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May 2020

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

We're very sorry! The previous version of this email included errors, so we're sending it out again in all its corrected glory. 

With this issue of PlaneTalk, we’re back to our usual publication schedule at the beginning of the month.

COVID-19 still dominates the news, as the Bay Area enters its third month of shelter-in-place orders to slow the spread of this disease. And it is still a major challenge to stay on top of important news and developments without becoming overwhelmed or extra-fearful. Our one-stop COVID-19 and Coronavirus Information Resource Guide is updated daily with reliable advice to help people in our area take care of themselves, their loved ones, and their communities. 

Should I...?

...spend time outdoors during the Shelter-in-Place Order?
From the first, shelter-in-place orders for this area (and for the state) have allowed us to exercise outdoors, by hiking, walking, running, or bicycling. However, as more and more people choose to do this, we’re losing track that we still need to keep physical distance from each other, and to wear a face covering whenever there’s a chance that we will be in that 6-10 foot range of other people. Some parks and recreational areas have had to be closed to keep them from being over-used, others can stay open for now - it is always a good idea to check ahead, and wear a face covering whenever you see other people.

...worry about tick season, if I’m outdoors?
Lyme disease, and the ticks that transmit it, are still a concern. Here is advice on how to deal with tick bites, and information about that disease.
...use a playground or ball court?
The Joint Public Health Orders on April 29, 2020 allow us to use “certain shared outdoor recreational facilities that were previously ordered closed, like skate parks, but not others that involve shared equipment or physical contact.” So playgrounds, basketball and tennis courts are still closed; but race tracks can be open.
...try to exercise at home if I’m in the at-risk because of my age?
Absolutely! We need regular exercise for physical and mental health at every age. These exercise video routines for older adults can be a good place to start.

...continue to take medication for high blood pressure in this pandemic?
Yes. Among the early information about COVID-19 was the finding that in some patients, infection involved the same enzymes targeted by two of the most common classes of drugs used to treat high blood pressure, ACE inhibitors and ARBs. However, that information is still tentative - and the dangers of not taking antihypertension medications are well-known. At present, patients taking an ACE inhibitor or ARB are advised to continue. anything more to protect myself while I work in an “essential business”?
There are extra steps that people who have contact with others in their work - as cashiers, store clerks, or delivery personnel, as medical staff, as childcare workers, as public utility workers - can take to protect themselves and their families. Santa Clara County has published guides on Facebook in several languages:
Tagalog anything extra to talk to my kids about the pandemic, to help them understand?
Watching the Sesame Street Town Hall about Coronavirus with your kid(s) might be a useful way to find out more about what they would like to know, but don’t know how to ask. It includes questions from children of different ages, and is broken into 6 short episodes.

Health Technology

One of the few things that we do know about COVID-19 is that people can be dangerously low on oxygen but not have the usual symptoms of shortness of breath or trouble breathing. A pulse oximeter - which measures the oxygen saturation in the blood by shining bright light through an extremity (finger or earlobe) is a quick way to test. If you are someone in your household is at risk for more severe disease, you might consider getting one for home. Check to make sure that the model you buy is certified for medical use. There are also smartphone and Fitbit apps that intend to measure oxygen levels in the blood, but their technology is not yet accurate enough for medical use. (That may well change in the near future, however.)

In depth

Telemedicine and Telehealth:
Doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals are among the many learning how to work from home during this pandemic - and their patients are learning, too. Changes in medical reimbursement regulations during this emergency now allow medical care, mental health care, and social work support to be covered by Medicare, and many other health plans are following suit.
Communicating by telephone or email (sometimes by video, even!) allows us to continue care, but there’s a learning curve for all of us. Here are some tips and advice on how to make this work well for patient care:

How To Get The Most Out Of Your Virtual Medical Appointment
A Step-by-Step Guide to Using Telemedicine
How to find a therapist during the Covid-19 pandemic

Face coverings:
Since the last issue of PlaneTalk, people in most of the Bay Area counties (including Santa Cruz) are now required to wear some kinds of face covering whenever they are outside their homes and in the presence of other people. At present Santa Clara is the only Bay Area county that does not legally require them, but its people are very strongly encouraged to do the same. This means that both the customers and workers at essential businesses should have their noses and mouths covered with a bandanna, scarf, or non-medical face mask. (Young children are not required to keep their faces covered, because they have a really hard time staying covered, and a mask might cause problems for infants. However, children shouldn’t accompany an adult while shopping unless there’s absolutely no alternative.) As explained by this article, the purpose is mainly to protect other people from virus that we may be shedding, even if we have no symptoms. Antibody testing in sample populations show anywhere from 20% to 60% of the people tested have been infected, but significant numbers of infected people had little to no symptoms of being ill. There’s still a lot we don’t know about COVID-19.
Keeping up with COVID-19 updates
We’re inundated with news about the pandemic, it’s not hard to find - but it can be hard to find what you want to know. Here are some that PlaneTree Health Library staff have found to be very useful for keeping up with what’s important to people in Santa Clara County and the Bay Area (and linked extensively in our COVID-19 and Coronavirus Resource Guide):

U.S. National Institutes of Health Coronavirus (COVID-19)


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).

TED Talks on health topics

Reputable Online Patient Health videos: Health and wellness classes:
Got a favorite podcast, YouTube video channel, or webinar series on health topics that you’d like to recommend? Please tell us about it!

Please take care of yourself and everyone else. Stay home to protect yourself and the most vulnerable people in our community.

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