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.”