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Navigating the new world: Tips for your post-shutdown life

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Making a wish list

If we’ve had an abundance of any one thing during this pandemic, it’s time: time to think about what we’re missing and what we plan to do whenever this ends.

I can’t wait to travel again, to see my dad and sister in Chicago and to revisit Europe—Paris again and, for the first time, Italy, where I’ll both mourn and celebrate life in a way I’ve only begun to understand.

But mostly, when “real life” resumes, it’s mostly the mundane things I’ll enjoy getting back to. Returning to the office and seeing my coworkers in person again. Getting a drink at my neighborhood bar. Catching a live set by a favorite local or touring act, all good and sweaty and loud inside the Bunkhouse Downtown.

When this ends it likely won’t “end.” Life might never return to the way it once was, morphing instead into a new—and socially distanced—normal. But over time it will become normal, just as this quarantine has become strangely normal by now.

Will we be able to hug our loved ones again? Celebrate birthdays with corny sing-a-longs inside crowded restaurants? Cheers a few beers at the dive down the street? Only time will tell. In the meantime I’ll keep dreaming, about sinking my chopsticks into a delicious bowl of ramen … holding hands at a baseball game … singing karaoke with my friends, and embarrassing them by dancing in the ice cream aisle.

Everyone’s list will look different, but at heart, they’re all the same. –Leslie Ventura

Wear your masks, and keep social distancing

The reopening-of-the-country guidelines recently set forth by the White House and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a three-phase approach called “Opening Up America Again,” specifically call for social distancing and mask-wearing to continue well into Phase Two. And we’re not even into Phase One yet; in order to begin that phase, we need to meet several “gating criteria,” including “a downward trajectory of influenza-like illnesses [and] COVID-like syndromic cases” over a two-week period; a downward trajectory of documented COVID-19 cases and positive tests over that same time frame; and the ability for hospitals to “treat all patients without crisis care” and provide “robust testing” for at-risk front-line health care workers, “including emerging antibody testing.”

The lack of widespread and persistent testing alone means Phase One can’t yet begin. Once it does, however, we need to be more vigilant in our social distancing, hand-washing and mask-wearing, not less. “The reality is that COVID-19 is still here, and it’s going to be here at least for the near future,” says Dr. Nick Fiore, Secretary of the Clark County Medical Society. “We don’t have any specific, reliable, across-the-board cures, and we still don’t have a vaccination. So, it’s going to be necessary to continue to use the mitigation techniques of social distancing. It will prevent any resurgence and keep us all as safe as possible.”

Dr. Brian Labus of the UNLV School of Public Health agrees. “It’ll be as important later as it is now to stop disease transmission, because the ability to reopen is based on maintaining that social distance.”

So, even if the governor allows some businesses to reopen, their capacity will likely be capped, and everyone inside will be masked and conspicuously spaced apart. “From my understanding, the governor is going to use those [White House/CDC] criteria, because those are basically science-based on what we know right now and what we know will probably work the best until, ultimately, we have a vaccination and/or a combination people becoming immune,” Fiore says.

It’s going to be tough going—“Keeping people doing something that’s really out of their known behaviors is quite a challenge,” Labus admits—but keeping up an abundance of caution after doors reopen could help speed this nightmare to an end. –Geoff Carter

Look out for the most vulnerable among us

Mayor Carolyn Goodman might have publicly offered up Las Vegas as a control group for a not-so-official scientific experiment, but she doesn’t actually have much say in when Southern Nevada reopens.

Gov. Steve Sisolak has since refuted Goodman’s remarks, stating that science will determine the timeline. And while it might be too soon to set an official date, vulnerable populations will continue to be at risk whenever our Valley does reopen.

“Two groups we think about the most are the oldest people in our population [those 65 and older] and people that have underlying health conditions that put them at more serious risk for disease if they were to become infected,” says Dr. Brian Labus of the UNLV School of Public Health. That includes people with immunocompromised conditions, serious heart or lung problems; those who are immunocompromised because of HIV or cancer; people with diabetes and others.

“If we want to reduce deaths, this is the group we have to focus on protecting,” Labus says. That also includes people in nursing homes and other vulnerable citizens. “The recommendations that came out were basically that people in those groups should stay home and avoid other people. “That’s the best way to prevent yourself for getting sick. If you’re at high risk, somebody [else] should be doing the grocery shopping.”

An expert in epidemiology, Labus was selected by the governor back in March to serve on a statewide COVID-19 task force. Even when the coronavirus outbreak declines, he says vulnerable populations will need to take extra precautions, and employers will have to do the same.

