Stay Safe During COVID-19
COVID-19 is all over the news these days. But, it is easy to think that will not happen to you. After all, you wash your hands regularly. But do you really? And, is that enough?
When serving overseas, Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs) sometimes do not practice the best health habits. We may not have access to enough clean water to thoroughly wash everything before eating it. Or, we might get a bit lazy and just rub that apple on our shirt before biting into it. Did every PCV have a handkerchief readily available to catch that sneeze or cough? After using the toilet, did you vigorously wash your hands with soap and water while singing the Happy Birthday song…twice?
Sometimes we are limited due to the conditions around us but sometimes it is just us. There are multiple studies that identifies how access to water is not a contributing factor in the general population washing their hands. One study of 3,749 people in one US college town showed that after using the toilet, only 67% even attempted to wash their hands with only 5% who washed properly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Were they each consciously aware of their approach?
Time to Renew Those Healthy Habits
So, it is time to consciously renew those healthy habits to protect ourselves as well as those around us. We may not get the flu or COVID-19 but that does not mean that we cannot transmit it to those with weak immune systems or in a high-risk category.
Currently, there is no vaccine or preventative for COVID-19. However, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has provided some guidelines to minimize exposure to this virus (and the flu). And, the World Health Organization (WHO) provides more information about COVID-19 including what it is, what the symptoms are, and how it spreads.
PCVs Serving in COVID-19 Affected Countries
Despite an earlier announcement that the Peace Corps program in China will end in 2021, Peace Corps has already closed the China program earlier this year. But there are PCVs serving in other countries with reported cases of COVID-19. We encourage all PCVs to be vigilant in practicing healthy habits, monitoring their own health, keeping an eye on each other, and staying connected with their Peace Corps Medical Officers.
On March 4, 2020, Jody Olsen, the current Peace Corps Director, issued an open letter to PCVs about the COVID-19 situation. Her letter mentions that there is a Peace Corps’ response plan to monitor and react to developments at each post. Hopefully, there is adequate communication and monitoring of every PCV to ensure their health and safety.
Take a look at our new Resource Library for information to help PCVs and RPCVs better address our health needs including resources for alerts to outbreaks and other health news. And if you have any suggestions to share with other PCVs/RPCVs, let us know.
Whether you are in the USA or overseas, please practice healthy habits. Minimize social contact with others. And, if you can, please check in on the RPCVs who may not have a support system in place.