COVID-19: What We Must Do for Ourselves and What We Must Do for Others

#AFROCoronavirusUpdate

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By Dr. Harolyn Belcher

As a physician and researcher who has devoted my career to the prevention and treatment of developmental disabilities in childhood and public health. I’m writing to speak to our community. As we celebrate many faith traditions and reflect during this holy season, it is important to acknowledge the importance of caring for ourselves and caring for others.  Each of us is an important part of the community. We have multiple roles as mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, husbands, wives, partners, friends, teachers, nurses, mechanics, bus drivers, clerks, cooks, doctors, lawyers, legislators, community activists, custodians, worship leaders, administrators, childcare workers, first responders, business owners, government workers, and students. We each have a role to play. As the cases of Coronavirus rise, some have been asked to stay home and care for children and elders. Others have been asked to care for the sick and continue to provide essential services to our communities, providing food, medications and healthcare, security, and clean environments for each of us.

Dr. Harolyn Belcher is the director of the Center for Diversity in Public Health Leadership Training and president of Kennedy Krieger Institute’s medical staff. (Courtesy Photo)

WHAT WE MUST DO FOR OURSELVES

STAY INFORMED:  Early data on 79.7% of the Coronavirus infections in Maryland shows that Black citizens make up almost half (48.8%) of the Coronavirus cases (Table 1).  The Black population in Maryland is 30.9%. https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/MD yet half of the deaths (50.2%) from known racial groups in Maryland are Black people. Black citizens in Maryland, similar to other recently reported areas, have significantly higher numbers of Coronavirus infections and deaths compared to other racial groups. It is note-worthy that early data suggest that Black and White people have similar death rates (3.2% for the Black population and 3.6% for the White population). Available data by race, estimates a death rate of 4.2% among Asian American Marylanders.  These are early data and some of the trends may change and vary across the state of Maryland. We must continue to STAY INFORMED as more information is available, however…  

We do know WHAT WE MUST DO FOR OURSELVES AND WHAT WE MUST DO FOR OTHERS 

It is critical now to reduce illness and death among those we love.

  1. Stay safe in place with family members. THIS IS WHAT WE MUST DO FOR OURSELVES. Unless you are working in the health, food, first responder, or transportation services, STAY in your home and limit trips outside the home to food, medicine, daily exercise (walking by yourself or with household members), or emergencies.  Try to stock up on food and supplies to reduce trips outside of the home. Enjoy your family!
  2. Keep away!  Stay at least 6 feet away from people outside of the family and household members who you live with. This virus is “tricky”!  Almost half of infected people do not have symptoms, or have mild symptoms, so you CANNOT tell who is sick!! Wave hello but KEEP AWAY.  Keep in touch with your friends and family via phone, Facetime, Skype. THIS IS WHAT WE MUST DO FOR OURSELVES and WHAT WE MUST DO FOR OTHERS. 
  3.  When you go outside for exercise, food, or other necessities wear a mask or scarf over your nose and mouth. Keep your hands away from your face. Masks and scarfs keep you from spreading germs—THIS IS WHAT WE MUST DO FOR OTHERS.
  4. Wash hands with soap and water. Wash hands with soap and water. Wash hands with soap and water.  Sing Happy Birthday twice while you, Wash hands with soap and water! THIS IS WHAT WE MUST DO FOR OURSELVES.
  5. If you, or a family member needs medical care that is NOT urgent, ask your provider if they offer appointments via telehealth. Many providers, like Kennedy Krieger Institute, offer medical and therapy appointments online, via telehealth so you don’t need to leave your home. THIS IS WHAT WE MUST DO FOR OURSELVES.
  6. Finally, be HOPEFUL—we will get through this together if we take care of ourselves and our neighbors. Take time for yourselves breathe deeply, read, meditate, and pray…these are FREE activities which strengthen our health, wellness, and immune system. THIS IS WHAT WE MUST DO FOR OURSELVES.

This is What We Must Do for Ourselves and What We Must Do for Others!

Dr. Harolyn Belcher is the director of the Center for Diversity in Public Health Leadership Training and president of Kennedy Krieger Institute’s medical staff.

The opinions on this page are those of the writers and not necessarily those of the AFRO. Send letters to The Afro-American • 1531 S. Edgewood St. Baltimore, MD 21227 or fax to 1-877-570-9297 or e-mail to editor@54.204.251.142

Other resources may be found at:

  • American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

Table 1. Maryland Data on Available Cases and Deaths by Race:

Race Number of COVID-19 Cases Number of Deaths
African-American 3,202 104
Asian 190 8
White 2,305 83
Other 861 12
Data Not Available 1,667 28

Accessed April 13, 2020 https://coronavirus.maryland.gov/