Living Life and Staying Safe in the Time of COVID-19

By Laura Block, PharmD, NREMT

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.

Sequestered Sanity: A How-To

by Jennifer Clark, LMSW, and Mickey Desai

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.  

Daylight

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?

Uplifting Entertainment

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.

Got a Pet?

Continue reading “Sequestered Sanity: A How-To”

Remembering Marco Rizk

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.

Coronavirus, Conventions, and You

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.  

UsagiMed cannot help you make the decision to cancel or postpone your show.  We can help inform you based on recommendations made by your local health departments, who are also in touch with the CDC and are taking their knowledge and data into account.

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.  

Continue reading “Coronavirus, Conventions, and You”

UsagiMed COVID-19 for Anime/Fandom Convention-Organizers

By Laura Block, PharmD, NREMT

The only thing that we can predict about COVID-19 is that we can’t predict much.  This is a novel virus, and while the scientific community is discovering an amazing amount of information very rapidly, our society and this virus move even faster. 

As a convention-organizer, the best thing you can do is to develop a close relationship with your venue’s county, local, or state health department—specifically, their epidemiologists.  Invite them out for a beer. Studies have shown that the majority of scientists love beer, almost as much as they love sharing their science with others. As your event gets closer, four weeks out, two weeks out, one week out…, find out what their recommendations would be with regards to preventing viral spread at your event, up to and including postponing or cancelling your event. 

Let me reiterate, you want to talk to your local experts—the more local, the better.  Your local epidemiologists know best what’s going on in your specific community. The CDC has a ton of useful information, but is probably not going to have much to say about your locality or your event.  They are the big picture/guideline folks, and your local health department already takes their advice and knowledge into account. 

Stay in close touch with your venue and hotels.  Let them know that you are working in cooperation with the local health department.  Find out when the deadline is for cancelling/postponing without losing (much) money.  Keep them in the loop on what you’re hearing from the health experts and how that message may change the closer you get to your event date. 

You will need to innovate.  At the time of this writing (March 5th, 2020) CDC is recommending that people not touch each other, that we cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue that we immediately throw away, that we wash our hands frequently and use hand sanitizer when we can’t wash, that we not touch our faces, and that we keep about six feet of distance from each other. 

Now think about the last anime convention you went to.  How often did people maintain a distance of six feet from you?  How often was everyone touching the same door handles, escalator handrails, elevator buttons, and registration pens?  What innovations can you think of that might help? A “bring your own pen and box of tissues” drive for a special piece of convention swag?  Encourage sing-alongs in the bathrooms while people wash their hands? Provide hand sanitizer at the end of the registration line and at the elevator doors?  Perhaps a large tent outside to encourage more fresh-air mingling where it’s safer, regardless of the weather? How can you prevent bottlenecks and spread people out?  How can you encourage sick folks to stay home? Perhaps institute a program for exchanging a 2020 membership for a 2021 registration? 

Internally, your first-aid team and your administration need to agree on consistent messaging to convention attendees on how to stay as healthy as possible (such as the 5-2-1 Rule and the currently recommended infection control practices).  Work with your venue on creating signage and communication that will be permitted to remain posted during the duration of your event. Find out if they have stands for displaying signage together with hand sanitizer. 

We know that conventions put us at risk of the “con crud.”  This oft joked-about side-effect of fandom has its own entry in Urban Dictionary, and usually involves a respiratory infection that can be hard to shake.  Recently published articles suggest that attendees who get at least 5 hours of sleep a night are less likely to fall ill. And using the above interventions for social distancing and hand hygiene in a less extreme way can also be used to reduce the risk of flu and con crud.

Lastly, how can we help each other?  How can you communicate your best practices, innovations, successes, and misses to other convention organizers so that everyone stays as healthy as possible and so that our shows not just live, but thrive another year?  Do you collaborate with other events in your state? This is a good time to establish those relationships and collaborative efforts, and to support each other. And let us know what you think. Let’s start a dialogue. You can be sure we’ll be talking about this more on our Facebook pagePlease do join us there.

