What I’m Doing to Survive the Coronavirus Shutdown

Dr. Andrea Klemes, Chief Medical Officer MDVIP
By Dr. Andrea Klemes , MDVIP
March 20, 2020
Stay close even if you're social distancing.

It’s been a difficult month for patients and physicians alike. As a doctor, a mom and a daughter, I’ve been worried about a lot of different people. My 85-year-old mother, for example, lives in New York, about 1,300 miles from us. At first, I was worried about whether I should fly up to see her or fly her down to stay with us. I’m worried about her because she’s in the most at-risk group for complications from coronavirus. And if she stays home she will be by herself for weeks. Thankfully, my brother (and his family) lives nearby and can keep track.

My daughter is a teenager, and until they closed her school last week, I worried she could become infected as the number of cases in Florida, where we live, began to increase. Of course, now I’m worried about what to do with her for the next month (or more) – whether to let her socialize with friends or keep her at home (we’re keeping her at home). 

And, of course, I’m worrying about you – the 330,000 members of MDVIP-affiliated practices across the country. I know I’m not alone in these concerns. Since the coronavirus crisis began, I’ve heard from dozens of physicians in our national network every day. They are working tirelessly to make sure their members have the right information and are taken care of.

At MDVIP corporate, we’re also working daily to equip our affiliates with the best information in an ever-changing landscape of news reports, government health briefings and new research. We know the news is changing fast, so we’re also working hard to keep our coronavirus resource center up-to-date for members like you. You can find that resource center here

As leaders in the healthcare space, we’re also practicing what we preach. At our corporate office, we’re encouraging employees to work remotely. We’ve also cancelled public gatherings, including educational events your doctor may have planned. 

We’re sorry about this inconvenience, but we’re encouraging social distancing, but not emotional distancing.

While the last month has been challenging, the next few weeks are going to be even more so. We are social people and the urge to get together, to shake hands, to hug and to kiss are hardwired. But if we’re going to reduce the infection rate and send coronavirus packing, we need to take advantage of this moment and stay home whenever possible. 

Here are some things my family and I are going to do to keep up our spirits:

Call and Facetime the ones you love. My mother is very active. She likes to socialize and play bridge, and being social is important for the health of older Americans. My daughter and I are going to call, facetime and even watch TV with my mom virtually, even though she’s a long way away. We’ll do the same with other relatives and friends.

What can you do to stay engaged with the people you love? Take an online class together. Or play an online board game. If you don’t know how to do this, ask your kids or your grandkids. I’m already leaning on my teen’s advanced knowledge of virtual social gaming!

Are you on Facebook? You can use Messenger to video chat with a friend or family member or even to chat with multiple friends and family. Set up a time to share coffee together – over your phone. 

We’re going to get exercise. Exercise helps boost your immune system. We don’t know exactly how or why it does. It may be that physical activity helps flush bacteria and viruses out of the lungs and airways. Or it may be that changes in white blood cells (the powerhouses of your immune system) and antibodies that happen as a response to exercise may fight illness better. Or it could be that the stress relieving properties of exercise, help — we know that when you’re stressed, it’s easier to fall ill. Whatever the reason, exercise is good for your health. 

So, don’t forget to exercise, even if you’re practicing social distancing. Stores, restaurants and libraries may be closed, but the sidewalks are still (mostly) open. Go for a walk or a bicycle ride. That’s what we’re doing. We can walk and talk and still maintain distance. If you can’t go outside, take an online gym class or watch an online yoga video. As a member of MDVIP, you have access to hundreds of exercise routines on MDVIP Connect. Just go to connect.mdvip.com and log in. Then click on the exercise tab.

Avoid bad eating decisions. When we’re cooped up at the house, we tend to congregate in the kitchen. This can be bad for your waistline. Throw in a little stress, and this weight gain can be substantial. In a study last year, researchers found that a high-calorie diet combined with stress actually causes more weight gain than the same diet in a stress free environment. 

Poor eating choices can also hurt your immune system. That’s why you need to make healthy choices when you eat. We’re keeping snacks like fruits and vegetables (carrots, edamame, nuts, etc.) on hand for noshing. And we’ve put other foods that aren’t as healthy in cabinets out of sight. When you next stock up, buy healthy. 

If social distancing has given you more time, use it to cook and try some new recipes. Avoid comfort foods that are rich in calories and saturated fat. Looking for a healthy recipe? MDVIP Connect has thousands of recipes from Eating Well. You can also login to make sure your MDVIP account is up to date, make online payments, and much more.

Get sleep. When it comes to keeping yourself healthy, good sleep is important, especially for your immune system. Sleep and the circadian rhythm help regulate your immune response. For example, without sufficient sleep, your body makes fewer cytokines, a type of protein that targets infection and inflammation. So, get plenty of sleep – and try keep your sleeping pattern regular. I’m making sure my teen, who no longer has to get up early for school, is going to sleep and waking up on time. It’s good practice for me, too.

Skip the news and other stressors. If all the coronavirus talk is stressing you out, turn off the TV or at least change the channel. When a major news event happens, it’s easy to get sucked into watching, but it can be unhealthy. Along with exercising, eating healthy and getting good sleep, lowering your stress can help your immune system — and that can lower your risk for the coronavirus. 

This is a great time to watch old movies or binge-watch something you’ve wanted to see. My husband and I have a list of TV series that we’ve never been able to watch. Now we’re queuing them up. 

Finally, if you are sick or worried, your MDVIP-affiliated physician is there for you. Just pick up the phone and call them — even if you're out of town. If you’ve been exposed to coronavirus or are exhibiting symptoms, call the office before you go in. Your doctor has set up protocols for dealing with the outbreak and can guide you on the best steps to take.

If we all take a few precautions now, we should be able to mitigate the effects of the coronavirus and slow or stop its spread. 

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About the Author
Dr. Andrea Klemes, Chief Medical Officer MDVIP
Dr. Andrea Klemes, MDVIP

Dr. Andrea Klemes is the Chief Medical Officer of MDVIP. She also serves as the executive and organizational leader of MDVIP’s Medical Advisory Board that supports quality and innovation in the delivery of the healthcare model drawing expertise from the affiliated physicians. Dr. Klemes oversees MDVIP’s impressive outcomes data and research including hospital utilization and readmission statistics, quality of disease management in the MDVIP network and the ability to identify high-risk patients and intervene early. She is instrumental in the adoption of the Electronic Health Record use in MDVIP-affiliated practices and the creation of the data warehouse. Dr. Klemes is board certified in internal medicine and endocrinology and a fellow of the American College of Endocrinology. Dr. Klemes received her medical degree from the New York College of Osteopathic Medicine. She completed an internal medicine residency at Cabrini Medical Center in Manhattan, New York and an Endocrine and Metabolism Fellowship at the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta. Prior to joining MDVIP, Dr. Klemes worked at Procter & Gamble in the areas of personal healthcare, women’s health and digestive wellness and served as North American Medical Director for bone health. She spent 10 years in private practice specializing in endocrinology and metabolism in Tallahassee, Florida. In addition, Dr. Klemes held leadership roles with the American Medical Association, Florida Medical Association and as Medical Director of the Diabetes Center in Tallahassee and Panama City, Florida, as well as Chief of the Department of Medicine at Tallahassee Community Hospital. She has been a consultant and frequent lecturer and has completed broad clinical research in diabetes and osteoporosis and published extensively.

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