CDC Reverses Guidance On Testing Asymptomatic People For COVID-19, Again

Less than one month ago, the CDC stated that people without symptoms ‘don’t necessarily need a test,’ even if they had been exposed to the virus

About one month after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tweaked its testing guidance, stating that healthy people who have been exposed to COVID-19 didn’t “necessarily need a test” as long as they didn’t have symptoms, the agency has changed its guidance — again — regarding testing asymptomatic people for the novel coronavirus. The updated guidance, posted to the CDC’s website on Friday, now states that those who have been in close contact, “such as within 6 feet of a person with documented SARS-CoV-2 infection for at least 15 minutes and do not have symptoms,” will need a test.

“Please consult with your healthcare provider or public health official. Testing is recommended for all close contacts of persons with SARS-CoV-2 infection,” the CDC adds. “Because of the potential for asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic transmission, it is important that contacts of individuals with SARS-CoV-2 infection be quickly identified and tested. Pending test results, you should self-quarantine/isolate at home and stay separated from household members to the extent possible and use a separate bedroom and bathroom, if available.”

The CDC continues to say that, even if you have a negative test, you should still self-isolate for 14 days.

The updated guidance was posted under the CDC’s Summary of Changes on their website.

“Due to the significance of asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic transmission, this guidance further reinforces the need to test asymptomatic persons, including close contacts of a person with documented SARS-CoV-2 infection,” the CDC states.

The CDC faced swift backlash and criticism from public health experts — as well as local health departments and members of Congress — when it changed its guidance on Aug. 24. According to CNN, two sources told the publication that the August change was sent to the CDC by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and was supposed to go through a several-day vetting process, but the unaltered document was, instead, posted on the CDC’s website in its original form, which included errors.

This time around, though, CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield assured CNN on Thursday that “the guidelines, coordinated in conjunction with the White House Coronavirus Task Force, received appropriate attention, consultation and input from task force experts.”

Today’s reversal has been described as “good news” by the Infectious Diseases Society of American (IDSA).

“The return to a science-based approach to testing guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is good news for public health and for our united fight against this pandemic,” the community of physicians, scientists, and public health experts said in a statement, according to The Hill. “We urge officials to support the work of controlling this pandemic by following medical guidance of experts in the field.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, echoed the importance of testing asymptomatic people, telling MSNBC‘s Chris Hayes on Thursday night, “I can tell you right now that we should be testing more and we should be testing asymptomatic people. Take that to the bank and trust me on it.”

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I Was Furloughed From My Dream Job

It’s been exactly four months since I was furloughed from my dream job.

If you had spoken to my colleagues and me earlier this year, before COVID-19, you would have thought we were on top of the world. Our phones were ringing off the hook, our schedules were filled to capacity, and we were even looking at expanding our team just to keep up with the demand. You see, for the last nine years, I have enjoyed a diverse creative leadership journey at one of the largest entertainment companies in the world. This industry is cutthroat, highly competitive and despite there being a plethora of highly skilled and talented people, there are not enough roles out there to employ every single person who has the skills and talent to do the job.

I always knew this, and was always up for the challenge. In fact, I’d been conditioned my whole life to be a workhorse — my family immigrated from Cuba with nothing, and I watched my parents work multiple jobs as a child: my mom graduating from ultrasound school when I was 13, etc. Hard work has never been a stranger to me. I was a straight-A student, have held multiple jobs since I was 18, conditioned to believe in the American Dream. Earlier this year, at 33 years old, I thought, wow, I’ve finally found it. I have a new house, a beautiful family, and a dream gig I worked so hard to land. I am finally living this American Dream!

That is, until COVID-19 shut my industry down.

When I first heard about the furlough in April, it was gut-wrenching, but also a necessary evil as “we were all in this together” to stop the spread of COVID. I knew that as a society we had to do our part, and sacrifice our jobs for the greater good of beating this pandemic. I was sad that I wasn’t deemed “essential,” but felt almost relieved at the temporary break that this time off would provide me. I was thankful that I could spend this extra time unpacking into our new home that we had just purchased in February, and relished the fact that I could spend this quality time with our two daughters.

I inhaled my girls with snuggles and cuddles while we played dolls and watched movies. I’d have Zoom chats with my friends at night, drinking cocktails and making fun of Tiger King. I shared and made funny quarantine memes on social media, and laughed at the fact that we were living in some sort of #coronapocalpyse. I set my out-of-office alert to expire in July and thought, how nice to have this #coronacation.

But then, slowly, in June and July, despite this pandemic not being over, the world started opening back up, and my friends started slowly being contacted one by one to report back to work. This gave me hope, as I thought, “Wow, I shouldn’t be that far behind.” I’d reach out to my other friends still on furlough almost daily, and we’d comfort each other and give each other advice as we tried to navigate this complicated puzzle of why some people were already back and some of us were still at home.

My husband, luckily, was deemed “essential” and has been working this whole time. I was able to qualify for unemployment benefits (thank GOD) and with the extra $600. Although it was a pay cut from my normal salary, we were able to continue to pay our bills and put food on the table. I thought how blessed I was to be able to get paid to stay at home with my children. I thought how lucky I was to have a job to come back to once this is over. I thought how lucky I am that I am not alone and that other people have it way, way worse than I do. Even in the midst of my worry, I found things to be grateful for.

