Sort of. But not quite like before. We've been hit by Omicron, and careful use of testing and self-imposed isolation is key. Not that it's easy to figure out. We know viral levels peak in under five days, but it's not quite clear how long the viral load remains, as this NYTimes article discusses. Aside from physical distancing, wearing a mask indoors and plenty of thorough handwashing is still a good routine. And one of the most important things you can do is choose to see the best in each other. Be kind. Be patient. Be quick to help others. Be forgiving when you would otherwise be upset. Seek out opportunities for generosity.
In that spirit, we are offer a selection of online resources to make your time at home happier and healthier, whether you’re navigating the complexities of kids out of school, hunkering down on your own, or sharing your space with a partner or roommate. This situation is in constant flux, and it's likely we'll all have to live with a level of uncertainty we've not known before. (To help with that, we'll be updating these resources over time, providing practical support and uplifting connections.)
For a printable, and dare we say prettier version of these helpful tips, download our "Stuck at Home" PDF. Feel free to share that document with your friends & family. But do CHECK THIS PAGE OFTEN FOR UPDATES IN THE SECTION BELOW, as we are constantly adding new links that are not on that PDF. Looking for something specific? Just do a search ( command or Ctrl-F) to find keywords like humor, calm, sleep, immunity, travel, indoor fun, bedtime stories, masks, music, tours, storytelling, lesson plans, recipes, mood or garden, to name a few topics.
A FEW BASICS
Let's start out with a great 8-minute explainer video about the Corona Virus. And here's a great explainer about how the virus spreads, showing different scenarios and what your risk of contracting the virus might be. In the midst of a serious surge we all still need to be vigilant about maskwearing and distancing. This video is worth watching because it clearly shows, using a military grade camera, how airborne particles travel. It's a great video to share with kids, too.
From the start, kids asked questions. The NYT answered. This 30-minute podcast is a special kids’ version that happens to be good for all of us. Find it here: A NYTimes Kids’ Guide to the Corona Virus. (Apple Podcast)
Prefer reading? This Medium essay from March 2020 laid out the seriousness of Covid and it's been read well over 40 million times for good reason. But we're still dealing with this virus, and some survivors seem to suffer long-term consequences that are complex and daunting. Check out the NYTimes COVID update page to stay abreast of the latest studies that are being done to help us understand how to best protect and care for ourselves.
Want to show kids how germs spread? Here’s a quick fun video by someone who did an experiment with a third-grade class using a powder called GloGerm. Everyone can SEE how the special powder gets transferred all over the place. Uh oh!
SLEEP IS OUR BEST DEFENSE. Here’s how you can get more sleep tonight, and you'll find additional helpful links.
UPDATE ON MASKS: As of Jan. 2022, it's best to use an N95 or certified KN95 or 94 (NOT a fabric mask). Make sure your masks fit well. Take care of them; here's how. (it's okay to re-use them). (For the latest on Covid from the NYTimes, look here.)
UPDATE JANUARY 2022: Omicron has arrived, and the Bay Area surge is upon us. Advice from the top is to get vaccinated, get a booster, and wear a good N95 or KN95 mask (NIOSH-certified). Still, we know many of us will get the Omicron variant, especially because people we meet can be asymptomatic carriers. What to do? Below you'll find helpful advice on creating a Covid home care kit.
What should you do if you test postive?
a) Call your doctor and let them know.
b) Don’t go to the ER unless your oxygen levels decline (more below) or you can’t keep any fluids down, not even sips. The ERs may be overwhelmed for the next few weeks to a month, so try and stay out if possible.
c) Call everybody you’ve had close contact with. No shame here and they need to know. Tell them to test themselves a few days after your contact or immediately if they have any symptoms.
d) Then, get yourself ready to self-isolate for at least five days (longer if you still have symptoms) and maybe for being sick. Time to pull out “The Covid Kit.”
What’s a Covid Kit?
Basically, a Covid Kit includes three things: an oximeter, a thermometer and anything that helps you feel better during a cold.
--Do I really need an oximeter? Yes, particularly if you are unvaccinated, have major medical problems or are profoundly immunosuppressed
--Do I really need a thermometer? Yes! Everybody should have a thermometer. “Feeling hot” is not enough — you need to know your temp and its fluctuations!
--What else helps during a bad cold? Throat lozenges, cough medicine, Tylenol/Ibuprofen/Naproxen, some herbal teas, chicken soup, and an updated subscription to Netflix. Some people like Gatorade and Nyquil, too.
What else do you need to figure out ahead of time?
a) Where are you going to sleep/stay so you are isolated from everybody else? (even more important with Omicron)
b) Who can go to the store for meds or food?
c) How are you going to get meals?
d) Who can watch and feed the kids and/or pets and keep them away from you?
e) Who will help you decide if/when it’s time to go to the hospital?
f) Which Netflix shows are you going to binge? What books are you going to read?
