Superintendents of the Preston and West Side school districts are meeting April 29 or 30 with officials from Franklin County Medical Center and Southeastern Idaho Public Health to determine where students will end the 2019-2020 school year: at home or in their schools.
"The meeting is to get an idea on whether they (public health officials) feel it is wise and what precautions must be in place to return to school," said Preston School District superintendent Marc Gee.
"Ideally we need to let the communities know on Thursday or Friday (April 30 or May 1)," he said.
Both he and West Side School District superintendent Spencer Barzee hope kids can get back to school to be able to participate in school activities such as graduation, school musicals, concerts and plays. They both have said that they are pleased with the progress students have made academically while learning at home.
People continue to distance themselves socially and quarantine due to the COVID-19 virus, and for some, the cost of isolation is higher than others.
Preston resident Sean Byington said that not only has the outbreak affected his anxiety but has also made finding new ways to cope with his depression necessary as his primary mechanism of social interaction with family and small groups has been severely limited. “It has made the lows a lot more low and I am feeling a lot more run down,” he said.
People suffering from depression, anxiety, addiction, and other mental health issues, and who have found their coping mechanisms either disrupted or even removed, are finding that the pressure and stress may reveal previously unknown symptoms or worsened those that already existed. The problem has become prevalent enough that the Southeastern Health department has issued information to help combat it.
Different types of stress include fear about one’s own health and the health of loved ones; changes in sleep or eating patterns; difficulty sleeping or concentrating, the worsening of chronic health problems; and increased use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs. In dealing with stress, Southeastern Idaho Public Health recommends the following:
1. Limit time spent watching, listening to or reading the news, including social media. Find out what you need to know and then move on to a different activity.
2. Take care of your body. When people are stressed, it is easy to leave healthy habits behind. Eat healthy foods, and drink water. Avoid excessive amounts of caffeine and alcohol. Do not use tobacco or illegal drugs. Get enough sleep and rest. Get physical exercise but be sure to distance from others when exercising outdoors.
3. Establish and maintain routines. Routines help people feel secure by providing a sense of normalcy during change. Maintain regular times for meals, schoolwork, going to bed and waking up, exercise, social time, and be sure to include time for play and relaxation.
4. Do what helps you feel safe. Rely upon the coping skills regularly used to get through the day. Actions or ways of thinking a person uses to deal with stressful situations are called “coping skills,” and might include practicing activities like counting to 10 to manage feelings of frustration, journaling, guided meditation, breathing exercises, or spiritual practices.
5. Stay socially connected while practicing physical distancing. Today’s technology — mobile phones, tablets, and internet connections can keep people close to loved ones until they can gather together safely again.
“Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations,” said Maggie Mann, Southeastern Idaho Public Health District Director. “How you respond to the outbreak can depend on your background, the things that make you different from other people, and the community you live in.”
Some individuals may respond strongly to the stress of the situation. Stress can be reduced by sharing the facts about COVID-19 and understanding the actual risk to one’s self and people one cares about. This can make an outbreak seem less stressful.
Parents should also be conscious of how stress can manifest in their children and find ways to reduce that potential stress. Some ways children and adolescents respond to stress including excessive crying or irritation, particularly for younger children, returning to behaviors they have outgrown, excessive worry, and unhealthy eating or sleeping habits.For teenagers, the stress can lead to difficulty with attention and concentration, unexplained headaches or body pain, and substance use. To avoid these issues parents can establish open communication with teens, reassure them they are safe and limit exposure to news coverage, including social media. It is also important to keep up with regular routines.
“Focusing on preparedness, staying calm, reaching out to check on the well-being of others, and self-care will help you through this challenging moment in history. Remind yourself that COVID-19 is a serious but temporary illness, and that life will return to normal in time,” said Mann.
Something that has been of great benefit to Byington is the presence of a pet in his life to help ease the isolation. “My dog makes me get out of bed in the morning and gives me the motivation to get outside and go for walks.”If additional help is needed, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare has created an Idaho COVID‐19 Distress Hotline at 888‐330‐3010 for anyone experiencing any type of distress, from feeling overwhelmed or isolated to substance use disorder to simply seeking resources.