Some days I’d have bursts of motivation and do arts and crafts with my daughters and organize closets, and some days all I could do was silently cry as I held my children, as we watched yet another cartoon or Disney movie on the couch. I even polished my resume and applied to several jobs, thinking maybe I could find something temporary.

Other days, I’d wake up with a sense of heaviness in my bones, feeling sad and bogged down by the negativity in the world. This heaviness would paralyze me and make any simple task like taking a shower seem too daunting to manage. Some days I’d obsess over why I hadn’t been called back yet — was it because I was late too many times? Was it because I was too loud in the office? Did I write a bad email? Was I not talented enough? Not liked? I’d obsess over my insecurities … being a working mother, being a person of color, being a female in a white, male-dominated industry. I’d obsess over old conversations with my leaders, analyze what I could have possibly done wrong to be left in the dust. My self-doubt would encapsulate my brain and keep me up at night, leaving a painful pit in my stomach and an intense anxiety every Thursday and Friday as I stared at my phone, waiting for my job to call me back.

I felt silly feeling this way as I FaceTimed my parents, now almost 60 years old and still working in Miami like the workhorses that they are and have always been. I’d see the scars on my mother’s face from the three masks she has to wear all day, every day as a healthcare worker, and watch my poor father try to continue to safely run his business in the COVID hotspot that is South Florida. They’d comfort me and love me. My husband would do the same, holding me as I’d cry and giving me the space I needed when I’d take that extra time every night in the shower to scream into the scalding hot water that would burn my skin and soothe my devastated soul.

I know this sounds dramatic, but this has been my reality. When you pour your heart into a career, it becomes a part of who you are. When you work in my industry, you literally work night and day, and find yourself spending more time at work than at home. Your coworkers become your extended family and you all live this incredibly hectic yet fulfilling lifestyle. When you get to be a part of an exciting, creative team, you feel like you’re part of an exclusive club — one I worked SO hard my entire life to a be a part of. And as a working mother, I felt like I was even more thankful to be a part of this club, since I was only met with support when I was pregnant, was provided a wonderful maternity leave, and never ever given any kind of drama when I pumped milk for my baby for over a year after she was born. I thought it couldn’t get any better than what I had. I was so loyal, totally in it for the long haul, dreaming of getting older and retiring with this company.

I embraced the chaos that was being a working mother. I got to know my daughter’s preschool teachers, many times dropping them off at school after working an overnight shift. They knew I had a demanding job, but they also knew I loved it, and my daughters did, too. I wanted to inspire them that they, too, could “have it all” like Mommy! And my husband was the best: always an equal partner, supporting and believing in me, telling me how I was well on my way to greatness. I was just so happy! 2020 was going to the BEST year!

The hardest part of the furlough has been the lack of communication. From my understanding, there can be serious legal restrictions when you are on furlough, and the company is apparently not allowed to contact you unless it is to return to work. It’s especially hard when your leaders and coworkers become a part of your extended family and they are not allowed to talk to you or give you any kind of information. This only adds insult to injury and makes the whole process seem even more personal, and even more painful.

When you become friends with the people you work with, and then you see them go back to work, and not be able to talk to you, it adds yet another layer of despair. And with this lack of communication, you are left in limbo, without a timeframe, wondering how much longer this is going to last. And the more time that passes, the less hopeful it seems, the more depressed you become.

Also, when you do not have any sort of timeframe, it is impossible to plan your life. How are we supposed to know how much money to save? Or what to do for the new school year? This uncertainty, depression, and anxiety put me in a really terrible mental state, probably the worst I have gone through in my entire life.

So when the job that I let define my self-worth and happiness was taken away from me for nothing that I did wrong, it resulted in a complete mental crisis. I remember one particular night in August coming to the realization that I may never go back. I was heartbroken and felt like a part of my life had died.

I grieved my old life, trying to come to terms with that fact that things will never be the same again. My whole body ached and trembled as I wondered how I was going to be able to make a living for my family, now that unemployment benefits have expired, and now that none of the 30+ jobs that I’ve applied to so far haven’t called back. I melted into my poor husband’s arms, shaking, as I buried my face in my pillow, completely soaking it with tears. I felt my entire face swell up as my head throbbed from the pain. I cried, and cried, and cried, until there were no more tears left inside of me. I woke up the next morning feeling like a shell of the person that I used to be. I walked around my house like a zombie for a few days until something clicked. I found hope again. I found an opportunity to make my own path.

I am still furloughed. It has been two weeks since I had that emotional breakdown, and even though I hit an emotional low that I’ve never hit before, I’m finding the resilience to pick myself back up again. I am no longer waiting by the phone, no longer analyzing what went wrong, and no longer questioning my talents and abilities. Through the support of my close family and friends, I am starting my own company in the middle of a pandemic and actually feel a lot of peace and calm around the notion that I will be okay. I will be okay, and my family will be okay, because we always have been and we always will be. There is really no other way to look at it.

Even when accepting a situation sucks, if you can find the power to take control of your life again, your entire world will change. That is the path that I am on right now, and if you are furloughed, underemployed, unemployed, or laid off right now, I encourage you to do the same.

You did not lose your job because of anything you did. Your job does not define your self-worth or your happiness. Whether or not you are part of that exclusive club that gets to return to work or not, you are still exactly the same person that you have always been. You now have the choice to redefine yourself and create your own path. Think about what it is that you have always wanted to do, and just DO IT! You have nothing to lose!