Dude, Are You Dehydrated?

When we’re at the convention we’ve been looking forward to all year, we want to feel our best. We want to be in fighting form to be able to squeeze every drop of fun out of our weekend! Much like training to run a race, we’ve got to take extra good care of ourselves to be able to withstand the feats of daring-do! If we’re going to walk 5 times as far as customary, sleep ½ as much as usual, and perhaps enjoy some adult beverages, we’ve got to check under the hood and make sure to top off the oil!

What if I told you there was something you could do to support your brain, muscles, and internal organs that was free and doesn’t have to take up any precious convention time? DRINK WATER. Most conventions have water stations conveniently located throughout the event venue. Use them! Quaff a glass of water with your favorite anime, and if you’re at a dance, make sure you’re drinking enough to keep up with your sweating.

Hydrate!

How do you know if you’re drinking enough water? Well, if you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated. But if you need a more concrete indicator, take a look at the color of your pee. Ideally, your urine is mostly colorless and transparent (except in the mornings when it will be more concentrated). If it’s bright yellow, or heaven forbid, cola-colored, DUDE, you’re dehydrated! Drink water now!

Handy-dandy urine color chart.

What are the consequences of pretending you’re a camel and not keeping hydrated? The most common thing folks notice, something that sends them to first aid in droves at conventions, is headaches. Sure, the bright lights, noise, and crush of fellow fan-folk doesn’t help, but if you’re dehydrated, you’re going to have the Lord Orc of all Headaches. Along with your headache, you’ll be tired and cranky, have bad breath, and you’re likely to crave sweets that are going to make you feel worse when you get that sugar crash. Ignore those warning shots across your bow, and you’re looking at dizziness and muscle cramps. Keep that up, and you risk falling down a dangerous dehydration cliff that can end in rhabdomyolysis, which is even less fun that it sounds. Then you have to go to the hospital, which means you miss that late-night panel you had your eye on.

So, keep an eye on your pee, and drink enough water to stay out of the yellow zone. It’s a free and easy way to help ensure that your convention is the most fun it can be!

Mind Your Mind

This post is authored by By Jennifer Clark, LMSW and Mickey Desai.

In Usagi Medical Group’s ongoing series to help you maximize your con-going experience, we’ve compiled a short list of tips and resources that you may find useful if you or someone you know is suffering from some variety of mental-health issues during your con.  These issues are not always easy to identify, and may range from anxiety attacks to self-esteem problems, addictions to body-image issues, or even just good old-fashioned depression.  

A quick reminder that the UsagiMed room(s) are always available as Safe Spaces to anyone who needs them.  UsagiMed provides non-judgmental service and support and welcomes anyone who feels they need a safe, quiet place to rest at any time during the con.  If you are feeling overwhelmed, stressed-out, isolated (yes, it happens in crowds), just need to chill out, or need someone to talk to, visit the UsagiMed people at your con.

Your con may have additional spaces: At Anime Weekend Atlanta, Safe Spaces are designated with a teal ribbon (which is the ribbon for anxiety and ptsd awareness) and the words “Safe Space” on them. Hospitality Services offers space to both crew and con goers. Accessibility Services has designated areas as well. Check with your convention to see what resources are available.

If you or someone you know is struggling, here are some quick tips and coping strategies:

  1. Get connected.  In the world of mental-health, even tiny moments of connection and understanding can have a tremendous impact for someone who might be struggling.  It is too easy to suffer silently.  It may seem preferable to isolate.  Instead, reach out to your friends–the people you trust.  There’s no harm in saying, “I’m having a hard time with this.  I think I need a minute.”
  2. Similarly, let your friends know you care.  If you should happen to see someone struggling, don’t try to fix them.  Ask them if they’re okay.  If they want to talk about it, just listen.  Don’t offer solutions.  Don’t try to diagnose.  Don’t try to fix anything.  Simply listen to your friend.  Let them know you care for them, and that you will support them in their journey towards being emotionally healthy.
  3. Remember your boundaries with other people. In your day to day life, you have developed coping skills to help you deal with other people and stressors. These don’t have to fall away simply because you are at con. Remember what your triggers and warning signs look like. Avoid the drama llamas who you know might be triggering. Don’t be afraid to share your boundaries with your con buddies, so they can help you enforce them as well.
  4. Know your healthy patterns, keep to them as much as you can at con. How much sleep do you usually need to keep your mental health on track? How much daily caffeine do you normally take? When and how much do you eat on a daily basis to keep healthy? When you’re at con, it’s too easy to deviate from “normal,” and you will crash, which brings an end to your fun. Stick to your routine as much as you are able.
  5. If you can’t stick to your regular routine, please Eat Healthy and  Take Rest.  Give your body the resources it needs to be healthy.  If you eat poorly, don’t get enough water, and run yourself into the ground, your body will find ways to make you stop and rest even if you don’t want to.  Or worse, you might become a grumpy bastard if you don’t get enough sleep and try to compensate with too much caffeine. (Trust us, nothing good comes of this.) So plan accordingly, employ the 5-2-1 rule, and treat yourself right.
  6. TAKE YOUR MEDS! Do we really need to tell you this? You know what happens when you don’t take your meds?  Bad things.  Bad things happen.  Take your freakin’ meds, already.  Sheesh.

If you need some extra help, UsagiMed will support you in finding it. Help may not be that far away. Please follow this link for a list of nationally available resources.

The quest to mental health begins with you, but remember that you are not alone in that journey.

Get Your Flu Shot!

The ‘flu vaccine is a controversial thing. We’re going to side-step the controversy by repeating the baseline truth: even if the vaccine isn’t perfect, it will AT LEAST reduce the duration and severity of symptoms if you somehow catch the influenza virus.

Get Your Flu Shot!

Last year I watched two of my relatives (both of them medical professionals) waive off the vaccine because they’d heard it wasn’t that effective. Both of them were completely laid flat with the ‘flu. For THREE weeks, neither could work. I’ll spare you the gory details. They both then rescinded and openly wished they had gotten the vaccine. Please learn from their example. Get your vaccine early.

The CDC recommends annual influenza vaccination for everyone 6 months and older with any licensed, influenza vaccine that is appropriate for the recipient’s age and health status. They also suggest you get vaccinated by the end of October, in preparation for ‘flu season.

UsagiMed recommends getting vaccinated at least two weeks before your favorite fall con. This gives your body plenty of time to build up antibodies and overall immunity before you risk catching any sort of con-crud.

Influenza can be deadly. Even if you’re relatively healthy, you don’t want to share the ‘flu with someone who is medically frail like a child, or a cancer patient. Please join us in spreading the word: Get your flu shot!

Radio Etiquette

This post is for all our convention-organizer friends who have to use any kind of two-way radio during their con. And you’re right, most of this seems obvious. But we’ve seen things, man! There are a lot of people who work a convention just to grab a radio and enjoy some kind of rush throughout the weekend. Many of them don’t know what they’re doing. Or they abuse the privilege. Usagi Medical Group works hand-in-glove with both convention staff and licensed first-responders who may be on scene. Proper radio etiquette helps us avoid delays and mistakes. We hope your personnel will find these guidelines useful in avoiding unnecessary frustrations in times of an emergency.

Get Prepared

Know how to use the radio. Know what the PTT (Push To Talk) button does. Know how to not trigger it by accident. Hold the button down firmly when talking, and be sure to LET IT GO when you are done. When you have the PTT button pressed, no one else can speak or be heard. You might be blocking someone on your frequency with an emergency message. You’ll drain your radio battery faster, too! Let. It. Go.

(BTW, remember to talk across the microphone, and not directly into it.)

