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Doctors: COVID-19 Panic Can Be Almost As Bad As The Virus

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — The COVID-19 panic can be almost as harmful as the disease – especially for children.

Local doctors said how you talk to them about it is critical, and that means creating a safe environment where they can ask questions.

Dr. Emily Spivak, an infectious diseases physician at the University of Utah, recommends explaining to children that the best decisions are being made for the whole community.

“Two of my daughters have come down and told us they need supplies to take care of their dolls because their dolls have coronavirus, and that has created the opportunity for us to say, ‘Well, what do you know about that? And what do you mean by that? And what are they experiencing?’” Spivak said.

“It’s empowered them to ask questions, but also to feel that they have a role and that they can take care of their dolls and other people,” she added. “And also, reassure them: ‘Everything is going to be OK. People are doing the best that they can to try and figure out how to control it, expose the fewest number of people, protect the most vulnerable, again which tends to be the elderly, and the elderly with preexisting conditions, and that we’re all in this together and we’re really just trying to protect our friends and our family, and our community.’”

Spivak said to reassure children that the number of coronavirus cases among kids is very low. For teens and adults, she said to take a break from social media if it’s making you more anxious. Especially if you discover “social tattle-telling,” where people tell on someone they think has been exposed to the virus.

“We do need to all be in this together. There is a right way to probably point out to people, ‘Maybe the way you just shook that person’s hand or that convening of people in a not-well ventilated space with over 100 people should not be happening,'” Spivak said. “We do need to encourage each other to try and practice social distancing and best practices, but it needs to be in a positive way, not in a punitive way, to encourage us all again to be in this together, and to work as a team.”

She said panic is not helpful and that we all need to strategize, prepare, and plan for things like childcare and elderly parent care, even planning several months out to be on the safe side.

Remember that this is temporary, and things will eventually get back to normal, Spivak said.

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