And when you put yourself and your family at the forefront of your future, you will only have something wonderful to gain.

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College Campuses Make Up 19 Of The 25 Worst COVID Outbreaks In U.S.

A new analysis of data finds 19 of the 25 hottest coronavirus outbreaks are occurring in college towns

The topic of whether or not to bring college students back for in-person classes has been heated for several months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the summer, as cases peaked in many areas of the country, many schools opted against welcoming students back to campus for the 2020-2021 academic year. However, in early August, many universities around the country did reopen and in the last several weeks there have been numerous large outbreaks across the country linked to these schools, and students have even been suspended for engaging in risky coronavirus behavior. And, even scarier, according to a new analysis of data, the majority of the large coronavirus outbreaks in the country are centralized in college towns.

USA Today analyzed data from Johns Hopkins University, finding that of the 25 hottest outbreaks in the country, “communities heavy with college students” (aka big college towns) represent 19 of these outbreak areas. To identify the hottest spots they looked at those regions with the highest number of per capita infection rates in the country — 1,053 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people in the last two weeks.

According to their findings, the 25 communities with the most COVID-19 cases per capita during the past two weeks are listed here alongside the college or university situated in the area, if any. As you can see, the majority of the list includes college campuses.

Harrisonburg, Virginia, James Madison University
Whitman County, Washington, Washington State University
Coryell County, Texas, Central Texas College
Bulloch County, Georgia, Georgia Southern University
Story County, Iowa, Iowa State University
Muskogee County, Oklahoma, None
Clarke County, Georgia, University of Georgia
Johnson County, Iowa, University of Iowa
Lafayette County, Mississippi, University of Mississippi
Grand Forks County, North Dakota, University of North Dakota
Starr County, Texas, None
Boone County, Missouri, University of Missouri-Columbia
Riley County, Kansas, Kansas State University
McLean County, Illinois Illinois State University
Payne County, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State University-Main Campus
St. Francois County, Missouri, None
Champaign County, Illinois, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Leon County, Florida, Florida State University
Webb County, Texas, None
Montgomery County, Virginia, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Lubbock County, Texas, Texas Tech University
Pitt County, North Carolina, East Carolina University
Coles County, Illinois, Eastern Illinois University
Garfield County, Oklahoma, None
Burleigh County, North Dakota, None

college covid outbreak
Melissa Sue Gerrits/Getty Images

Harrisonburg, Virginia — home of James Madison University — is currently leading the pack of the nation’s most significant outbreaks. According to USA Today, in just one week of classes, the college recorded over 700 COVID cases. On September 1 they changed course, pivoting to online instruction. However, the damage was done. In July, coronavirus infections in the city amounted to just 71 cases per 100,000 in July, and thanks to the school reopening, Harrisonburg is currently dealing with 1,562 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 — an overwhelming jump.

Now that school has already started and COVID is spreading through campus, administrators are in a bind.

Both Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and Dr. Deborah Birx, head of the White House coronavirus task force, have warned against sending kids back home from college. Why? It could propagate the spread even more.

“It’s the worst thing you can do,” Fauci pointed out during a recent interview with Today. “Keep them at the university in a place that’s sequestered enough from the other students.”

The situation at colleges and universities is so bad that the New York Times has devoted an entire infographic tracking the number of cases linked to them. Currently, there are over 88,000 cases at 1,190-plus schools across the country.

Information about COVID-19 is rapidly changing, and Scary Mommy is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. With news being updated so frequently, some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For this reason, we are encouraging readers to use online resources from local public health departments, the Centers for Disease Control, and the World Health Organization to remain as informed as possible.

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Call It ‘Socially Awkward’ Or ‘Pandemic-Weird,’ But We’re All Suffering From It

Maybe you’ve overshared on Zoom lately. Maybe you’re embroiled in a he-said, she-said with a family member. Maybe you’re overly angry, or irritable, or anxious. Maybe it’s easier not to talk to people. Maybe it’s easier not to deal with social situations. Maybe Netflix looks a whole lot better than a Zoom party with your friends. Basically, we’ve all gone pandemic-weird, according to The New York Times: we’re suffering from the social unease and awkwardness that comes with long periods of isolation.

I’m no stranger to going pandemic-weird.

I’m overly anxious. I worry about everything: breathless, heart-hammering, stomach-clenching worry. My husband and I have a joke: every little symptom of any type of allergy (and it’s ragweed season) convinces us we have COVID-19. “You don’t have COVID,” we assure each other over and over. Stomach ache? COVID. Sore throat from snoring? COVID. Runny nose with no other symptoms whatsoever? COVID.

I’m also super-awkward with friends—more than usual. I can’t tell when it’s my turn to talk during a Zoom call. A friend’s chance comment may leave me puzzling for day: what did she mean? Does she still like me? Sometimes it’s easier to stay off Facebook and Twitter and Messenger and every other social media format, ignoring everyone, including my own family. When forced to interact, I get anxious and jumpy.

Pandemic-Weird Is Pandemic-Normal

The New York Times says that research on people who’ve spent extended times alone, like hermits, astronauts, or prisoners, shows that without constant exercise, our social skills wither. NASA says of the planned mission to Mars, “The more confined and isolated humans are, the more likely they are to develop behavioral or cognitive conditions, and psychiatric disorders.” Basically, we’re hardwired to go pandemic-weird, losing social skills and the ability to read subtle social cues, as well developing things like diagnosable anxiety.

