View this email in your browser
Twitter Twitter
Facebook Facebook
Website Website
June 2020

Director's Note
Should I...?
In Depth


COVID-19 still dominates the news, as the Bay Area enters its fourth month of shelter-in-place orders to slow the spread of this disease. Some of those restrictions are easing, but some situations and circumstances are different from one county to the next (and from one state to the next, and one country to the next). Besides the work of sorting out whether news applies to our own personal circumstances, it is still a major challenge to stay on top of important news and developments without becoming overwhelmed or extra-fearful. PlaneTree health Library’s one-stop COVID-19 and Coronavirus Information Resource Guide is updated daily with reliable advice and news to help people in the Bay Area take care of themselves, their loved ones, and their communities.

In confused times like these, it’s also crucially important to evaluate all the information we receive, to make sure it’s accurate - and when it comes to health information, we also need to figure out if it’s scientifically correct and relevant. Even if you’re not a medical professional, there are basic steps you can take to sort out scams, unreasonable claims, or fake health news. PlaneTree Health Library’s online resource guide for Evaluating Health Information explains those basic steps, and our upcoming online presentations will walk you through the process of sorting out beneficial health news from bogus. (See the events listing for details.)

Should I...?

...get tested for coronavirus if I don’t have symptoms?

   It depends. If you know that you have been exposed to someone who has a confirmed case of  COVID-19, follow the advice of your health care team or of the contact tracer (they probably will ask you to get the live coronavirus test). 

   If you work in healthcare, or in any job that brings you into frequent contact with other people, check whether your county public health department requires you to get tested regularly. (For Santa Clara County  its once a month, and once every two weeks for workers in nursing facilities).

   People in neighborhoods that have been hard-hit by the pandemic or are more vulnerable would be well-advised to get tested, for their own information but also to provide needed data to public health officials. It is possible that “hot spots” for infection may develop, and more widespread community testing is one way to identify them.

   Lastly, if you have been a close crowd recently - perhaps a demonstration or protest, or even an extended family birthday celebration - it would be wise to get tested within the 7-10 days incubation period.

   There are a number of free coronavirus testing sites now open - see the links to Bay Area & California on our guide to find a convenient location.

...go swimming?

   The June 5 Order for Santa Clara County permits outdoor swimming, just in time for summer temperatures - but only if distancing and other precautions are followed. (Indoor pools are not open, however.) If you have a home hot tub or pool, make sure to keep on top of disinfection and other safety practices. And even if it’s just a wading pool, make sure to avoid creating a mosquito habitat.

...get tested for COVID-19 antibodies?

  Probably not yet, if the purpose of getting tested is to find out if you are now immune to COVID-19. For one thing, we don’t yet know enough about immunity to COVID-19 (if there is immunity, does it last? Or is it like the common colds caused by other coronavirus, where immunity doesn’t extend to different strains?). For another, antibody tests are not thought to be sufficiently reliable. The CDC’s interim guidance on blood tests for COVID-19 antibodies (seriologic tests) from May 23, 2020 does consider that they can be valuable to help make or confirm a diagnosis of COVID-19, but does not (yet) advise people to make other decisions based upon the currently-available tests. (For more on testing and screening, see PlaneTree Health Library’s resource guide on Testing, Screening, and Contact Tracing.) concerned if I think my older relative might have had a mini-stroke?

  Yes, absolutely - don’t let worries about possible exposure to COVID-19 keep them from getting medical attention for sudden numbness, confusion, difficulty speaking or hearing, surprising loss of balance, or rapid-onset severe headache. Studies have shown that rapid response can decrease the chances of a more severe stroke later. If you think you - or someone you care about - are having a TIA, or just had one, treat it like the emergency it is and get help right away.

...check my kid for signs of the side effects of COVID-19?

  In general, it seems like children frequently don’t show symptoms of COVID-19 when infected, and have milder cases if they do. However, reports of rare “Kawasaki-like” symptoms in children with confirmed coronavirus infections has many parents worried. The CDC has released guidance for parents about this multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C). While both Kawasaki Syndrome and MISC-C can be serious, they can be treated.

...ask about coronavirus protection practices when bringing someone into my home to do work?

  Yes indeed. Whenever someone is needed to plumb a leak, do electrical repair, clean the house, provide childcare or elder care services, it’s wise to have a conversation with them in advance about what they do to avoid spreading the coronavirus, and what you should do to protect them as well. Ask about PPE, disinfection practices, distancing, and more -  here are things to consider.


Contact Tracing Apps

You may have seen the news stories from early April that used cell phone data to track the movements of people during the traditional spring break season, while we were also just starting to deal with the pandemic. It’s not news that GPS systems and cell phone traffic can be powerful surveillance tools - and governments throughout the world are looking to those technologies to automate the laborious work of tracking the spread of this pandemic. Contact tracing doesn’t have to involve invasive technology (or in fact, any technology except what is needed to make phone calls and to manage the huge sets of data), but contact tracing on a world-wide scale is impossible without automation. Apple and Google have been collaborating on an app to collect contact data, and the technological infrastructure to integrate that data into public health contact records. The question in many people’s mind, though, is whether apps would protect people’s privacy - and if it did protect privacy, would it collect enough information to be effective.

