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www.planetree-sv.org 
May 2021


DIRECTOR'S NOTE


The very good pandemic news is that a remarkable number of people in the U.S. have been vaccinated against SARS-CoV-2 in the first four months of 2021. (As of this writing, in Santa Clara County alone, nearly 45% of eligible people are fully vaccinated; over a million people (over 71%) have received at least their first shot.) Another bit of good news is that sometime in the first couple of weeks of May it’s expected that the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine will be cleared for use in teens younger than 16. If you’re looking to make a vaccine appointment, there are openings readily available throughout the Bay Area - see the links on our COVID vaccination guide to get started.

Higher vaccination rates, and fewer new cases, mean that restrictions are loosening in the Bay Area. As of May 6 San Francisco moved into the yellow tier of the statewide Blueprint for Safer economy. Although the rest of the 7 Bay Area counties are still in the more restrictive orange tier, they are likely to follow if current trends continue. And the CDC’s Guidance for people who have been fully vaccinated (that is, at least 2 weeks after the last dose) opens even more activities.

We’re not out of this world-wide pandemic yet, not while this disease is still surging in some places. We will be dealing with its effects, with what it has revealed about health care and about human illness, for a long time.

Lise M. Dyckman
Executive Director

SHOULD I...?

…push myself to get in 10,000 steps a day?

According to this article from MedlinePlus Magazine, the goal of 10,000 steps per day traces back to a marketing campaign used to sell pedometers in Japan in the 1960s, not medical research. However, that article points out more recent research, which found that walking daily makes a statistical difference in older women’s lifespan. The “sweet spot” for maximum effectiveness seems to be around 7,500 steps daily; and it didn’t seem to make a statistical difference whether those steps were at an aerobic pace or not. So, put on a pair of good walking shoes, and walk! If you’re not too sure about your balance, or worried about falling, check out the links for Improving Balance, Mobility, Flexibility and Strength on our Later Life Guide. If you’re looking for new places to walk in our area, check out the Peninsula Open Space Trust’s new guide to hiking trails.

… worry if I’ve gotten forgetful, more easily confused, or am always exhausted these days?

Add lockdown and covid-brain to all the reasons why adults can feel tired, foggy-headed, exhausted, irritable or forgetful or apathetic. Those can be normal responses to the abnormal stress of the last year +. (For women who have experience with menopause, it can feel like dèja vu.) Don’t underestimate the power of conversations with friends, neighbors, and loved ones to relieve stress and promote resilience; for ideas on how to start talking despite the isolation of the last year, see these resources. In addition to talking, practicing self-compassion, and forgiveness, taking steps to improve the quality of our sleep can make a big difference in our ability to cope with long-term stress. For more on how to do that, see our guide on sleeping more easily.

...worry that I’m now reluctant to get out of the house, or afraid to socialize with other people?

These too are common responses to more than a year of lockdown. Chances are that it’s coronavirus anxiety, not actual agoraphobia, although some of the same techniques used to treat the latter can be useful now. Anyone with a twinge or more of social anxiety before the pandemic can have a more difficult time now - but with the same gradual steps used to treat social anxiety in other times, can often bring that to a manageable level.

…take supplements to improve my symptoms, if I’m on the autism spectrum?

Many of the claims for using alternative medicine approaches to improve symptoms for children or adults on the autism spectrum are not backed up by scientific research methods. It concluded that :

melatonin may be beneficial for sleep disorders associated with ASD. …. However, there is insufficient evidence to determine whether other complementary health approaches such as supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids or vitamin B6, or chelation are efficacious for ASD symptoms.” There are some signs that specific microbes in our intestinal systems are associated with autism symptoms, and a lot of speculation about possibly treating them via the gut microbiome, but it’s still unclear whether probiotics could be successful for that.

… look out for symptoms of blood clots, if I got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine?

Use of this vaccine in the U.S. was paused for a few weeks as the CDC and FDA investigated the small number of cases of thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS) associated with it. Those agencies determined that this was an extremely rare side effect, and re-released this vaccine for continued use.  All the cases reported were in women younger than 50 years old, which suggests that only a portion of the population need to worry about this statistically very rare possibility. (As a comparison, the risk to this same gender and age group of developing a blood clot while taking birth control pills is very much higher.)

Younger people who receive the J&J vaccine, women particularly, should be on the alert during the 3 weeks after getting vaccinated for possible symptoms of a blood clot with low platelets:

  • Severe or persistent headaches or blurred vision
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Leg swelling
  • Persistent abdominal pain
  • Easy bruising or tiny blood spots under the skin beyond

For an explanation of other factors that make someone at risk for blood clots, see the NIH’s recently-updated article Blood Clots Explained.

IN DEPTH:

Returning to the office after working from home.

While working from home is no picnic, if you have been able to continue working there during the pandemic, congratulations! As the restrictions on offices loosen and people contemplate returning to their previous facilities, though, it’s a good idea to have conversations about workplace safety. We’re not through this pandemic yet. First, check CA state’s COVID safety guidelines for your industry and type of business activity, also see if your county has specific guidelines as well (see here for Santa Clara County); and review those with your employer. Since we have learned that SARS-CoV-2 is transmitted mainly through the air (and not by surface contact), elaborate cleaning protocols are not as necessary - but good ventilation is crucial.

For more detail on what to ask your employer about safety precautions in the office, see this article. It recommends that everyone ask:

  • What has been done to review and improve airflow in the office space?
  • What are the company’s vaccination policies?
  • Do I still have to wear a mask?
  • Can I still work from home sometimes?
  • How will the office be cleaned?
  • What happens if something goes wrong?

For businesses and workers in Santa Clara County, there’s a hotline to help figure out which of the many different rules apply under the current COVID-19 regulations​​​​​: (408) 961-5500, Monday - Friday, 8am-5pm.​ Concerns about safe working conditions can also be submitted online.

IN DEPTH:

Different precautions for fully-vaccinated people.

If it’s been more than 2 weeks since your final dose of a COVID vaccine, congratulations on reaching your “hug day”! It’s now safe to hug other fully-vaccinated people, and for older adults to hug their grandkids. CDC’s guidelines are relaxed for those who have been fully vaccinated, and are divided between what they can do in outdoor and indoor settings.

Outdoors:

On May 13, and based on new research findings, the CDC does not require a mask
for any type of indoor gathering if you are fully vaccinated.

With indoor activities, what you should do depends on:

a) whether anyone there is unvaccinated and at a high risk of getting dangerously ill if they were to catch COVID-19, and also 
b) the size of the gathering. 

If the gathering is small and only one household includes people who haven’t been fully vaccinated - like kids, for example - protective measures (wearing a mask, staying more than 6 feet away, not sharing a meal) aren’t so necessary. But if anyone in any of the households is at risk, or if more than one household includes people who are not fully vaccinated (like kids), then protective measures are needed.

For how to apply the CDC guidelines in various scenarios, including kids’ play dates, see this KQED article.

 

Our events calendar is now online!

 
The list of free, public, health-related events in the South Bay that used to be included in PlaneTalk has moved online, as have the events themselves. 

We’ve created an expanded Community Events Calendar on our webpages at: https://www.planetree-sv.org/calendar/

There are many more events on health and other topics of interest to seniors, their caregivers, and anyone interested in healthy aging on this calendar - and since they’re online, you don’t have to worry about travel time or parking!

 
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