We’ve long known that solitary confinement is unethical, with the former head of the corrections department in Colorado calling it “immoral” and “torture” to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. People in solitary confinement, who have no stimulation—some may watch TV or listen to the radio, but they’re denied visitors—can go outside for about 1.5 hours a day in a bare concrete area. While this is obviously far more harsh than what we’re suffering during the pandemic, research on these inmates has shown that “This environment can be psychologically destructive for anyone who enters and endures it for significant periods of time, particularly those with preexisting psychiatric disorders.” People risk “profound and chronic alienation” and “asociality”—i.e., they never want to be around people.

So if we’re becoming a little bit anxious, starting to feel like human contact isn’t worth it, or having trouble reading people—it’s no surprise. We’re going pandemic-weird. And that’s 100% normal for humans.

But I’m Fine…

You’re probably not. You’re probably pandemic-weird. You just don’t realize it.

Stephanie Cacioppo, the director of the Brain Dynamics Laboratory at the University of Chicago, tells The New York Times that being lonely or isolated is as much of a biological signal as being hungry. Our brain interpret it as “a mortal threat,” and when we don’t interact with people, it leads to “negative cognitive, emotional and physiological effects.” Even if you’re holed up with the fam, you’re missing out on vital interactions with other people: casual talk with coworkers and interactions with strangers at Starbucks.

The New York Times mentions, “Many of us have not met anyone new for months.”

My brain said “but the internet.” I realized the internet didn’t count and cried. I’m totally pandemic-weird.

So How Do We Deal With Being Pandemic-Weird?

Space and grace, people. Space and grace.

We need to realize that this is happening, first of all: every one of us is going through a significant experience, and no one is going to come out the same on the other end: values-wise or personality-wise, says The New York Times. So be ready for people to change— don’t expect that when this ends, everything’s going to return to situation normal. Those are the people, says British physician Beth Healey, who spent a year on a remote part of Antarctica, who do the worst when they try to reintegrate.

On the other hand, the people who recover best from being pandemic-weird are those who spend their time in isolation reaching out to others. The prisoners in solitary confinement who fared best afterwards were those who realized the isolation “a serious threat to their sense of self and security” and reached out to other people.

In other words, if you want to stave off that pandemic-weirdness, you’d better take that Zoom call.

We’re worried about kids. But we should also be worried about ourselves. “Social interplay,” The New York Times says, is one of the most complicated things we’re wired to do. So don’t expect much from other people in the next… while. Realize we’ve all gone pandemic-weird: we’ve been through a serious length of social confinement that’s changed us in a fundamental way, and we’re still finding our feet in social situations. Be tolerant of others and realize that no, they probably don’t hate you. But extend yourself the same grace as well.

You’ve gone pandemic-weird. It’s okay. We all have.

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Dr. Fauci Warns Things May Not Get Back To Normal Until End Of 2021

Dr. Fauci says things won’t return to “normality” until late next year

President Trump has been boasting about the accelerated COVID-19 vaccine timeline and how there might be an approved vaccine before the election, however, Trump’s brand of uhm, toxic positivity always needs to be tempered by actual facts and science and that’s why we have Dr. Anthony Fauci. Dr. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, translated the Trump vaccine talk into an actionable timeline and essentially stated that by the time the vaccine is actually distributed to the American people and we can return to some semblance of “normality,” we’ll be well into 2021 — potentially even the end of next year.

“By the time you mobilize the distribution of the vaccine and get a majority or more of the population vaccinated and protected, that’s likely not going to happen until the end of 2021,” Fauci told MSNBC. “If you’re talking about getting back to a degree of normality prior to COVID, it’s going to be well into 2021, towards the end of 2021.”

The former Director of the CDC corroborated these claims, tweeting last month that “vaccines take a long time to get to people, often have stumbles in rollout, and don’t protect perfectly. Very important, but won’t end Covid.”

Last month, Fauci explained that once we get the vaccine, we’ll also still need to wear masks and practice social distancing.

“It’s going to depend very much on what the percent or level of efficacy of the vaccine is,” Fauci told Bloomberg, explaining that the vaccine will not be 100% effective. “I would be very happy with 70, 75 percent [efficacy], and I would be accepting of 50 to 60 percent, because that would be value added, superimposed upon and complementary to public health measures. So if we don’t get a vaccine that is highly, highly, highly effective, even though it could still be a good vaccine, I think we would have to have some degree of attention to public health measures.”

Although so many of us have leaned on the idea of a vaccine as a “back to normal” point, or that you get the vaccine and finally get to toss your masks, Fauci is lightly reining in expectations.

“It’s going to take a while to build up an accumulative amount of immunity, either induced by the vaccine or by natural infection, to get to the point where you really have a veil of protection over the community,” Fauci continued. “That’s not going to happen in the first couple of months of availability of vaccine. So we will not be able — we should not abandon public health measures even when we do get a vaccine.”

Currently, a number of drug companies are racing to develop a COVID-19 vaccine, all in various stages of development including clinical trials. Although Trump has told the CDC to prepare to distribute the vaccines as early as November 1, the collective drug companies have publicly stated that they will not release any vaccine or rush it out before it’s safe, ready, and sufficiently tested.

