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Better Living Through Well Being

In just the few months since our last quarterly eNewsletter, the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has led to sweeping changes and disruptions in nearly every aspect of daily life for us all. I hope you are all well, and that you and your family and friends are keeping safe and healthy.

Far more dangerous than the common flu, the COVID-19 pandemic is a human tragedy, affecting millions of people, and increasingly having an impact on the global economy. With mandates and guidelines changing all the time, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by our own anxieties. It is important to practice empathy during this time, not only for others, but for yourself as well.

Take heart in all acts of kindness, both those you practice yourself and those you observe. Keep listening to the scientists and health professionals, and follow their good advice while we all wait for widespread availability of diagnostic and antibody testing, effective antiviral treatment and vaccine. Please join me in expressing thanks to all the frontline and essential workers in our society, for the work they do at risk to themselves and their loved ones. To them I say, “Your dedication, commitment and courage deserve our deepest gratitude and admiration.” May they continue to be given the protection they need to do their work.

This outbreak is moving quickly, and some of the perspectives in this eNewsletter may fall out of date soon as well, but I hope the information here will be useful and also give hope. The first testing in humans of an experimental vaccine for the novel coronavirus began in Seattle in March, and other vaccines are in the works in various laboratories.

I cannot remember a time when it has become so clear so fast how everything we do impacts someone else, and how we are truly all in this situation together. Social distancing efforts are saving lives. They are also causing us much hardship, but we do them because we love our family members and friends and don’t want to lose them. So now, in the midst of an alarming rate of transmission and infection of COVID-19, family physicians implore Americans to stay home and help stop the spread.

In early March, Washington State began implementing increasing levels of social separation to stem the spread of COVID-19, including closing schools and prohibiting gathering of large groups, and eventually requiring nonessential workers to stay home. Soon similar policies were put in place across the U.S. Computational modeling data from Seattle’s Institute for Disease Modeling and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation show evidence of the effectiveness of these strict containment strategies. The modeling indicates how generic “social distancing” can overcome the spread of COVID-19, but only if 75 percent reduction in person-to-person contact is achieved. The State of Washington has seen great success in flattening the curve of coronavirus cases as a result of the social distancing measures.

Governor Inslee now anticipates a “phased approach” for the reopening of the state’s economy, by using more of a “dial” than a “light switch.” This will require continued controlled use of social distancing methods along with mass testing and contact tracing to reopen where appropriate while being sure to protect the most vulnerable people.

Governors of the West Coast (California, Oregon, Washington) are now collaborating in a shared vision for reopening their economies and controlling the coronavirus in the future. Their framework will be based on the common understanding that residents’ health comes first, that decisions will be made based on science - not politics, and that the states will only be effective by working together.

With more than 90 percent of the U.S. population under some form of stay-at-home order, a recent mental health study looked at the mental health of Americans during the pandemic. There was already a mental health crisis in America before the pandemic due to high demand and limited resources. The pandemic appears to be making it worse in terms of negative consequences of isolation: anxiety, depression, and suicidality. People who are having trouble securing the basics of living can be distracted from self-care during their fight to stay safe, healthy, fed, sheltered, and employed. These concerns can exacerbate existing mental health problems. This is a tough time for many and emphasizes the importance of remaining hopeful and optimistic.

Many mental health clinics offer telehealth sessions as an alternative to in-person therapy, and it is felt to be equally effective. One mental health network is reporting a 475 percent increase in their use of telehealth sessions for their patients. Americans should know that mental health providers are available and offer solutions that work, and that they can be trusted to meet our mental health needs during this pandemic health crisis.


A team of health management associates, health economists, and data analysts have calculated the approximate change in health insurance coverage by state caused by economic disruptions of COVID-19. Unemployment rates are projected to rise as high as 25 percent of the population. There will be a significant shift from the number of Americans covered by employer provided insurance to some form of Medicaid or a Marketplace plan.

In addition to Medicaid enrollment expanding, millions of people could enroll in a Marketplace plan after losing their employer-sponsored coverage, but millions could also leave the Marketplace due to lower income. What we are seeing is unprecedented. This is the first economic downturn since Medicaid expansion, and the influx of individuals enrolling in the Marketplace and Medicaid will require significant implementation efforts by state governments, managed care organizations, and providers.

A new report identifies at-risk individuals and maps them against the locations of intensive care unit (ICU) beds. It predicts highest risk areas in order to inform resource allocation and response during the COVID-19 crisis. It is important to note that there is significant variance within counties in terms of resources and presence of high risk populations. This data underscores the need for coordination among local public health officials and hospital administrators. Results of the study have been shared with local governments to inform plans for coordination of resources across areas of potential need.

This study follows the launch of a COVID-19 testing site finder tool, which is the first comprehensive directory of all 50 states.

Another report showing the cost of seeking care for COVID-19 across and within major U.S. cities found extreme variation in cost of COVID-19 evaluation across 12 cities, including Los Angeles, Dallas, and Miami.


Other articles of interest in this Spring 2020 TMIS eNewsletter:

* National online autism research initiative announces findings of an online survey of autism families, their shared disruptions related to COVID-19, and strategies for overcoming them.

* Responding to increased need for help, a premier in-home senior care company experiences tremendous job growth in the U.S. and becomes the first national in-home care organization to provide personal protection equipment for all its staffers.

* Clinical trial of experimental drug remdesivir treats people with serious COVID-19 complications.

* New study finds a third of the public believes in COVID-19 myths due to increased virus misinformation on social media.

* National Pharmacy Technician Association study prompts call to immediately require employers to take necessary actions and precautions to safeguard pharmacists and technicians on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic.

* Tencent Health joins with WHO to make open source COVID-19 Symptoms Self-Triage Assistant freely available online.

* National distributor pledges to provide protective masks at no profit to first responders and urges other sellers to join in the commitment.


I am grateful to be in a collaborative business with many talented and skilled professionals. Additional feedback and recommendations for our services at TM Information Services are always welcome.

- Mary Michele McLaughlin

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