Just like with all viruses, rest, hydration, and symptom relievers are key.
Also note: there are a a couple of extra things with Covid, particularly if you are unvaccinated or have major medical issues:
a) It’s helpful to lay on your stomach (“prone”) as much as possible to improve breathing and oxygen levels, especially if you’re feeling short of breath or congested.
b) It’s probably helpful to walk around the house taking deep breaths once an hour, to open up your lungs and maybe reduce blood clots.
c) It is very important to keep checking your oxygen with the pulse oximeter in your Covid Kit. If it starts to steadily decline, call your doctor’s office. If you are at sea level and it stays below 95 (from 100), get a hold of your doctor; you may need to go to an ER. Incidentally, smart watch oxygen measurements don’t seem as reliable as pulse oximeters.
d) What else might help? There’s still no clear data on zinc, melatonin, vitamin C, Pepcid, Vitamin D. Most of these fall into the “probably can’t hurt, might help” category, so ask your doc.
e) If you’re unvaccinated or a person at risk for severe disease (defined by CDC as certain chronic illnesses (lung, heart, obesity, diabetes, age >65, etc, etc), you should be talking to your doctor about available treatments in your area.
Remember that most of us who are vaccinated will experience Covid as a mild or medium illness, and never end up needing to go to the hospital. But there is a small subset of people (~15%) who get markedly worse, usually around the second week. If that happens, call your doctor or the ER.
Avoiding the virus means employing several protective measures. For a clear explanation of how protections work together to lower your risk (and where you can relax!), check out this no-nonsense essay by Dr Peter Tippett. He's an Internal Medicine-certified emergency room doc with a PhD in Biochemistry. IMPORTANT: if you are thinking of traveling in the coming weeks, here are some tips suggested by CNN for making your trip as safe as possible.
There are many other good resources to help us through these times. Here are three: the free NYTimes coronavirus information page, the Johns Hopkins Corona Virus Resource Center and the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 pandemic page. All of those pages have up-to-date information.
Someone who lived through the Shanghai lockdown wrote this essay to tell us what they learned and what they wish they’d done.
And if you have any questions about the importance of staying at home, PLEASE read "Hold the line" by a Yale lecturer in epidemiology. He says "This is not an opinion. This is the unforgiving math of epidemics for which I and my colleagues have dedicated our lives to understanding with great nuance; this disease is no exception." To add to that, and especially good to show kids, here's a cool simulation from Japan that shows why social distancing is so important (though keep in mind it's not yet peer reviewed).
Here’s an excellent video interview with an ICU pulmonary specialist, Dr. David Price, who’s working on the front lines at Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York. (3/22/20)
UPDATE re: airflow in a car: In a NYTimes piece a study was described about car airflow. They found that while the most intuitive-seeming solutions -- having the driver and passenger each roll down their own windows -- was better than keeping all windows closed, and an even better strategy was to open the windows that are opposite each occupant. That configuration allows fresh air to flow in through the back left and out the right front, helping to create a barrier between driver and passenger.
HOW ARE YOU FEELING?
It's back-to-school time, except nothing is like it was before, and everyone is stressed. Here's The New York Times' 2020 Back-to-School List for Teens’ Emotional Well-Being to help you sort out what's helpful. There's a lot we can do to make this disruptive time easier to handle.
Yes, there are plenty of reasons to feel down. An essay in the Harvard Business Review speaks directly to our feelings of sadness. It’s called That Discomfort You’re Feeling is Grief and it offers solace and understanding.
To reduce your anxiety, here’s a wonderful mix of calming content by the makers of the CALM app.
Similarly, Headspace offers free resources to quell stress, including meditations, sleep support, and gentle exercises.
Therapist Esther Perel is offering free broadcasts on FB and Youtube which directly address the feelings of upset, loneliness and changing relationships, whether you are on your own, or feeling the distress of a now-pressurized connection with a partner or kids. Her talks, in which she answers questions from the audience, are remarkably astute, kind and practical.
If you need assistance OR if you are willing to offer assistance, please take a look at this mutual aide site which is specific to Berkeley. Being helpful to others is one of the best things you can do for your own well-being, and asking for help when you need it is critical. Many people are turning to Nextdoor.com; generosity abounds.
A BIT OF HUMOR
Pluto the talking schnauzer dispenses advice to us two-leggeds during this stressful time. When you’re feeling anxious, Pluto may help. To start, here’s Pluto with an intro chat for us humans. You can find all of Pluto's musings on YouTube, Facebook, or Instagram under #Pluto Living. And to help with home schooling, Pluto Living has recently introduced Pluto Living University -- Here's the very first episode of PLU, full of fun factoids. Since then, Pluto has gained many millions of fans all around the world!