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Parents Are Human, And Other Lessons We Need to Teach Our Kids During The Pandemic

Wow. This is a lot for us, let alone for the kids, right? So much of what we thought would make this particular time in our kids’ lives special is just not possible right now. To make up for it, we parents are doing our best, setting aside our own disappointments and worries to remain calm and positive in the hope of making this totally abnormal situation feel normal for our kids so they can be…kids.

We’re good at this. By the time our kids are tweens and teens, we have this whole happy-face-for-the-kids thing down. We’ve picked up our angry or devastated children after brutal practices, nitpicky exams, and sleepovers gone wrong. We’ve optimistically welcomed our hungry, frustrated, or tired kids home, only to realize they are just plain not having it—or us. We are The Brunt and, frankly, it’s hard duty.

Here’s the thing: Part of what kids need to learn (and preferably soon, before sheetcaking becomes a regular thing for you) is that if they treat someone poorly enough for long enough, eventually that person will not keep showing up with a smile. Unconditional love is real. But unconditional love means that parents are the ultimate backstop, not the ultimate doormat.

I’m not recommending that you give up on educating, sheltering, and feeding the children who live under your roof in the middle of a pandemic because they’re throwing tantrums in your general direction. But it’s going to be a problem if your kids don’t eventually realize that you are a person. And I’m sorry about this—I know you’re going through some stuff of your own—but in addition to being the person your kids are dumping on, you are also the person in charge of teaching them (1) that you are human and (2) what respect for humans means.

So if every time the kids make retching noises at dinner, we hustle back into the kitchen for Round Two instead of acknowledging our actual human feelings, we’re doing a disservice not only to ourselves, but also to our kids. Just like we taught them when they were small, we need to use our words to express how their behavior makes us feel. If you have tweens or teens, toddler talk was a long time ago, so in case you forgot, here’s an example of how it works: “When you [make puking sounds at the delicious miracle dinner I magicked up from pantry scrapings, while simultaneously responding to emails, texts, and calls from work], I feel like [it’s time for you to learn how to make your own grilled cheese].”

Our human children need to learn that lashing out at other humans has consequences. They may (fingers crossed) learn this faster if we consistently create consequences of the sort that put a pause on the stompy, door-slammy proceedings and create an opportunity for everybody to slow down and think. If the consequence happens to give your son or daughter exposure to a new life skill, it’s a bonus all around. For example, if your teen routinely and eye-rollingly expresses the view that you don’t know anything about anything, you might not particularly feel like helping with remote Algebra today. (Life skill bonus: self-directed learning!) Or if everything you do this week is unacceptable in every possible way, you can reasonably predict that your dearest won’t be satisfied with how you wash their clothes, so go ahead and add that to the list of things you won’t be spending your time doing. (Life skill bonus: laundry!)

These consequences may not be well received (i.e., expect some drama, but what else is new). They may not even be effective, especially at first, or even at all until your child’s brain matures enough to grasp the concept that other people (including GASP parents!) are humans. Still, we have to try. We need to calmly and rationally express our feelings—yes, we are allowed to have feelings! Then we need to give our kids the opportunity to reflect on how their behavior impacts others. These things are hard work, but we owe it to our children to teach them to do better, so they can (eventually) get out there and do better, too.

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The Majority Of Young Adults Have Moved Back In With Their Parents Due To The Pandemic

The last time this many young adults were living with their parents was during the Great Depression

The coronavirus pandemic has undeniably changed the dynamics of society. When the nation’s shutdown started in mid-March and the majority of the country was advised to shelter in place, many young adults headed home to stay with mom and dad to ride out the pandemic. In fact, according to a new poll, over half of young adults between the ages of 18 and 29 are currently living at home with their parents — the most since the Great Depression.

During the month of July, the majority of young Americans — 52 percent of them — were living with one or both of their parents, according to a Pew Research Center poll published on Friday. Compared against monthly Census Bureau data from years before, this is higher than any previous measurement.

Pew Research
Pew Research Center

“Before 2020, the highest measured value was in the 1940 census at the end of the Great Depression, when 48 percent of young adults lived with their parents,” the report states. “The peak may have been higher during the worst of the Great Depression in the 1930s, but there is no data for that period.”

To put this in perspective, from February — shortly before the shelter-in-place orders were administered in most of the country — until July, an additional 2.6 million young adults were living with mom and pops. Those on the younger end of the young adult spectrum (18 to 24) as well as white young adults experienced the sharpest growth.

“The number and share of young adults living with their parents grew across the board for all major racial and ethnic groups, men and women, and metropolitan and rural residents, as well as in all four main census regions,” Pew says.

Pew Research
Pew Research Center

Surprisingly, the racial and ethnic gap from previous years seems to be closing in when it comes to cohabitation with parents.

“In past decades, white young adults have been less likely than their Asian, Black and Hispanic counterparts to live with their parents. That gap has narrowed since February as the number of white young adults living with their mothers and/or fathers grew more than for other racial and ethnic groups,” the report states.

The survey found that young adults “have been particularly hard hit by this year’s pandemic and economic downturn, and have been more likely to move than other age groups.” In fact, approximately one-in-ten (9 percent) surveyed revealed that they had temporarily or permanently relocated due to the coronavirus outbreak, and 10 percent had another person move into their household. Twenty-three percent of young adults who moved attributed it to their college campus closing. However, 18 percent revealed that it was due to job loss or other financial reasons. The report also points out that this age group is more likely than other age groups to experience unemployment or a pay cut as a result of the pandemic.