“If you look at the guidance from all over the country, employers are encouraged to take special steps for those at the highest risk. They may be reopening the office but letting people who are at high risk work from home.”

Labus also says masks will continue to be recommended until the virus is no longer a threat—in large part to protect those most vulnerable. “When you wear a mask, you wear it to protect the people around you, so we’re going to want people who are in contact with [immunocompromised] people to wear a mask,” he says.

“As we start to back off on some of the social distancing requirements, people at high risk aren’t going to be able to back off. They’re going to have to continue to do these things until the outbreak is over.” –Leslie Ventura

Getting mental health help

It’s not just unemployment numbers that are skyrocketing in our community as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Mental health issues, including anxiety and depression, are on the rise, and the longer we stay in isolation, the more profound the effects will be across all age groups.

“We’ve seen a 40% increase in people wanting to talk to a therapist,” says Angela Quinn, CEO of FirstMed Health and Wellness Center. “We put together a crisis response plan after [the] Route 91 [shootings]. We have opened up that crisis response [again], so anybody can call our number (702-731-0909) any time of the day.”

For now, teletherapy is the easiest way to get help, but a limited number of providers are offering in-person sessions. Hotlines are also open 24/7. If you’re in need of help, here are some places to contact. –Genevie Durano

FirstMed Health and Wellness, 702-731-0909 Free telehealth appointments with licensed therapists and counselors during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bridge Counseling, 702-474-6450

ICLV Wellness Center, 702-673-4745

Community Counseling Center, 702-369-8700

Next Chapter Therapy, 702-508-5920

Pathways Therapy and Wellness Center, 702-363-7284

Never Give Up Behavioral Health, 702-951-9751 Free virtual support groups every Wednesday at 10 a.m. via Zoom.

24/7 hotlines:

Crisis Support Services of Nevada, 1-800-273-8255 or text CARE (2273) to 839863

Crisis Text Line, Text HOME (4663) to 741741

TheHopeLine, Live chat, thehopeline.com/gethelp

The job hunt

Seemingly every Nevadan has been touched in some way by the job losses stemming from the COVID-19 crisis. The state’s unemployment rate was recently reported to be 17%—the highest in Nevada history.

Whether you’re looking for a replacement gig or wondering what to say to your newly unemployed friends, this guide could help.

How to begin looking for work

Stay connected.Tap into any resources that might be available in your community, advises Eileen McGarry, the executive director of Career Services at UNLV. That could include alumni groups, professional organizations, city resources, friends, social media groups and job websites like LinkedIn, Indeed and Monster. Stay in touch with your former co-workers and colleagues. UNLV’s Career Services is offering virtual career coaching, weekly webinars and job listings for students and alumni at unlv.edu/careerservices.

Stay relevant. Employers will understand and forgive job gaps due to the global pandemic. But they will want to see that you did something enriching with your downtime, says Maggie Hausbeck, executive director of alumni engagement and career services for UNLV’s Harrah College of Hospitality. Take advantage of free online training. Learn or improve upon a new skill. This is your chance to grow. “Any skill you acquire always makes you more marketable,” Hausbeck says.

Assess the new normal. It’s possible that some job positions might never return to their pre-social distancing numbers. If you need to pivot to a new job or career, McGarry suggests taking stock of what you loved about your previous job. For example, if you worked a bartender and you miss the social interaction, consider which jobs might offer that same element.

Consider how skills might transfer. The hospitality industry has been decimated by COVID-19, but Hausbeck says the hospitality skill set applies to many other industries, such as customer service and health care.

Get started now.Even if your dream job won’t return till the lockdown ends, it’s best to start your preparations so you can hit the ground running. Start polishing that résumé, building that LinkedIn profile and honing those skills today.

Consider the essential services.While casinos and bars shutter, other industries are desperate to hire: grocery stores, Amazon warehouses, delivery services and the health care education industries, according to McGarry. These industries need employees at all levels, from entry-level to management.

Stay optimistic.Challenges make us more creative, McGarry says. And this pandemic provides an opportunity to grow and improve. “It’s not a question of if [Las Vegas] will come back,” Hausbeck says. “It’s a question of how and when it will come back.”

How to be sensitive to your newly unemployed friends

A job loss can be devastating. It’s not just a source of income that’s gone, but also a sense of identity, stability, productivity, friendship, competence and control. Add to that the uncertainty surrounding a global pandemic, and it can be a recipe for anxiety or depression. So how can you be a good friend to the newly unemployed?

“Be sensitive to what that experience might be like,” says Dr. Katherine Hertlein, a professor in UNLV’s Couple and Family Therapy Program. “There’s a natural part of us that wants to be a cheerleader, and to say things like, ‘It’s not so bad’ and, ‘You’ll get up on your feet.’” But that might not speak to the grief and loss that the person is experiencing.

