Here we are in early January of 2021, and the hangover from the 2020 holidays continues to darken our skies. People have grown tired of the 3 W’s: Wearing a cloth mask, Waiting 6 feet apart, avoiding close contact, and Washing hands frequently. Instead, people travelled far and wide to see their loved ones for the holidays, gathered together for meals and lodging with folks they didn’t live with, and didn’t wear their masks. “What could be the harm? It’s just me making this trip the one time.”
The problem is that most people don’t know they’ve been infected with COVID-19 for several days, during which time they are infectious. And humans believe in patterns – if someone has managed to evade the virus for 9 months so far, they may think they are somehow safe now. But the risk has only been going up and up as the prevalence of COVID infection increases. The days are short, the weather has been inclement, and folks don’t want to only meet up outside. They want to celebrate together, and with Americans, that often means food. Food means removing your mask to eat, often sitting down in one place for a while. How could something so cozy be dangerous?
‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the con, No anime stirring, no art was drawn; COVID-19 hung over everyone there, We dared not stir–too deadly to share; Our people were nestled in costumes they made, Disappointed pandemic had squashed what they played.
I was going to write out an entire poem like this called “A Visit From Totoro” about COVID avoidance tips for the holidays. But then I read a headline about the Yankee Candle company being bombarded with negative reviews because people are claiming their candles have no scent, and I just couldn’t do the poem thing, anymore. (Loss of the sense of smell is an early sign of COVID-19.)
Look, I know the holidays demand a certain kind of attention and energy. I know people expect that holiday gatherings should happen. That the whole gift-giving and food-sharing thing is a matter of strict tradition. And while I know that a lot of families out there played it safe, it seems clear that a lot of them did not. We should all find this frightening and saddening.
We’re all adults here, right? If you’re not an adult, skip to the last blog post. But for the rest of us, we need to have a frank talk about how COVID-19 may impact your sex life.
Protected Sex Is A Necessity
COVID-19 has changed the way we maneuver our public lives, from mask mandates to social distancing. However, it’s crucial to stay safe in our private lives as well, especially when it comes to sexual encounters. Now more than ever, protected sex is a necessity. Whether hooking up or dating, it’s important to be conscious of our decisions when engaging in sexual activity, and remember how we can keep ourselves safer in these trying times.
When it comes to physical contact, avoid kissing anyone who isn’t in your close circle of contacts in order to ensure you’re only mouth to mouth with people you know to be safe. Saliva can carry COVID-19, and kissing can quickly pass it into your system. Wear a mask during sexual interactions with those beyond your close contacts. Additionally, more intimate acts, such as Anilingus (mouth to anus) and Fellatio (mouth to penis) are also risky, since COVID-19 can be passed through fecal matter and it is found in semen. Make sure, if engaging in oral sex, to only do so with those in your close contacts or someone you know is negative for COVID-19.
Is COVID-19 Sexually Transmitted?
It is currently not confirmed if COVID-19 can be passed through vaginal or anal sex. Similar viruses do not, implying sex is not a primary point of transfer for COVID-19. Still, we know the virus is there. It remains critically important to use a condom, regardless of the concerns of COVID-19, to help prevent the transfer of STDs. Also, there is no safer sex partner than ourself. Masturbation cannot spread COVID-19. Aside from sexual activity with someone we’re isolating with, having sex with others will always carry some risk for COVID-19.
While getting your freak on, avoid having sex or performing sexual acts in public places, even if no one else is in the vicinity. Public spaces are, well, public. Other people frequent these places, even if they’re not there now. The point is: COVID-19 can linger on surfaces for days. Engaging in sexual activity in public increases the likelihood of you coming in contact with potentially contaminated surfaces.
COVID-19 May Impact Your Sex Life
Sex is a healthy part of normal life during normal conditions. During these days of pandemic, people will, and should, continue to find ways to safely improve their attitude and emotional state. Use risk reduction strategies to contend with COVID-19 and make things safer for ourselves, our partners, and our community.
This piece was co-authored with Jennifer Clark, LMSW.
Ah, the Holidays. The “Silly Season.” I do wonder how much more mad the regular holiday madness will be as we continue to contend with issues of COVID-19 and other global stressors.