Information about COVID-19 is rapidly changing, and Scary Mommy is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. With news being updated so frequently, some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For this reason, we are encouraging readers to use online resources from local public health departments, the Centers for Disease Control, and the World Health Organization to remain as informed as possible.

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What It Means When Your ‘Surge Capacity’ Is Depleted

As I sit down to write this, my two young children are immersed in a rousing episode of Strawberry Shortcake at 11:00 p.m. in our living room after half a dozen failed attempts to put them to sleep in their own beds. It’s obviously way past their bedtimes, yet these kids are acting like they just arrived at their first frat party and have energy to burn. I have a work deadline that’s already past its expiration date, and I have no plans on stopping this random and welcome creative momentum tonight. So it’s television before bed again for us, and I don’t give a flying fuck anymore if someone judges me for it.

It’s honestly been this way for months now, but tonight is especially trying. Because tonight, I don’t have my husband Matt here to tag-team bedtime with me.

During an emotional conversation yesterday, I finally said what neither of us wanted to fully admit. Matt is majorly struggling, and so am I. We are being stretched thin in every single way imaginable. My husband has finally — finally! — experienced motherload exhaustion, from multitasking alongside me with all the overwhelm of a dozen tired-ass moms pushed past the point of barely functioning. Basically we’re running on fumes, and our kids haven’t let us up for air since coronavirus forced us into our home 24/7 back in March. 

Like many of you reading this, Matt and I are two worn-out parents living during a global crisis, and we have both assuredly reached our “surge capacity” limit. According to Ann Masten, PhD, a psychologist and professor of child development at the University of Minnesota, surge capacity is a collection of adaptive mental and physical systems that we utilize for short-term survival during extremely stressful times. The only nasty hitch with our current situation is that we’re all living during a pandemic, which can last indefinitely and will most undoubtedly lead each of us to surge capacity depletion. Which begs the questions — what happens when we hit that point of no return, and how the hell do we rebound from it?

“The pandemic has demonstrated both what we can do with surge capacity and the limits of surge capacity,” Masten says in an interview for Medium. “When it’s depleted, it has to be renewed. But what happens when you struggle to renew it because the emergency phase has now become chronic?”

In an effort to replenish his surge capacity, I offered Matt the opportunity to stay at his parents’ house down the road for the next few days to focus on his full-time job and catch up on sleep. The space is definitely needed for the both of us, if I’m being completely honest. We’ve been around each other all the damn time as we do the nonstop grind of work and kid duty, and it’s beginning to unravel us both. While I will certainly expect to catch up on some zzz’s when Matt gets home, I’m more concerned about his mental state right now than my own. And that’s saying a lot, because I’ve been dealing with some gnarly complex PTSD-related body paralysis this past month and have assuredly hit my personal surge capacity breaking point.  

Since I’ve already dug deep into therapy, embraced medication, and regularly ask for help when I feel myself burning out, I know that I’ll have future opportunities to restore myself no matter how difficult this time is. My husband, on the other hand, admittedly does not actively tend to his mental health, and the cracks in his nervous system are beginning to widen. I have no clue if this time away will help, but I do know that he’s been given the loving condition to line up a therapist by the time he comes back. I love my husband way too much to see him dive into a dark hole of COVID-related despair, and counseling will definitely help. I know this to be true because I fell into one back in April and had to go to the emergency room to recover. 

While we have thankfully found some relief in our kids being offered spots again at their respective COVID-conscious preschools, we’re still spending all non-school hours at home as we juggle our two jobs, run out of ideas for how to keep the kids entertained, and watch our house get destroyed mere moments after we clean it up. We’re also endlessly grappling with the anxiety of seeing people around us not wearing masks and arguing against science, worrying about our small town potentially reopening in full swing soon, and missing the shit out of our extended family in other states. It’s enough to make anyone totally melt down at least once. My husband and I have already done that dozens of times, thanks to — you guessed it! — surge capacity depletion. 

“This is an unprecedented disaster for most of us that is profound in its impact on our daily lives,” Masten tells Medium. “But it’s different from a hurricane or tornado where you can look outside and see the damage. The destruction is, for most people, invisible and ongoing. So many systems aren’t working as they normally do right now, which means radical shifts in work, school, and home life that almost none of us have experience with.”

It’s gotten so damn tough for American families that according to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll, over half of adults have reported that COVID-19 is harming their mental health. And get this — text messages to the federal government’s disaster distress hotline increased by more than 1,000 percent this past spring when compared to the same time last year. On the plate of mental health professionals is the growing coronavirus-related anxiety of their patients, with mental websites like Talkspace experiencing a 65% increase in clients since mid-February.

Bottom line — we are all pretty much encountering surge capacity depletion in one way or another. And it’s so unbelievably difficult to avoid getting to this point, no matter what we seem to do.

So how do we even begin to cope with a mental, emotional, and physical disaster of epic proportions that just won’t seem to let up? I believe it starts with acknowledging that this is really fucking hard. The unavoidable truth beyond the medical and health impact of COVID-19 is that we don’t have many answers at the moment, our children’s lives have been turned upside down along with our own, and there’s not enough energy to go around inside of us if we keep expelling it all — or worse, if we push our complex emotions down to avoid feeling pain right now. 