Instead of assuming you understand what they’re going through, seek to create a space for the friend to confide his or her feelings and fears without judgment. Give a listening ear. Then, Hertlein suggests, offer that friend your support. Simply ask, “How can I help you?”

Support local businesses

If Gov. Steve Sisolak follows the guidelines set forth in the White House/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s phased “Opening Up America Again” plan, the Valley’s businesses will be reopened some at a time, with a predisposition toward continuing to limit the spread of COVID-19. What that means is that restaurants may reopen their dining rooms, but with greatly reduced capacity or an emphasis on outdoor seating; retail shops might only allow a handful of customers in at a time, as some food markets already do; and some kinds of businesses—it’s hard right now to say which—won’t be allowed to reopen until a vaccine is available and/or herd immunity has been achieved.

That is, obviously, a terrifying prospect for small businesses whose very model is built on physical contact and proximity—everything from salons to bars to concert venues. And due to the sluggish federal response to this catastrophe, we’re still waiting on the widespread availability of tests that could allow medical professionals to pinpoint and contain the virus, and many of those businesses have yet to secure the promised paycheck loans that could keep their doors open and their employees paid.

So, having been marginalized in the rush to save bigger businesses, your favorite restaurant, bar, salon, coffee joint, cinema or theater company might be depending on your patronage more than ever.

Supporting those businesses through this crisis comes down to one thing: money. If you have any to spare, consider checking in with your favorite businesses and see what they’re offering in their diminished condition. Are they selling merchandise? Buy it for yourself; send it to friends. Running a smaller dining room or social-distanced patio? Consider trying it out, or continue to order their takeout if you have hesitations. Have they pivoted to a different business model that’s less dependent on in-house customers, as Downtown’s ReBar did in becoming the drive-through bodega Boardwalk Liquors? Support them with weekly orders, and tip well. Are they offering gift certificates? If so, buy them. We should all proceed as if we were out there frequenting these businesses in person, showing them the loyalty that allowed them to flourish in the first place.

Las Vegas’ casinos might be what makes the city worth visiting, but our neighborhood businesses help make it worth living in. And they need our help, today. –Geoff Carter

Transitioning back to the office

The pandemic has seen a giant experiment in teleworking, with data suggesting half of the American workforce has been logging in from home. From learning to be comfortable on video conferencing platforms to maintaining a work-life balance, the learning curve for remote employees has been steep, even as they acknowledge how fortunate they are to be able to keep their jobs.

But eventually, office life will resume, and when it does, it won’t be business as usual, says industrial/organizational psychologist Dr. Timothy Golden of the Lally School of Management at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York.

“Returning to the office full-time after working from home for an extended period could present people with a stimulus-overload in terms of interpersonal interactions,” he tells the Weekly. “To prepare for this, employees should actively reach out to others while they are isolated at home, in order to maintain their relationships with those in the office. When they return, this will help ease the transition and allow employees to more easily pick up where they left off prior to the pandemic.

“While things will be different, it will have helped to know how others have fared during the isolation period, and allow employees to maintain the social bonds that are important in most workplaces.”

One positive thing to come out of this crisis is the potential for telework to reshape the American workplace—for the better. Managers have now seen in practice its potential for their businesses. “This new mindset, if brought back into the office, can help countless people lead more balanced and fulfilling lives,” Golden says. –Genevie Durano

Visiting safely with family and friends

The first phase of White House/CDC reopening road map, “Opening Up America Again,” discourages socializing in groups larger than 10 people “in circumstances that do not readily allow for appropriate physical distancing,” like trade shows and receptions. Before you’re tempted to read that as, “Groups of less than 10 can get together for group hugs and/or strip poker, got it,” know that you’ll still be in considerable danger of contracting the virus or spreading it to others, no matter how many precautions you take.

“Obviously, visiting is something that people are going to want to do as soon as possible,” says Dr. Brian Labus, of the UNLV School of Public Health. “I just don’t know that we’ve been able to think through how we’re going to be able to do all these things.”

We’re not all that close to the first phase outlined in the White House/CDC guidelines, so even masked, distanced, outdoor family gatherings aren’t something medical professionals feel confident enough to encourage.

“In Phase One, they’re talking about groups of 10 people,” says Secretary of the Clark County Medical Society Dr. Nick Fiore. “If you started today, it would take a month from now before we could actually be qualified to move into Phase Two. So, Phase One is [gatherings of] 10 people, Phase Two is 50 people—and all of those still require the basic hand washing, social distancing and wearing a mask if possible. All of those are required throughout this whole process.”