Pandemic puts a big magnifying glass on existing stressors. The frustrations that one normally feels–the family stuff, all the feelings of sadness, loneliness, or grief–all of it is likely to feel worse than usual. I’m not telling you this to induce despair. I’m telling you this so you can be ready and rationally know that what you’re feeling is likely normal, and that there’s actually less reason for despair than you want to make yourself believe.
But, the Silly Season being what it is, some of us will simply have a harder time of it than others. Seasonal Affective Disorder may kick in, further complicating things. So here’s what I’m asking you to do:
Check On Each Other
Reach out and touch someone. Maybe set a goal for yourself, something like two or three reach-outs a week. It’s important that we keep up our social connections and lift each other closer towards whatever relief is on the horizon. Check on each other. The simple act of being asked “Hey, how are you doing?” can be a relief all by itself, never mind the heartfelt conversation that may follow. So please do not isolate, and please try to help others stay connected.
National Coming Out Day is October 11th. UsagiMed has always had a special relationship with the LGBTQ+ community. Some of our own Bunnies (even in our senior leadership) identify as alphabet soup. No matter what letters you claim, we’re happy to work with you, to serve you, and to have you in our ranks.
Our team’s diversity is very important to us. It is one of UsagiMed’s greatest assets. In addition to providing more varied viewpoints, our diversity helps us to provide better patient care. The events that Usagi Medical Group services have a higher percentage of their attendees and crew identifying as LGBTQ+ than the general population. Our inclusivity makes it easier for GSM folks to seek care, for issues related to their alphabet status and in general.
Will You Accept Me?
Coming out to family, friends and colleagues can sometimes be a risky and scary proposition for many. While we’re lucky to have a wonderful, accepting community within our fandoms, it can be more difficult to judge whether we’ll be accepted for who we are outside of that arena. To help address this, one of our own has built a free, secure tool to help LGBTQ+ folks gauge how accepting someone might be in a completely anonymous way. Check it out: https://willyouaccept.me/
“Do I go to work to make money, but endanger myself into getting the virus? Or do I quit my job to stay safe, but lose the ability to support my family?”
Usagi Medical Group recognizes that mitigating financial stress remains a huge part of coping with conditions of pandemic.
COVID-19 has left millions of working Americans with this frustrating internal dialogue. You might be thinking “well, there’s no way there’s remote positions for my career or field.” However, whether you’re a chief estimator for construction, a psychologist, a software engineer, or an animator, you can probably find high-paying work that’s fully remote.
Remote work varies from small, part-time, online work all the way to full time jobs that pay past six figures (depending on your degree). Here, we’ll list great ways to find remote work that’ll help you achieve the best of both worlds!
We need to talk about the gorilla in the room… The same gorilla as before, but the guidelines, they keep changing. Why is that?
Because this is a novel disease, something we’ve never seen before. We’re pushing out information as soon as we think we have a handle on it, and then we get schooled by the virus again, and the information changes. Information flows faster now than it ever did before, so you get to see how science itself ebbs and flows. Science has always been this way, but we’ve never before had the ability to communicate it as fast as it happens.
Keep in mind that the United States is not the only country dealing with this. All around the globe, teams of scientists are learning about COVID-19 as fast as they can, looking for preventative practices, tests, treatments, and a vaccine. The best test or treatment or vaccine may come from somewhere else, so keep in mind that if things look bleak here in the US, it may look a lot brighter somewhere else, and we’ll all benefit soon from their new discoveries.
That all being said, here’s what we know at the end of May 2020:
Try to stay at least 6 feet apart from other people.
These are really the most important things to keep in mind. We are currently less concerned about inanimate objects (fomites) possibly transmitting the virus from person to person.
While we wait for a vaccine and effective treatments, take extra good care of yourself. Treat yourself. Go for a walk. Eat a vegetable. Listen to your favorite music. Reach out to friends and family over telephone or internet, and make sure you’re seeing some faces daily. Lower the bar a little: don’t beat yourself up because the house is messy, you put on some weight, or it’s hard to focus. Read a good book. Indulge in a bubble bath. Do a random act of kindness every day: not only will you make someone else’s day, it will make your day much brighter.
So, here we are, social distancing. We are working from home. We are ordering take out. We are staying away from our favorite exhibits, restaurants, and events. If you’re like us, you miss people. And even if you’re just a massive introvert, social contact is still a part of healthy living.