“Recognize that how you feel is valid, no matter what,” Natalie Dattilo, a clinical health psychologist with Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, tells the Washington Post. “It’s okay not to be okay.”

We also need to lower our standards of living, seek mental health support, and allow ourselves to grieve for the life we no longer have. Perfectionism and productivity at any cost will not serve us right now — if anything, it will dry up our surge capacity. It’s also helped me to realize that there were parts of my prior living that just weren’t working for me, and this pandemic has forced me see those areas and make changes that have unexpectedly felt better in the long run. Finally, one of the most surprising solutions to my burnout has been actively enjoying moments of throwing care to the wind and being silly with my kids, whether it’s making an impromptu fairy garden in our backyard or letting them temporarily tattoo me with face paint. 

If your past six months have looked anything remotely like mine, please know that you are not alone. Connect with loved ones, call a crisis line, and be willing to honor your feelings and needs. At the very least, give yourself a frickin’ break and stop trying to do it all at a time when the tide is very clearly hitting up against you. Do not spend this pandemic suffering in silence. And certainly do not judge yourself if your kids end up passing out for the hundredth time while enjoying a repeat viewing of Boss Baby.

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Scapegoating Is An Expected Response To The COVID-19 Pandemic, And It’s Trump’s Favorite Tool

Despite being the only country in the world to continue to massively fail at containing COVID-19, Donald Trump insists upon referring to the virus as “the China virus” or “kung-flu.” What are his intentions when he uses these terms? Is he simply labeling COVID-19 with the place it came from, because the virus did, after all, originate in China?

LOL, no. Trump and others who refer to COVID-19 with racist names are engaging in scapegoating because the United States has failed worse than any other country at containing COVID-19. Trump may have taken a few half-assed measures early on in the pandemic, like banning some travel from China, but he failed bigly, hugely, tremendously, at other critical measures of containment, like testing, quarantine, and contact tracing. He needs to redirect everyone’s attention elsewhere. He needs a scapegoat. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

In pre-World War II Germany, Hitler targeted Jewish people as a scapegoat to blame for Germany’s crumbling economy and hyperinflation, each of which were caused by the severe terms of the Treaty of Versailles following Germany’s defeat in World War I. In this case, though, Hitler wasn’t trying to distract from his own public failings (except perhaps from his embarrassing failure at art school, which he does of course blame on the Jews); he just needed a singular focus upon which to unite those he hoped would support him in his grab for power.

Of course, scapegoating is not a tactic reserved for power-hungry malignant narcissists. Regular, everyday people engage in scapegoating when confronted with their own failings. Have you ever stubbed your toe on a piece of furniture and blamed the piece of furniture for being in your way? Scored low on a test and blamed the makers of the test for writing bad test questions? Lost an important game in a team sport and blamed a single player for their one mistake? All of these are examples of scapegoating: avoiding your own faults or failings and absolving yourself of guilt by placing blame elsewhere where it doesn’t belong.

The key feature of the scapegoat is that the chosen carrier of blame is vulnerable and/or cannot fight back. This allows for persecution of said person or group to persist in a way that offers a continued distraction from the real source of a problem, and, in some cases, offers a means to unify a group that may otherwise not have reason for cohesiveness. Scapegoating also creates a villain, which implies there must also be a hero.

If China is the scapegoat in Trump’s interpretation of the disaster that has been COVID-19, I wonder who Trump expects people to see as the hero in this scenario.

But why is scapegoating such an effective tool in a power-hungry narcissist’s toolbox? Why is scapegoating something humans do in the first place? According to Mark Schaller, a professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia and co-author of Social Psychology of Prejudice, scapegoating, in particular when it comes to scapegoating with regards to disease, is part of our evolutionary makeup. Schaller told NPR that humans have evolved to distrust outsiders partly as a means to avoid infection, a response that he calls “the behavioral immune system, a kind of psychological parallel to the physical immune system.” This instinct is “no longer adaptive,” Schaller told NPR, “but we’re stuck with our ancient psychology, leaving us wary and with negative consequences for today.”

Most of us have heard of “ingroup/outgroup thinking,” a phenomenon that influences social behavior for everything from sports team loyalty to political ideologies to patriotism. These habits stem from the same evolutionary adaptations Schaller discussed with NPR, and though they can be, quite literally, fun and games in certain situations, ingroup-outgroup thinking also leads to prejudice, intolerance, and the fracturing of social stability.

Here in the U.S., hate crimes against Asian-Americans have surged dramatically since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. A July study demonstrated a marked increase in both interpersonal and institutional hate-crimes against Asian-Americans. Donald Trump’s repeated reliance on terms like “China virus” and “kung flu” is a calculated move to get Americans to think “THEM” and “THEIR FAULT” whenever they think or hear about COVID-19. In March, Trump agreed not to use the term “China virus,” but has used it since, most notably during the recent Republican National Convention, as well as the term “kung flu.”

Trust: This is not an accident. Donald Trump knows what he is doing. His administration’s handling of the coronavirus (along with many other problems) has put the United States under a magnifying glass that has revealed some of our ugliest flaws, the greatest of which is that we are apparently foolish enough to elect a person so obviously unfit to lead a nation. Donald Trump knows that if he wants to be elected for another term, he will have to distract from his many failings by scapegoating.