In other words, it might be still too risky to get the family or bowling team back together, especially if there are medically vulnerable individuals among them. “Obviously, if there’s physical separation between people, the risk is going to be kind of low,” Labus says. “But that’s not going to be an easy thing to do. The kids are going to want to run up and hug grandma. Those are the things that you want to avoid. I know it’s difficult, but we don’t want to put people at risk unnecessarily. If we can hold off on those kinds of things, the better off we’ll be.” –Geoff Carter

Social gatherings for kids

Experts say children are resilient when adapting to new situations, but we’ve got a long summer ahead, filled with mostly indoor time. Amusement parks, water parks, summer camps and recreation centers will most likely open later than other businesses. To ease children out of social distancing, parents are turning to closely monitored play dates.

Kathryn Palmer, mother of two kids, ages 3 and 7, owns her own PR agency and works from home. Right now, she schedules virtual play dates via Skype and Zoom, and she lets the kids play outside (with plenty of hand-washing and no hugs) with the kids next door, because she knows their family has been vigilant about social distancing. On Saturdays, they play a social distancing version of bingo in the driveway.

“Once things start to head back to whatever the new normal is, we will probably add a few regular dates back in,” Palmer says. “Both kids will only play with kids in families that we are close with, where we understand their lifestyle and exposure. It may lead to some awkward conversations, but I’m aware that some people aren’t taking small groups and social distancing seriously, and that needs to be taken into consideration.”

At least for this year, Palmer doesn’t foresee a trip to any large amusement parks, and birthday parties for both kids in the fall will be a pared-down event. “There are much worse things than limiting birthday parties,” she says. “They will probably get bigger presents from me, though.”

Parents of older kids have a bit of a head start, thanks to technology. Modern teens are notoriously indoor creatures, sometimes preferring social media interactions over in-person ones. The transition to a post-lockdown world might not be as jarring for this age group, but parents should still encourage a gradual return to socialization.

For now, support virtual hangouts like Netflix Party, Zoom board games and TikTok challenges, where they can feel connected to their peers. Then, as with younger kids, ease them back into real-life group hangouts. Concerts and going to crowded malls might not be an option for a while, but maybe they can go on a hike with a friend or two, where a six-foot distance is feasible, have a potluck picnic in the park or volunteer at a food bank while taking the necessary precautions.

With a little planning and foresight, parents can give their older children independence and still keep them safe. And as with the younger set, continue encouraging hand-washing and wearing masks in public. –Genevie Durano

Stranger danger?

Along with food and shelter, humans require social interaction to survive and thrive. Which means that one of the most insidious things about the coronavirus is the mistrust it has engendered in us toward our fellow man. Every cough or throat clearing has us on high alert, while seemingly mundane gestures like handshakes and hugs are ill-advised for the foreseeable future.

“The fear of the unknown is what’s driving most of this,” says Angela Quinn, CEO of FirstMed Health and Wellness Center, which provides comprehensive mental health services to low-income and underserved families in Southern Nevada. “Until you can take that barrier of fear away—[even if there’s] no official requirement to socially distance—the reality of it is, we aren’t going to be ourselves. It will be months, if not years.”

Although the process will be slow, our need to connect will drive us to trust and interact with neighbors and strangers again. People will start by congregating in places of worship, which offer comfort, Quinn says, or they’ll by going to see their medical providers, out of necessity. A turning point will come when schools, one of the fundamental guideposts of society, reopen.

“It’s those gatherings for the birthdays, gatherings for the weddings, families sadly gathering for the funerals—those are the things that will give people a sense of normalcy,” Quinn says. “It’s that sense of, we did this before and we’re doing it again.” –Genevie Durano

Regaining restaurant comfort

Remember real happy hour, not the virtual one on Zoom? While many restaurants around the Valley have rallied to stay in business by offering takeout and delivery options, one of the best things about dining and drinking out is the communal aspect. We break bread together, we toast each other, and it’s of the most pleasurable parts of being human.

In a post-pandemic world, how will we feel completely comfortable having a meal outside our homes again? We can assess our comfort level in theory, but those first few weeks of venturing out into the world will be a series of baby steps, says Wyndee Forest, owner of CraftHaus Brewery in Henderson and in the Arts District.

“Eventually, there has to come a time where you’re going to need to trust being out in public. We can’t keep on living in isolation till the end of time. It’s not feasible,” she says. “I think probably testing out locations—maybe I go in first, and I order to-go and see what kind of measures they’re taking and what their occupancy is. Dipping a toe in the pond first before diving in is a good way of assessing a situation.” –Genevie Durano

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