” And, we allow for that. We try to listen generously. I also sometimes ask for a “Covid break” when I or someone else has stepped out of line. We use it like calling “time out” or “base” in a kid’s game of tag. It changes the interaction and usually makes us laugh. With my children especially, I sort of narrate what is happening and why – I am crying because I feel sad for people who are grieving. I yelled because I am also frustrated and bored and disappointed, but I am also sorry and it was not the best way for me to share my feelings. I try to honor where people are in their “pandemic cycle” – sometimes we feel grateful for what we have, sometimes we feel grief for what we’ve lost or are missing, sometimes we are scared, sometimes we are angry, most of the time we’re totally uncertain. People in a constant state of information overload, uncertainty, and social and/or economic distress need a bit more compassion and generosity extended to them for their behaviors. Be willing to ask for forgiveness and be willing to offer it.

Q: How might these communication strategies differ whenever you’re talking to those who invite you to a social gathering that you are uncomfortable attending?

My answer is guided by cultural norms for fairly direct communication within most of my social circles. I try to show ownership over my feelings and my beliefs in a way that doesn’t discount others, but also with humor directed at myself. In other words, I say things like, “I’m pretty freaked out about this virus and I want to protect myself and my family, so we’re still hunkering down at home with masks and a bottle of hand sanitizer. It’s really hard, because I know you want to see us. It’s hard on us, too. But, I know that once I start venturing out again it will be hard to stop, so for me, it’s easier to stay safe at home. Can we set up a phone call or ZOOM?”

Q: How might these communication strategies differ whenever you’re talking to those who may not agree with you about the severity of the virus, the suggested safety guidelines, and the government’s response to COVID-19?

In these situations, I often feel that I am being stereotyped and placed into a group to which I may or may not belong. I don’t like that feeling, so when I find myself in these situations, I try very hard not to make group-based statements about others. I also try to work against group-based statements (political, religious, age). When I hear disparaging comments about members of an age group, for example, I let people know that makes me feel uncomfortable or I advocate for the group. I really do have to start with my “curiosity and compassion” frame when I find myself in these conversations. I might not even realize until I feel my heart pounding that I am in one. I try to stick with phrases like, “here is what I believe right now and this is why it is important to me.” 

I also remind people that information is changing so quickly, that I find myself changing perspectives and even actions that seem inconsistent with my earlier actions. I tell people that since we are getting new information daily, I haven’t committed to one feeling yet – I’m pretty much feeling them all. It allows me the flexibility to not be committed to one belief or action. I also try to only speak on my account (e.g., “my feelings right now are…”). I also try to keep in mind that the person I am speaking with might feel differently later, and that is okay, and that person is somewhere on her/his own pandemic cycle and that influences how they feel (and communicate) in the moment. When it gets more difficult I think (and sometimes say) that I don’t have influence over other’s behaviors or beliefs, but I do over mine. Then sometimes I say it out loud – “I see it makes you uncomfortable that I am wearing a face cover in my own house, but I do it because I believe it protects you, plus, I am practicing getting used to it.”

Q: How might these communication strategies differ whenever you’re talking to an employer who is asking you to perform your job in a way that you are not comfortable with?

I feel the most confident in this scenario, but I recognize that I have a very privileged position where I know there are people who will advocate for me. I voice my concerns with an immediate supervisor and approach it like an opportunity to solve a problem. This is more difficult where there are big power hierarchies and vulnerable employees. My advice is to approach with an observation, “I noticed that…” and then how that makes you feel “and I am worried about…” while also recognizing the awkward position you are in “this is really hard to talk about (or this feels really awkward to me) but I wanted to talk with you about a possible solution.” There is often more than one person you can go to. If you cannot go to your immediate supervisor, can you go to theirs’? Can you go to an advocate (like Human Resources) in your organization? Can you go to an Ombudsperson? It is an act of bravery to advocate for yourself and often in the process you advocate for others as well. Communication can be an act of courage for yourself and others.

Dr. Maggie Pitts is an Associate Professor in the Department of Communication and Associate Dean at the Graduate College at the University of Arizona. Her program of research centers on the types of everyday talk people use to manage transitions across the life course (such as health decision-making, end-of-life and later life conversations, retirement, international sojourning, etc.). Dr. Pitts takes a “bright side” approach to the study of human communication — asking questions like, “what is going right” here, and “how can we make good things even better?” Recently, Dr. Pitts is interested in studying communication “savoring,” or focusing on meaningful communication moments, and then purposefully enjoying and enhancing them. Dr. Pitts and her research team are currently exploring communication savoring in the context of COVID-19. If you are interested to find out more about her research on savoring communication, listen to her podcast interview on Constant Wonder.




The next update will cover credible sources for COVID-19. If you would like to learn more about this and other topics related to COVID-19 in Arizona, please complete next week’s AZCOVIDTXT survey that you will receive via text in about a week.

View Updates from Past Weeks:
Update from week of August 3rd (English | Spanish)
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