Thanks to COVID-19, most of us are now working from home – or otherwise isolating to take care of on-prem mission-critical functions.  In this new world order, managing anxiety and stress has become just as important as taking care of the normal workloads.

Here’s a big one on the stress front – keeping healthy at home, and aiming to stay that way for weeks or even months.

Let’s say you’ve felt physically healthy up to now, but woke up this morning feeling a little bit off. Here’s some expert advice, and plenty of online resources – World Health Organization, Center for Disease Control, and the White House – about sensible gauges to monitor your health at home, and when to seek medical help if necessary.

“We’re getting those calls now, and dealing with this on an HOURLY basis,” said Dr. Jonathan Matz, MD, an allergist/immunologist with decades of practice in Baltimore, who offered a quick checklist of symptoms and what do to about them.


In many cases, the initial symptoms of COVID-19 may present the same as those of the common cold. That’s not surprising, Matz said, because the virus underlying COVID-19 is similar – though “novel” – to those that cause common cold.

If cold symptoms develop, stay away from people to avoid spread, take acetaminophen to knock down fever, and get some rest. “If you don’t have fever, that’s a good sign,” he said.

Two important differentiating symptoms that may require more urgent action are persistent fever and shortness of breath.

“If you’ve got a fever that can’t be controlled, or have shortness of breath or tightness in the chest when you walk across the room,” then it’s time to seek medical care outside the home, Matz said. He recommended an urgent care facility as a first stop, or a general hospital if symptoms seem severe.


Staff at urgent care of hospital facilities either facility will evaluate symptoms, and may offer a COVID-19 test. Although tests appear to still be scarce at the moment, Matz said that shortage is likely to ease very soon. “We still don’t have enough tests,” he said, adding that older testing methods for the virus are very labor intensive on the processing end, and can take 4-5 days to get results.

Newer testing systems just coming into wider use can offer results in one day or less, he said, and might be more widely available a week from now. “What we really need is easily available testing for everyone,” he said, while pointing to efforts by state and local governments to make that happen. Maryland, for instance, plans to repurpose vehicle emission testing stations to become drive-through virus testing facilities.

The good news? While emphasizing the criticality of taking steps not to spread the virus, Matz says most who contract COVID-19 won’t develop severe symptoms, and some won’t develop any at all. And those who do contract the virus are likely to benefit from immunity at least over the shorter-term, similar to current flu season cycles.

Illness Confusion

Marion Huard, retired from a long career as a nurse in the Boston area, emphasized that it’s very possible to become ill in the current climate with maladies that have nothing to do with COVID-19.

“There are many ‘routine’ respiratory viruses at any time of the year, and of course there is still influenza circulating,” she said. “Just to further complicate the situation, we have now entered the time of year when some people will have varying respiratory symptoms related to seasonal allergies.”

But, she adds, “if someone is concerned about their symptoms or questions and exposure, they should contact their physician about testing … That is the bottom line.”

What About Fido and Fluffy?

With social isolation now the norm, many people are turning to their pets for companionship.

Luckily, the World Health Organization and the Center for Disease Control have said that there is no evidence that pets can contract COVID-19 or spread it to humans. Further, there is little risk that humans can contract the virus from petting or touching their pets.

American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) Chief Veterinary Officer Gail Golab said, “We’re not overly concerned about people contracting COVID-19 through contact with dogs and cats.” Golab continued, “The virus survives best on smooth surfaces, such as countertops and doorknobs. Porous materials, such as pet fur, tend to absorb and trap pathogens, making it harder to contact them through touch.” But because COVID-19 is such a young disease, the AVMA does recommend that those ill with COVID-19 “limit contact with animals until more information is known about the virus.”

As humans make sure they have enough food and supplies on hand – two weeks, per CDC guidance – pet owners should ensure they have the same. The ASPCA recommends having at least two weeks of food on hand and a 30-day supply of any pets’ medications. Additionally, if a pet owner becomes sick, the ASPCA recommends that all pet owners designate an emergency caregiver and make sure vaccine and medical records are easily accessible.

And to keep Fido from interrupting conference calls, experts suggest investing in pet puzzle toys, treat mazes, and Kong toys.

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk's Assistant Copy & Production Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.