MORE HEALTH & SELF CARE
Consider starting your day with an immunity-boosting lemon ginger tonic.
If you believe food is medicine, here are some more yummy drinks to boost your immune system. Apparently Dr. Fauci himself suggests we take vitamin D and vitamin C.
IMPORTANT! Speaking of food...
If you’re thinking of ordering take-out meals, here’s a great list of East Bay Restaurants offering curbside no-contact pick-up or in-house delivery. And if you are missing some basic pantry items (flour? yeast?) try these local sources.
Handwashing 101. Yup, this one’s a repeat. Just do it.
This video is a fun way to help kids wash thoroughly. After all, it takes 20 seconds or a full rendition of Happy Birthday to You sung TWICE. Or try 2-3 rounds of Row, Row, Row your Boat, or Frere Jacques.
To help further with this task here’s a site that generates a handwashing poster for your bathroom using the lyrics to a song of your choice. And if you’re a Spotify user, check out this handwashing playlist. Sing the chorus of any of these tunes while you scrub and you’re good to go. (Beyonce, Miley Cyrus, David Bowie, Prince, Abba, and Stevie Wonder are on the list… what better way to inject some music into the day?)
If it all seems too much, stop and breathe along with this animation for a few minutes. Then teach others how to do it, too.
For young children aged 5-10, there’s a free app to help them create their very own force field of calm, called Stop, Breathe and Think.
Remember to try and slow down and relax. For this, guided meditations are great; someone else is reading to you, helping you clear your mind. Insight Timer is home to the world’s largest collection of free guided meditations.
If you’re really motivated, Yale’s popular course, “The Science of Well-Being,” is now being offered at no cost. And UC Berkeley's Greater Good Science Center is also now offering their popular course happiness for free; read about that here.
Try some Yoga, low-mobility exercises, and dance workouts. Don’t be a slug; House-bound is not couch-bound! Here’s a Google doc full of exercise options. Get to it!
Exercise for kids: London-based Joe Wicks, famous as The Body Coach, is giving free daily online P.E. classes for parents and kids every weekday. Find him here on YouTube.
And speaking of exercise, here’s a great example of what one household did to tucker out the small fry: they set up an obstacle course in the house. This Facebook link shows you the workout this toddler is getting. Wow.
Try this 20-min video of three qigong practices to help strengthen the lungs.
How to deal with a TEEN AT HOME: The Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley has a wonderful article about how you can help teens shelter in place.
IT CAN BE HARD TO STAY AT HOME
Here’s an essay about how to handle social isolation by Scott Kelly. He’s a retired NASA astronaut who spent nearly a year in space on the International Space Station. Since the link goes to the NYT, we’re including a summary in case there’s a paywall.
TIPS ON LIVING IN ISOLATION, FROM SOMEONE WHO HAS BEEN THERE:
1. Follow a schedule, but pace yourself
When you are living and working in the same place for days on end, work can have a way of taking over everything if you let it. Take time for fun activities: I met up with crewmates for movie nights, complete with snacks, and binge-watched all of “Game of Thrones”— twice.
2. Don’t forget to schedule a consistent bedtime.
NASA scientists closely study astronauts’ sleep when we are in space, and they have found that quality of sleep relates to cognition, mood, and interpersonal relations — all essential to getting through a mission in space or quarantine at home.
3. Go outside
Research has shown that spending time in nature is beneficial for our mental and physical health, as is exercise. You don’t need to work out two and a half hours a day, as astronauts on the space station do, but getting moving once a day should be part of your quarantine schedule (just stay at least six feet away from others).
4. You need a hobby
When you are confined in a small space you need an outlet that isn’t work or maintaining your environment. The quiet and absorption you can find in a physical book — one that doesn’t ping you with notifications or tempt you to open a new tab — is priceless. You can also practice an instrument, try a craft, or make art.
5. Keep a journal
NASA has been studying the effects of isolation on humans for decades, and one surprising finding they have made is the value of keeping a journal. If you find yourself just chronicling the days’ events (which, under the circumstances, might get repetitive) instead try describing what you are experiencing through your five senses or write about memories….writing about your days will help put your experiences in perspective and let you look back later on what this unique time in history has meant.
6. Take time to connect
Scientists have found that isolation is damaging not only to our mental health, but to our physical health as well, especially our immune systems. Technology makes it easier than ever to keep in touch, so it’s worth making time to connect with someone every day — it might actually help you fight off viruses.
7. Listen to experts
Especially in a challenging moment like the one we are living through now, we have to seek out knowledge from those who know the most about it and listen to them. Make a point of seeking out reputable sources of facts, like the ones listed at the beginning of this document.
