Many people may be experiencing increased anxiety during the pandemic, which experts say can be compounded by the sense of isolation that can come with social distancing.
That’s why it’s important for people who are vulnerable to increased anxiety to have access mental health care, panelists said during an American Lung Association event on Wednesday.
“It’s also really important to remember that one in five Americans had a diagnosed mental health condition before the pandemic,” said Ken Duckworth, medical director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Those people still need access to mental health care, he said.
Duckworth also stressed the importance of telehealth services and phone sessions for people without internet access.
“Pain shared is pain halved,” Duckworth said.
Dr. Tyish Hall Brown, a psychiatry and behavioral sciences professor at Howard University College of Medicine, emphasized that people also need to check in on the mental health of children and teens.
“Everything’s kind of a catastrophic thought” for teens, she said, and it can be helpful to remind them that this break from in-person classes and seeing friends won’t last forever.
Hall Brown advised parents to keep track of changes in their children’s behavior and share these observations with a doctor, if they are concerned.
Nationwide, as of Wednesday, almost 5.2 million people have tested positive for the virus and at least 165,924 have died, according to Johns Hopkins.
White House has new guidelines for schools
As President Donald Trump continued to call for students to return to classrooms, the White House released eight new recommendations for schools.
The recommendations are primarily basic hygiene tips and don’t outline what schools should do if they find coronavirus cases in their halls.
The broad recommendations are similar to coronavirus mitigation efforts across the country, and not particularly specific to schools.
The President said the school strategy mirrors the White House’s national approach.
“We cannot indefinitely stop 50 million American children from going to school and harming their mental, physical, emotional and academic development and inflicting long-term, lasting damage,” he told reporters at the White House.
The recommendations include ensuring that students and staff “understand the symptoms of Covid-19” and requiring “all students, teachers and staff to self-assess their health every morning before coming to school.”
The recommendations also encourage the use of masks, but do not require students, teachers or staff to wear masks. They also “require students, teachers and staff to socially distance around high-risk individuals,” however it’s unclear how schools will go about doing that.
Trump said the federal government will provide up to 125 million masks to school districts around the nation.
Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the President, said earlier that despite the resources the federal government will provide, the decision to reopen schools will still need to be made at a local level.
“We’re the federal government,” Conway said. “We’re not telling school districts what to do. We’re providing guidance and resources.”
Of the 101 largest school districts in the country, 63 will start the academic year remotely.
Some schools that have reopened have already seen new cases.
In Georgia, just outside Atlanta, more than 1,100 students, teachers and staff members in the Cherokee County School District are under quarantine as a result of 59 Covid-19 positive cases or exposure. Schools reopened nine days ago.
Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo announced Wednesday the start of school will be pushed back two weeks and specifically said that the photos of crowded Georgia schools were “a cautionary tale.”
Overall cases decline but some regions see rise
Coronavirus continues to spread at high rates across the US South, Midwest and West, even as the total number of new Covid-19 cases has declined since a summer surge.
Nationally, over the past seven days, the United States is averaging just under 53,000 new cases of Covid-19 per day, down 11% from the week prior.
As a result of all those cases, deaths from the virus have remained high. The seven-day average of daily coronavirus deaths was just over 1,000 on Tuesday, the 16th consecutive day the US averaged over 1,000 deaths per day. Wedneday became the 17th day as more than 1,300 deaths were reported.
Adjusting for population, states in the Southeast are seeing the most new cases. Georgia and Florida – states led by Republican governors who have not issued face mask requirements – have the highest per capita new cases over the past seven days, followed by Alabama and Mississippi.
On Wednesday, Florida announced more than 8,000 new case reports and 212 new deaths, according to data released by the Florida Department of Health.
Covid-19 causes worse outcomes for older people, but young people are not immune. In Florida, people under 44 make up about 57% of the state’s 545,000 cases, 20% of the state’s 31,900 hospitalizations, and 3% of the state’s 8,765 deaths, according to state data.
Robert Ruiz, 31 and the father of a 3-year-old, was one of the 265 people under 44 who died from coronavirus in Florida.
His sister, Chenique Mills, told CNN he was overweight and had seasonal asthma but otherwise did not smoke or drink and had no underlying health conditions.
“This is all really sudden, unexpected,” she said. “I (saw) him on Friday. I (saw) him on Saturday. He was fine, to say that he was up, and he was walking and he was eating. He was functioning. So for him to be gone on Sunday? It’s just a lot to take in.
The latest mask guidance
“This virus is so serious. It really, really is. And I think people (won’t) understand until it hits home, because I would be one to say that I took it really lightly until it hit home.”
The virus’s ongoing spread around the country has frustrated plans to safely reopen schools, forced college football conferences to postpone the lucrative fall season, and caused vast medical and economic pain.
And it will continue to rattle American society until people more seriously adopt recommended public health measures: social distancing, avoiding large indoor gatherings, hand-washing, mask-wearing, rapid testing and quarantining the sick.
“We have to figure out how to deal with this as a whole country because as long as there are cases happening in any part, we still have transit, especially now we have students going back to college,” said Dr. Michael Mina, assistant professor of epidemiology at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “Any cases anywhere really keep risk pretty high all across the entirety of the United States.”
CNN’s Steve Almasy, Jason Hoffman, Matthew Hoye, Meridith Edwards, Tina Burnside, Dave Alsup, Kay Jones, Rebekah Riess and Andrea Kane contributed to this report.