Identify Yourself and Your Recipient

Know in advance what you are going to say. Take a moment to get collected and maybe even mentally rehearse your message. Decide who the intended recipient of the message is. Start your transmission with your name, followed by your department, and follow that with the name of the intended receiving department. “This is Holly with Main Events to UsagiMed.” There’s no point doing much more than identifying yourself and the recipient at this point. When the recipient acknowledges you, you can transmit the rest of your message.  

Short, Clear, Concise

As a general rule, if your message is longer than 20 seconds, use your phone instead. It’s best to keep your transmissions short, clear, and to the point. This gives other users an opportunity to acknowledge your message or request further clarification before you carry on with your next point.  

Be Patient

LISTEN for a response. The other person may not be able to respond immediately–be patient and give them time to reply before re-sending your call.

Acknowledging The Message

UMG first responders fill a necessary gap for conventions and event planners.

Radio users sometimes repeat a message to make it clear that they’ve heard and understood the information. For example:

Public Safety: “Jared with Public Safety to UsagiMed. Assistance required at Western Ballroom.”

UsagiMed: “This is UsagiMed confirming assistance required at Western Ballroom. We’re on our way.”

These Useful Guidelines

Please refer to these handy guidelines. (Only one page long, it’s suitable for downloading, printing, and distributing to your staff.) Remember, everyone is listening.

(It’s a handy one-pager.)

Dealing with Con Crud

Atchooo!

So, it finally happened. You attended your favorite show, and despite your best efforts to stay well, you’ve become a member of the infected horde. Con Crud is a convergence of diseases from all around the world, all attempting to trounce your immune system via the promise of having a fun time at a convention. It was bound to happen sooner or later. If you get sick during a con, come see UsagiMed! We’ve got lots of stuff that can help you feel better and keep the con dream alive. But sometimes, maybe it’s just better to cut your losses and go home before you make someone else sick. And sometimes, symptoms don’t even show up until after you’ve made it home.

So what do you do now? How do you get back to that happy place you were in during the convention, where the sun was shining, and you could sing along with Totoro without coughing up a lung? Here are a few tips:

1. Take care of your self at home

Mmmm. Ramen.

Do you have the sniffles, a light cough, a headache? Mild symptoms can be taken care of at home. Catch up on the sleep you missed during that 24 hour Doctor Who marathon. Eat some nutritious food. REAL food, not just Red-Bull and Pocky. Drink a lot of water! Consider taking some over-the-counter medicines if they’ll help you relax and rest better. (Follow the directions on the package.) Take it easy for a while, and hopefully you’ll be feeling better in no time.

2. Head to your regular doctor or urgent care

If you’ve got a sore throat, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, chills and general weakness, it might be time to head to a doctor’s office or urgent care. There are some tests and treatments that can only be done in the first day or two of the flu, so identifying the difference between a cold and something more serious can be important. Your doctor may prescribe you some special medicine to help you feel better faster. The other suggestions above still apply though. Rest up, so your body has the energy it needs to fight off the invaders.

3. If necessary, escalate to the ER

It’s rare, but in some cases people can get really sick from an exposure at a convention. If your symptoms are severe, head to the Emergency Room. If you can’t make it there on your own, call 911 or your local emergency number for help.

4. Don’t share!

After you do everything you can to help yourself get healthy, the second best thing you can do is NOT give the crud to anyone else. Depending on your bugs, you can be contagious for up to a week after you get sick. Follow the CDC’s guidelines to help fight the spread of the crud. Some people are especially vulnerable to disease, especially children, cancer patients, and the elderly. Staying home when you’re sick helps curb germs in the community. Staying home when you’re sick may save someone’s life. You can be sure we will always say THANK YOU when you choose to keep your crud at home. UsagiMed will be ready to continue the party with you next year.

5. Keep it from happening again

Nobody wants to get sick. Certainly nobody wants to get sick twice. So before you head off to your next con, be sure to check out our tips for how to stay healthy.