8. We are all connected
All people are inescapably interconnected, and the more we can come together to solve our problems, the better off we will all be. As helpless as we may feel stuck inside our homes, there are always things we can do — I’ve seen people reading to children via videoconference, and running errands for elderly or immuno-compromised neighbors. The benefits for the volunteer are just as great as for those helped.
FOR YOUNGER KIDS
LISTEN TO STORIES
Stories read aloud are wonderful. From the collection called The World’s Worst Children, David Walliams (Britain’s Got Talent host) is reading one story a day for a full month. Click here to listen. To find other tales simply Google "bedtime stories read aloud", and you'll find a large selection, including The Light in the Night on YouTube.
Need more? No problem.
Just search the hashtag #OperationStoryTime on Facebook, Instagram, or YouTube to find a beloved author or discover a new one! For example, Susie Jaramillo reads “Little Sunny Sunshine” (in English and Spanish), Sophie Blackall reads Ivy & Bean, Anica Mrose Rissi reads “Love, Sophia on the Moon“, Steven Weinberg reads part of “AstroNuts“, and Shawn Harris reads “Everyone’s Awake“.
Audible is offering a collection of stories, including titles in six different languages. All stories are free to stream.
Do, or watch, SILLY STUFF. For example, check out this dog jumping into leaf piles.
To CHILL OUT, watch the jellyfish at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
VISIT A MUSEUM. Check out these 12 museum tours for the whole family.
NEED MORE? This site offers more than 50 indoor activities for kids using simple household items.
GROW FOOD There may never be a better time to start a garden. Here are 18 of the fastest growing veggies to get you going.
Enjoy a virtual fragrance tour of Berkeley's Botanical Garden, and then take the kids on a walk to smell (eyes closed?) what's on your block.
EXPLORE THE WORLD TOGETHER
Here’s a compilation of links that take you touring in places as far-flung as the Louvre and Bryce Canyon; Travelzoo offers live cams on safari as well as at the Northern Lights. Lots to see right from your couch!
Want to visit more National Parks? Simply launch the Chrome browser and go to Google Earth. Look up the park you’d like to view in a 2D or 3D tour. You can walk around and enjoy the views! Or CLICK HERE for an easy way to visit 62 (!!) of the parks in the US, including Bryce Canyon, Death Valley, the Grand Canyon, Joshua Tree, Yosemite and other stunning places.
Really cool arts update: Check out this site; it's filled with arts and crafts resources for at-home learning. The museum tours are wonderful! (special thanks to Mia and Noah for this great tip).
Stars in the House
Seth Rudesky offers more than 60 interviews with his famous Broadway friends who sing. Catch their performances here as well as on Playbill.com and BroadwayWorld.com.
Cirque du Soleil, in your living room
You’ll find favorite acts, a virtual reality app, Cirque exercises, backstage training, and makeup footage, as well as a 60-minute special from their show KURIOS – Cabinet of Curiosities. It’s all here.
Need more music?
Austin City Limits has opened up their archives! Billie Eilish to Vampire Weekend and SO MUCH MORE.
DOING (and VIEWING) ART
LOOK! Art museum tours, digital art classes, art games and more.
LISTEN! For the grown-ups, here are 10 binge-worthy art podcasts from the NYT.
Prefer something else? COLOR! More than 100 museums collaborated to offer free downloadable coloring books of their collections.
LIKE MOVIES? Here’s a link to more than a thousand free movies online (classics, thrillers, martial arts, Westerns and more) as well as the top 100 social change documentaries.
Film screenings, open studios, digital museum tours, poetry readings and more can be found at this hub of online arts.
It might be fun to get into some serious lip-syncing. Here’s what one dad and daughter did to Hold my Hand by Jess Glyne.
(If you do a session of your own let us know and we might post it here.)
Great list of free storytelling, classes, tours, and performances from Common Sense Media. All activities listed are on Pacific Time.
TED-Ed Best of Web are exceptional, user-created lessons that are carefully selected by volunteer teachers and TED-Ed staff. You can even sign up to get a daily email of lesson plans. Check it out! Search by content type and grade level.
Here’s a fantastic resource page for mothers and fathers of color who are homeschooling their children. It includes curricula, and links to a wide variety of helpful Facebook groups.
Tech-inclined? You'll find 11 resources and apps to teach kids how to code here.
Need a tutor for your at-home student? GoPeer pairs vetted college students who attend top-tier universities with students between the ages of 5–18 for 1-to-1 tutoring lessons. Read more about how to use GoPeer here.
Want a lot more? Check out 25 screen-free activities for kids, plus a long list of education companies that are now offering free subscriptions.
Other handy CA resources from the CLCV