March was a pivotal month for the developments of the COVID-19 pandemic across the United States, as well as the world. We started the month finishing up exams and closely watching the news for COVID-19 updates. Before we left for spring break, some of our students had the chance to attend the Assistive Technology (AT) Expo at SC-DHEC. The AT Expo had a wide variety of vendors, each displaying their programs, services, or devices designed specifically to improve quality of life of people with disabilities. We learned about government funded support programs, the South Carolina School for the Deaf and Blind, and a nursing home which offered virtual reality experiences to advocate for those with dementia. We saw special lifts, virtual applications for children who are non-verbal, accessible vans, and even met a couple of service and therapy dogs. Overall, it was eye-opening to see how we can use various technological resources to help those in our community!
Specifically, in South Carolina, March’s COVID-19 changes resulted in many adjustments for our program faculty and students. We have converted to online-only classes, telemedicine-focused mini rotations, and a few of us have moved home to finish out the semester near family. From Iowa to New Jersey, we have found ways to stay connected with each other. We have hosted virtual case conferences, online interviews for student candidates, and fun FaceTime meetups with classmates. There have even been plans to create a puzzle swap for weekends away from schoolwork! Together, we have been making the most of social distancing with the use of our technology. Thankfully, the transition has been smooth and we are grateful for the patience and flexibility from everyone in our program!
We also celebrated World Down Syndrome Day on March 21! The day was a little different than we originally planned, but many “friends” of the program joined in by wearing fun socks at home!
Not only do Genetic Counselors help patients and families understand genetic testing, but they also provide resources for support. Utilizing our knowledge of organizations and community support, we thought to aid in this time of change by guiding our readers to some online resources. Feeling stressed out or overwhelmed is completely understandable, and we want you to know you are not alone if you are feeling this way. Listed below are some national and local organizations that have provided factual information and helpful resources. We encourage you to check these websites out if you are interested in learning more or need some help sorting through the emotions that are brought about by our current situation.
Virus Response Resources:
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers many tips on how to cope with stress brought about by COVID-19 as well as links to additional resources. They also list out symptoms and testing options, as well as how to properly clean and disinfect surfaces around your house or facility.
- Symptoms and testing: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/symptoms-testing/index.html
- Cleaning and disinfecting: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prepare/disinfecting-building-facility.html
- South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental (SC-DHEC) control has put together a webpage with information about COVID-19 and how to protect yourself and the public in addition to many useful online resources. They also give detailed updates on cases in South Carolina. Please visit the website below to learn more.
- Family Connection of South Carolina is temporarily postponing in-person events but their Family Information Center remains open for those who need information, support, or referrals.
- SC Thrive gives updates on COVID-19 relevant to South Carolina and lists out various useful resources.
- South Carolina Department of Health has put together a webpage listing out various COVID-19 resources. These include things from taking care of your mental health, to working from home, to resources for clinicians.
- For women pregnant or experiencing complications, a postponed IVF cycle, pregnancy loss, or are just anxious about being pregnant during this difficult time, the Pregnancy Brain Course, scheduled to open April 2020, may help to alleviate fear and anxiety. Also visit the @healthy.highriskpregnancy Instagram account for more support:
- Senior citizens in the Columbia area have the ability to pick up 5 meals per week from the Senior Resources Emergency Senior Nutrition Program. Pick up times and locations can be found on the following website:
- It wouldn’t hurt for all of us to set aside some time to focus on taking care of our mental health. Here are some different websites with guidance and tips on how to alleviate stress and anxiety:
- For those of you who have run out of ideas for things to do at home while social distancing, here are a few websites that have different ideas of things you can do for fun to pass the time!
It’s important that we work together as a community and as a nation to overcome and move on from these difficult times. If you want to become more involved in the community response, check out below how you can help the various organizations serving the Columbia community!
Organizations possibly needing help:
- Donate to Senior Resources to help continue the Emergency Senior Nutrition Program and other services to seniors in the local Columbia community during this pandemic.
- Food banks are still accepting food donations, although some say monetary donations may be more helpful/easier at this time. Most organizations have specific instructions on their website detailing what their specific needs are and any changes that are being made in light of COVID-19.
- Use this website to find a local food bank to donate to: https://www.feedingamerica.org/find-your-local-foodbank?mod=article_inline
- Harvest Hope Food Bank is a local food bank for the state of South Carolina. Visit this website to find out how to help out: https://www.harvesthope.org/news/responding-to-the-coronavirus
- Check out the different ways you can help families stay close to their children who are undergoing treatment through the Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Carolinas:
- Epworth Children’s Home is currently closed to visitors but is still in need of financial contributions and donations of various household items that can be found under the Urgent Needs section of their wishlist. They ask that any item donations be shipped directly to them.
- Financial contributions: https://www.epworthchildrenshome.org/support/impact/
- Wish List: https://www.epworthchildrenshome.org/support/wish-list/
- Sign up to safely participate in Red Cross’s blood donation as they face a severe shortage of blood shortages during this time:
- Healthcare workers during this time are in need of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) which includes items like N95 respirators, surgical masks, protective goggles, gloves, face shields, and wipes & disinfectants. If you have any extra supplies laying around your house that you would like to donate to a hospital or if you would like to donate money to help healthcare workers purchase PPE, visit this website here: