COVID-19 Information Features

Crucial Point in the Pandemic
Pandemic Reflections
How to talk to your child about the Coronavirus – Part 1
How to talk to your child about the Coronavirus – Part 2
Dr. Tom Locke Recommendations for Protesters and Caregivers

Submit your Public Health questions to Dr. Allison Berry by emailing Note: The monthly deadline for these to be submitted is the Friday before the first Monday of the month, to be answered at the following Monday’s BOCC meeting.

Crucial Point in the Pandemic

As Jefferson County awaits and shifts part of its COVID-19 response to the arrival and distribution of long-awaited vaccines, KPTZ brings you an important message for your consideration regarding the state of our COVID-19 epidemic.

This year, holiday gatherings present a challenge to our celebratory expectations. It’s so tempting to want to gather with friends and family during this holiday. It’s what we expect and want to do this time of year….but we are faced with the fact that COVID-19 cases are being reported in greater numbers now than in the beginning of the pandemic.

Following warnings from government and public health officials, many Americans either stayed home or limited the size of their Thanksgiving gatherings. In nearly all counties, people had fewer contacts this Thanksgiving than they did last year…but cases are still rising. As one public health official stated, ”The fact is, many people took precautions and that helped towards slowing the steep increase in cases … but it’s not been enough. Many of our hospitals are close to running out of ICU beds and staff to care for really sick people.” The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington has projected that our state will run out of ICU beds in early January 2021. The surge of COVID-19 cases is threatening the well-being of our medical professionals. as well as tragically having to consider rationing our medical care.

Every community sits at a crossroad. Our individual and collective behavior is crucial in determining whether coronavirus cases continue to rise over the next few months. Our efforts at masking, distancing, and hand-washing served us well when there was a low amount of virus circulating, but each surge has increased the level of circulating virus enough to make an impact now. We need to use every action and recommendation from public health professionals to dramatically shut down the continued spread of this virus.

Here is what we know works:
• Following public health recommendations reduces new COVID-19 cases.
• Distancing provides the best protection from coming into contact with the virus.
• You get an added layer of protection when social distancing is paired with wearing a mask over your nose and mouth any time you step out your front door.
• And handwashing is always a defense against spreading germs.

Your greatest risk for exposure to the virus is being inside a closed environment. The more time you spend inside, the more likelihood of exposure and infection. Our public health officer Dr. Tom Locke has stated that small gatherings with people who don’t currently live in our house currently drive the increase in cases in Jefferson County. Case investigation and contact tracing is critical to reduce the spread of any communicable disease. When the number of cases outpaces the local resources available, it becomes more difficult to quickly identify and quarantine infectious persons and their close contacts. Although it’s typical for viruses to mutate, a lower number of cases means fewer chances to mutate.

The good news: here is what we can do going forward:
• In November our Governor, upon the advice of health professionals, asked us to forgo the traditional family and friends gatherings we typically have this time of year. More of us need to keep this up until the cases go down to a manageable level.
• If you have any symptoms typical of COVID-19 infection, get tested. Don’t hesitate.
• Re-visit what you consider are your basic and indispensable needs. Dr. Locke has encouraged us not to skip routine or preventative medical and dental care, but cautions us to reduce travel to nearby counties that have a greater surge in new cases.
• Staying home is still safest. To get essential supplies, keep it quick, keep your distance and wear a face covering.
• Support local businesses. Many of our local merchants and restaurants have demonstrated their willingness to adapt their services with curbside pick-up. Supporting them makes it possible for them to survive this pandemic.

Nothing is more important than ensuring the health and safety of our communities, our workforce and our beloved businesses.

Pandemic Reflections

Photo credit: Mike Penney

December 1, 2020. Hi, this is Dick “the Rooster“ Keenan, the host of Vinyl Dialogues here on KPTZ, and a retired clinical social worker. I have been thinking about the effects of the pandemic and want to share some of my thoughts with you.

Pandemic fatigue is mental and physical tiredness that is the result of navigating constant change and uncertainty. The long months of social distancing and quarantining contribute to feelings of isolation and loneliness. It is normal to be experiencing these feelings.

Here is one person’s experience: “All of the sudden, I felt like I was drowning in exhaustion and sadness. I could only do two things: BE and BREATHE. Sometimes, the worst thing that we can do when we’re tired is to keep doing more things.”
– BE…I gave myself the gift of just accepting who I was in that moment, even if I wasn’t in a good place. It was okay for me to not be okay.
– BREATHE…I allowed myself to concentrate on breathing. It took about an hour for me to rise back up. But as I practice “be and breathe” I knew that the feeling will pass. It will for you, too.

Then, BALANCE…Life must go on. I’ve had to re-evaluate how much I do, how fast I’ll move and how far I’ll go.

In CONCLUSION…Be gentle with yourself, friends.

The relentlessness of this pandemic has been exhausting and stressful for all of our citizens. Over the summer there was some indication that as a nation we were making some headway on the virus due to our diligence with the behavioral recommendations. Hot spots seemed to be related to increased public circulation, especially large gatherings of non-member households and an increase in virus circulation.

It would not be unusual for people to want to quit following the guidelines in the face of their exhaustion and the confusing messages played out on the media. Some of the thoughts we have all had to contend with include: I am tired of being protective; I don’t care anymore; I want my freedom/independence; the president says it is not a big deal; no one I know has died; when state governments okay the opening of bars, restaurants, gyms, and movie theaters, that means these are safe places to attend.

Likewise, when you see people socializing without wearing masks or social distancing, it looks normal and the temptation is to join in. It is increasingly hard to stick to long-term behaviors that look like all downside and no upside. That’s because the immediate gratification of socializing freely is more appealing than the constant protective measures we do day-in and day-out with the unspectacular reward of not getting the virus.

Think about these symptoms and whether they are present lately in yourself or your family:
• eat or sleep more or less than usual
• trouble focusing (brain fog)
• feel edgy or nervous
• snap at or argue with others
• lack motivation
• unable to stop racing thoughts
• withdrawing from others

The process of changing our behavior has many ups and downs. It is expected that individuals will back slide at times. These are normal reactions to the rigor and determination required to change our behavior. Rather than thinking of pandemic restrictions as something we are forced to do, we can remind ourselves that we are freely choosing these actions to help our loved ones, ourselves, and everyone in our community.

To help with stressors, here are some Healthy ways to cope and recharge your batteries:

  1. Take care of your body – exercise, sleep, meditate
  2. Limit news intake – read, play games, sort photos
  3. Lower your stress – go out in nature, take a bath
  4. Connect with others – reach out to others for your mental health and for theirs
  5. Accept your feelings – they are normal; stop and listen to yourself
  6. Try positive self-talk – I can do this
  7. Create new traditions – movie/game nights; cooking, have a child teach you something

If symptoms persist despite using various coping skills, please consider reaching out for help. A good first step is talking with your doctor about current symptoms and asking for recommendations for counseling if they don’t offer it. Remember, most of your contacts are going to be over the internet, so you will interact with a counselor from the comfort of your own home.

I hope this presentation has given you some perspective on the impact of the coronavirus on our mental health and has added some ideas to your skill set of coping mechanisms during these trying times. This is Dick “the Rooster” Keenan and my wife, Kate Keenan on KPTZ FM 91.9, saying, “Stay well and stay informed.”

COVID-19 and Kids

How to talk to your child about the Coronavirus,
from all of us at KPTZ – Part 1

April 15, 2020. Let’s talk about how to talk with children about the coronavirus. Madeline Levine, a clinical psychologist, tells the story of a boy, about 8 yrs old, asking his mother if he can have a playdate with a friend. She responds, “ OK, but I’ll only pencil it in. In case, you know, the world ends.” This seemingly lighthearted response may be confusing, or terrifying, to her son. Many parents may unknowingly communicate their own fear concerning this serious pandemic. Our fear – or discomfort – with the unknown can affect our judgement and decision making. Many of us can relate to this when we think about being in a serious situation in which we nervously laughed.

The following information about children is meant to aid parents when talking with them about the pandemic we face. Children under 5 think magically, so trying to explain the specifics of the coronavirus pandemic would not tend to comfort them. Typically, young children do as well as their parents are doing and will look to you for clues on how to react. Letting them know that you will take care of them provides comfort and a feeling of security. Use simple and matter-of-fact instructions about hand washing and social distancing to inform them that “this is how we can help ourselves and help others, and stay healthy.”

Children 5 to 10 years old have begun to think more logically but are still concrete in their way of thinking. They may lag in their understanding of abstraction or sarcasm. If they overhear someone expressing their fear about the virus they may come home saying, “Are we all going to die?” It is appropriate to state, “No, we are not all going to die. What is it you heard that makes you think that could happen?” It’s good to keep an open line of communication with your children in order to find out what they are hearing. You can correct any misinformation they might hear. It is appropriate to minimize exposure to TV news which is often overly dramatic and fear raising. It is not just what your children overhear, but more importantly, how they interpret it. 

Young adolescents (11 to 15 years old) think much more logically and can understand abstract concept – that is, the bigger picture. They are more likely to understand sarcasm, yet it is wise not to assume that they do. Adolescents are stressed just by being a teenager. You might hear your teenager say, “This sucks. I’m not staying home. None of my friends are sick.”  You can express understanding by saying, “We know you miss hanging out with your friends.” Remind them that other people, especially relatives and friends, are counting on them to stay home so that COVID-19 is not spread further into the community. This reinforces the concept that adolescents can be very self-centered but are also very socially conscious and want to help.

As parents, our task is to calm ourselves so that we don’t alarm our children with our own fears and anxiety. Limiting our exposure to all the media and news can be helpful. This particular time in the world is a great opportunity to share with our children the behaviors we all can engage in to reduce stress, such as games, meditation, walking, nature. And we can work on developing new ways, as a family. In times of uncertainty like the current pandemic, adults and children will all be stressed by the many changes that have occurred in our lives.

Some fun things to do that reduce stress are: dancing, singing (make up songs about having to stay home), making videos, drawing (children often reveal a lot of what they are feeling when they draw), painting, play wrestling, yoga, shooting baskets, kicking a soccer ball, making empty boxes into tents or caves, bicycling, cooking together, and assorted games are all fun activities that let families blow off some steam and get away from daily concerns. One of the more illuminating activities is to let your child teach you a game or concept. It’s fun for the parent and allows the child to feel that they can be in the teacher / knowledgeable role.

We hope that this information will help you to rise to the occasion during these most challenging times. Stay tuned to 91.9FM KPTZ, and stay healthy!

How to talk to your child about the Coronavirus,
from all of us at KPTZ – Part 2

May 18, 2020. Let’s talk some more about how to help children and their parents cope with the pandemic and the needs to quarantine. 

Like many difficult subjects, talking to children about the pandemic may leave parents tongue-tied and searching for words. Children are actually quite good at accepting explanations of things, as long as they can see that their parents are composed. Typically it is us, the adults, who are uncomfortable with certain subjects, such as death, mental health, divorce, pregnancy, and adoption, to name a few. 

If you are uncomfortable talking about the coronavirus and its risks, it may be helpful to have another adult to help you, or use a therapist to help discuss the issue. A classic example of this is when a child asks his or her parent where babies come from. The parent embarrassingly stumbles through some semblance of the birds and the bees lecture only to find that the child wanted to know if you got babies through Amazon. A good first step is to have the child tell you what they think. For example, you can ask, “Where do you think babies come from”? Or in this case, “What have you heard about the new virus going round?

Children under 5 years old will not understand concepts like a worldwide pandemic, death, losing your job, financial problems, and so on. Use simple language such as: the virus is a bad cold that can make you really sick and we are being asked to stay home, so that we don’t get sick, and so that others don’t get it from us. 

Children will feel more in control by knowing what they can do to help, for example: washing their hands, staying home, wearing a mask, and social distancing. Most children will have follow-up questions at some time. Keep your answers simple and try to directly address their worry or confusion. Older children can be given more advanced information, but simple is still best, depending on their maturity. It’s a good idea to check with your child to see what their understanding is of your explanation. Remind them that this is an open topic and they can talk about it any time. Think about where they are getting their news from: their friends or the internet. A good practice is for the adults to screen information from the news and inform their children in an age-appropriate manner. If you don’t know the answer to a question, you can use this as an opportunity to research together by going to a reliable source of information, such as the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website.

The pandemic is a worldwide period of transition that we are all experiencing. Transitions happen throughout our lives and some are more stressful than others. Some common ones are; starting school, marriage, moving, teen years, loss of job, or being bullied. Our ability to navigate through these changes in our life is an example of what we mean by coping. Do we have the resources to handle this ourselves or do we need help from family or friends? Sometimes professional help is needed because we may not be coping as well as we thought.

Here are some examples of behaviors in children that may benefit from working with a therapist:
– Up to 6 years of age: loss of previously gained childhood milestones, such as, toileting, eating independently, sleep difficulty; eating more or less than usual, clinging, tantrums, crying often.
– 7 to 12 years: decline in school functioning, eating more or less than normal, isolating themselves from family or friends, poor hygiene, less cooperative, sleep issues.
– 13 to 18 years: decline in schoolwork, eat and sleep changes, isolating, oppositional behaviors, acting out with drugs, alcohol, or sex.

What you know about your child’s everyday functioning is your key to detecting changes in their behavior. This goes for adults as well. Find your inner Columbo! Being a good detective is a useful parent skill. You may not be able to visit your child’s pediatrician, or to your own doctor, but you can call in to start assessing what is going on. Doctors can rule out medical conditions, and can refer you to a therapist if needed. 

Lastly, we the adults need to monitor our own feelings and behavior. Are you more irritable lately, cranky, having less patience, feeling more anxious due to the virus and quarantine? Depression can also be a problem, as many people cannot work, and may be facing severe financial hardship. The best way to take care of your family is to take care of yourself!

You can Google “How to talk to children about the coronavirus “ for more information. Thanks for listening to 91.9FM KPTZ. Stay healthy and Stay Safe!

Dr. Tom Locke Recommendations for Protesters and Caregivers

June 18, 2020. Recently during a public broadcast of the weekly COVID-19 briefings to the Board of County Commissioners, our local Public Health Officer, Dr. Tom Locke made recommendations for any Jefferson County residents who may have participated in the ongoing Black Lives Matter demonstrations in the Seattle area. He recommended they should monitor themselves for symptoms of COVID-19, which can include cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, fever, shaking chills, headache, fatigue, body aches or sudden loss of the sense of smell or taste. This self-monitoring should occur for at least 14 days since their last exposure. This is the longest period of time it may take for symptoms to show if you have been exposed and infected. If any of these symptoms develop, testing for COVID-19 should be done.

For area residents who also take care of people at high risk for COVID-19 complications (i.e. elderly parents, nursing home residents, individuals with chronic heart or lung disease or immunosuppression), these individuals should consider being tested one week after their last exposure to a large crowd to screen for asymptomatic infection that may be spread to others.

Dr. Locke currently does not recommend testing for people who attended the Black Lives Matter protests on the Olympic Peninsula, although anyone who has been in a large crowd of people where masking is not being observed and physical distancing of 6 feet or more cannot be maintained should monitor themselves for COVID-19 symptoms for 14 days and get tested if they develop symptoms. COVID-19 is much less prevalent on the Olympic Peninsula in comparison to King County and the risk of transmission in large groups here is lower.

Peaceful protest is an important constitutional right and the Black Lives Matter protests are a historic opportunity to express opposition to institutional racism and police misconduct. Unfortunately, this does not lessen the risk of COVID-19 transmission in situations where large crowds gather, unmasked, speaking loudly, and being subjected to tear gas attacks (which cause intense coughing) and are in close proximity to each other. All of these factors make the recent Seattle demonstrations a high-risk exposure for COVID-19. Testing will allow those with the infection to be appropriately treated and to take the actions necessary to prevent further spread of the infection.