Social Isolation and Loneliness are Serious Health Issues
A Brigham Young University study suggests that the conditions of isolation or loneliness can be as bad as smoking fifteen cigarettes a day. But the public health world adamantly maintains isolating is the right way to flatten the curve of contagion. And they’re right. Isolating is the right thing to do, even if it makes us a little loopy. But you are not alone. The whole world is isolating with you. Maddening paradox, right? Look, even if we’re not physically together, we will pull through this pandemic together. Here’s our recipe for doing this the right way. This is a long recipe, but you’re worth it. Your mental health is just as important as your physical health.
Stay Informed, But…
If you have to watch the news, partake mindfully. Consider seeking out news online or via newspaper rather than by listening to the radio or watching TV. When you use a live medium, the news–good or bad–pours over you without any control, and it’s sometimes difficult to filter out the unnecessary sensationalism. If something triggering is announced on your television, it’s all over you before you can stop it. If you choose to read your news instead of watching or listening, you can pick and choose your sources and the articles you follow up on.
And if you do get your news online, remember almost all news agencies make a profit off of your clicks. The headlines are as sensational as possible to get that click. Often the article itself is less interesting, or the headline might even be misleading. Screen your sources. We encourage you to be very critical of the news, in general. If you are reading about COVID-19, we strongly encourage you to stick with information from the World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control, or the National Institutes of Health. Sometimes your local department of public health (usually a county-level entity) will have relevant, local updates, too.
Take Your Meds
If you have been prescribed medications, keep taking them on schedule. I know we tell you this over and over, but it’s true. You can’t keep healthy if you don’t practice your baseline health measures.
Stay on Schedule
Try to stay on a steady schedule. Circadian disruption seems almost unavoidable, but it’s important to keep a healthy schedule. If you don’t have a good schedule, adopt one for yourself today. Right now. If you are struggling with depression or anxiety and you stay awake in the dark, gaming all night and sleeping-in all day, this is assuredly going to make things worse for you as we get deeper into quarantine. Don’t catch up on the news just before you go to bed. By the way, sleep is critical to keeping your immune system happy.
Also, while we are talking about daylight, get out in it. Sitting in your backyard or on your front step still practices safe social distancing and gets you out in the light. Do you do the meditation thing? It’s a great time to do some mindfulness exercises. Maybe even some yoga. Listen to the birds–they’re happy Spring is here. Can you see the newly growing tree buds? Feel the grass under your feet?
Consume books, movies, and music that lift you up and inspire you. Be aware of your choices and avoid selections that might feed anger, despair, or loneliness. We’re not going to judge you for watching Contagion back-to-back five times in five days if it was already your favorite movie. If your jam is Childish Gambino’s “This is America” and that gets you motivated, go you! But if it makes you stabby, another choice might be better.
With a heavy heart, UsagiMed marks the passing of our dear brother Marco Rizk. Marco succumbed to his long battle with depression and PTSD.
Marco was a Corporal in the Georgia State Defense Force, an EMT, and an amateur radio operator.
Within UsagiMed, Marco was a fantastic medic, treating his patients with the utmost of care and empathy. He genuinely cared about people. One only needed to spend ten minutes with Marco to discover him to be among the kindest of souls–pure and giving of his love and loyalty. His smile never failed to brighten the room. Marco was our friend. And we will miss him.
We’re all concerned about COVID-19. Whether or not you’re one of the people who are buying out all the toilet paper on the eastern seaboard, we here at Usagi Medical Group would urge everyone to try to put their anxieties in check when it comes to COVID-19 and what it might do to the local convention scene. Panic seems almost reasonable these days, but panic creates more trouble than it solves.
UsagiMed’s Advice for Convention Organizers
UsagiMed looks to our local (state and county) health departments, along with the CDC for the best and latest information on the virus, its current reach, and all the research being done to combat it. We encourage you to do the same.
There are some innovations your con can make, not the least of which is making public health messaging a visible priority for your con attendees. Emphasize the 20-second hand-washing regimen, 5-2-1 Rule, and the importance of staying hydrated. UsagiMed does this with a series of posters, videos, and social media posts. While you’re at it, make sure water is freely available throughout the con.
Consider implementing a policy that anyone who has any kind of illness should stay home, and that you’ll defer their membership to next year if they do. Every year we see people show up to their con with the flu because they don’t want to waste their membership fees. Make it easier for people to stay home. You care about your fans. You want to keep them safe. And you want to party with them when they are well.