In depth

Risk Assessment

As quarantine and shelter-in-place regulations loosen, many people are faced with deciding whether it’s safe for them and their families to jump back into their former lives. The irony is that, although these are personal decisions that we all have to make for ourselves, at the same time what we do has potential impacts on the other people around us in major ways. Here’s some food for thought, to help us decide how much risk we’re willing to take or tolerate:

Body Positive Exercise

Warm weather brings out all the ads and posts about “summer bodies”, even in the midst of a pandemic and shelter-in-place regulations. If you’re finding those hard to ignore, first here’s a recent reminder from the Harvard Health Blog that diets mostly don’t work. Their conclusion: “everyday physical activity, regular exercise, and sleep are important in helping to maintain a healthy weight.” Regular exercise that is supportive may be hard to find in these unusual times, however. One key element may be to find online classes or routines that focus on body positive exercises, which have been shown to have better long-term results. This directory of online and in-person programs can help you find one(s) that work for you.

Considering Travel

In the past, summer has been peak travel time for many of us - but with new risks to ourselves and others these days, should we? Here are some resources to help you decide.


In-person events have been cancelled under the current ban on public gatherings. However, plenty of online opportunities for health and wellness education are still available! 

There are health and wellness podcasts, webinars, online classes, etc. Some of these are free, others may have a fee attached (but even then, some vendors have cut their fees during this pandemic). 

Upcoming Zoom presentations with PlaneTree Health Library’s Executive Director, Lise M. Dyckman:

Tools and online educational resources for caregivers.

Caring for an older family member is hard work, whether we're in the same home or caring at a distance - and it's wise to use all the tools we can get! This program is an overview of widely available, relatively simple, low-cost technological tools and online resources to make that job easier. Format is a Zoom presentation followed by Q&A and group discussion. in partnership with the City of Sunnyvale Senior Center.

Monday  June 8, 2020    1:30-2:30pm 
Monday  June 22, 2020    9:30 – 10:30
*Pre-registration required. Use this link, enter your desired date and the program code: CARING

Coping with anxiety & depression in these unusual times

The coronavirus pandemic has most of us extra-anxious, worried, and depressed -- but at the same time, new resources have stepped up to help people in Santa Clara County deal with extraordinary stress. Learn about how anxiety, depression, and isolation mutually reinforce each other - and learn techniques to short-circuit that feedback spiral. The presentation  will also cover new initiatives and well-established resource organizations for mental health support. Format is a Zoom presentation followed by Q&A and group discussion. in partnership with the City of Sunnyvale Senior Center.

Tuesday, July 7, 1:30 - 2:30pm
Monday July 27, 9:30 - 10:30am
*Pre-registration required. Use this link, enter your desired date and the program code: STRESS

Trust it or trash it? Evaluating health information in the age of novel coronavirus

Our news and social media are "all coronavirus, all the time" these days. Not only is that overwhelming, but there's also what the UN Secretary General has called "a dangerous epidemic of misinformation". How can we tell what's worth looking at, and what to take seriously? Learn librarians' techniques for spotting fake news or scams, for finding trustworthy sources, and for evaluating health information. Format is a Zoom session.

Sunday June 28, 4:30 - 5:30pm
Wednesday July 22, 11am - noon

*Pre-registration required. Use this link, enter your desired date and the program code: EVAL

Oh, for a good night’s sleep!

Recent research has discovered that sleep patterns are connected to other aspects of our health in some surprising ways. Learn about recent findings on how much sleep we need (and what kind of sleep), on how disordered sleep can affect many different systems in our bodies - and what can be done about those concerns. Format is a Zoom presentation followed by Q&A and group discussion. in partnership with the City of Sunnyvale Senior Center.

Tuesday August 18, 1:30 - 2:30pm
Monday August 24, 9:30 - 10:30am

*Pre-registration required. Use this link, enter your desired date and the program code: SLEEP

Other sources for online programs:

TED Talks on health topics


Reputable Online Patient Health videos:

Health and wellness classes:

  • Coursera 

  • EdX

    Got a favorite podcast, YouTube video channel, or webinar series on health topics that you’d like to recommend? Please tell us about it!

Support our health information services!

Our independent, noncommercial services exist through the generosity of individuals who value the trustworthy, free health and medical information we provide. If our resources have enabled you to make wiser self-care choices or more informed medical decisions, please help us by supporting our work.

Dear Non-subscriber:  We invite you to become a subscriber. We will never sell or share your email address, and rarely send you anything other than PlaneTalk's 10 issues each year.  

PlaneTree Health Library is not responsible for the content on web sites accessed from our newsletter. Each originating organization has sole responsibility for its web pages. Health and medical information accessed through our newsletter is not intended to replace or substitute for the advice or instruction of a health care professional. Please discuss the information with your health care providers.
Copyright © 2020 Planetree Health Library, All rights reserved.

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list.