Ingroup-outgroup thinking may have evolved as a protective trait, but it no longer serves us. And if we want to get off this merry-go-round of intolerance, bigotry, and violence, our only choice is to selectively evolve away from this maladaptive and primitive way of thinking. It’s not a China virus. It’s a coronavirus, one that could have originated anywhere but happened to originate in China… and then found its greatest foothold here in the United States. And the fault for that lies squarely on the shoulders of our current administration.

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This School Year, My Kids’ Mental Health Is My #1 Concern

Right before the pandemic hit, my two kids were beginning their last quarters of second grade and seventh grade. We had just moved to a new town at the beginning of the school year, and I finally felt as though my kids were adjusting, making friends, and acclimating to their new schools.

One of the reasons we had moved to this town (it’s actually the one I grew up in), is that I wanted to offer my kids a more rigorous and challenging learning environment. Both of my kids are nerdy and brainy, and my middle school son had been bored and restless for years in math and science classes where he already knew the material and needed an extra challenge.

I was never one to emphasize grades or academic achievement, but I wanted my kids to be appropriately challenged and excited by learning. And it seemed to be working. My middle schooler was already talking about the cool classes and electives he had signed up for the following school year. Our town also has plenty of free enrichment activities for kids and teens, and both of my kids were starting to fill their schedule with cooking classes, video making classes, and play rehearsals.

Things seemed to be going great … and then the pandemic hit.

As was the case for almost everyone I know, distance learning was a complete and total dumpster fire for my children last spring. Both my husband and I were working full time from home while our two kids attempted to do “school.” For them, most of school was a series of assignments they were asked to complete with very little guidance. Their teachers weren’t Zooming much, and neither of my children felt comfortable with Zoom anyway. (I’m fully aware that teachers were doing their best given the abrupt change to online learning and I don’t blame them in the least!)

My normally-excelling kids were floundering. For the first time ever, my middle schooler was having trouble turning in his work. And my second grader … well, his situation was a five-alarm disaster. He basically spent all day on his iPad watching videos (hello? his parents needed to earn a living) and then when we finally had time to help him complete his assignments, he would literally scream and cry.

This is a child who is usually happy to do his work at school, does well, and is generally well behaved. He was crumbling. I remember him saying, “I just wish I could see my teacher’s face. That would motivate me to do my work.”

Clearly, the emotional connection to school was what he was craving, and that was making virtual school feel so impossible and depressing.

Basically, having everything you have known and loved about school being pulled right from under you is an intense and traumatizing experience. Not only that, but we live in the NYC metropolitan area, which was the epicenter of the pandemic this past spring. Sirens would go wailing past our house, all the time, as our kids were trying to complete their work. The stress, tension, and fear in the air were palpable, and I’m sure they picked up on that.

All of this meant that very little academic progress happened for my children last spring. I was fine with that, because I understood that when there is a freaking global health crisis, you can’t expect kids to do school in any sort of normal way. Academic progress can wait. Their mental health and wellbeing is what’s most important.

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However, it didn’t really feel like I could address my kids’ mental health until this summer. Soon after school ended and the stress of that was removed from my kids’ lives, we all began to breathe a little better. Yes, the world was still a dumpster fire, but at least we could get our bearings.

While this past summer hasn’t been the most fun or exciting summer ever – we are still taking COVID-19 safety seriously and not socializing with others or doing anything riskier than hanging out at empty parks – I have started to see the spark and light return to my children’s faces.

They are basically doing whatever the hell they want this summer. They are still spending way too much time on screens. But they are playing online video games with their friends, they are pulling out old toys to play with, they’ve made a few silly short films, and they are spending a lot of time joking around with each other, and with us.

After a spring of pure hell, my kids seem back to their normal-ish selves—and I want to do my damndest to hold onto that. Seeing how much happier they are now makes me realize just how hard and traumatizing it was for them this past spring.

Now, as the school year gears up again, I’m realizing that my top priority should be to keep their mental health in check. Sure, I want to make sure they don’t lose their academic progress. Sure, I want them to learn new things, if possible. I want them to feel as though they are accomplishing something and that they continue to be challenged.

But if none of those things happen, so be it. My top priority is that they are well and happy.

My kids will start the school year remotely. Thankfully, there will be a lot more live elements in place – and my kids have had ample time to get comfortable with Zoom over these past six months – so I am hopeful that school will generally be a more positive experience for them.

But if their days are riddled with tech issues (they will be!) or if they cry through assignments (equally likely!), I am going to do a better job helping them through their tough emotions. This year, we at least are prepared for what’s to come, and both my husband and I have rearranged our schedules so that we can be available more during their school days for academic support – but most importantly, emotional support.

This school year is going to be about checking in with our kids emotionally. It’s going to be about letting school work slide when overwhelm is too great. It’s going to be about checking in constantly with their teachers about their socio-emotional well being. It’s going to be about finding new ways to stay connected with friends and loved ones.

It’s going to be about learning how to persevere through hardships and build resilience. It’s going to be about being more mindful about our mental health, and asking for help when we need it.

And as for academic vigor? Meh. That can wait for another year. In all honesty, I don’t care if my kids learn a damn thing this school year. I will not allow my kids to suffer this year the way they did last spring. This year, my kids’ mental health is my priority, and I’m letting the rest of it go.

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