Staying Apart, Together: A sore throat made me grateful for my health in the time of COVID

Staying Apart, Together: A sore throat made me grateful for my health in the time of COVIDMedical masks.

Editor's Note: This is a preview of USA TODAY's newsletter Staying Apart, Together, a guide to help us all cope with a world changed by coronavirus. If you would like it in your inbox on Tuesdays and Saturdays, subscribe here.

Last week, I woke up with a sore throat.

Normally I would have popped an ibuprofen, drank tea instead of coffee, and gone about my day. But we are not in normal times, and now we are desperately wary of any symptom of an upper respiratory infection that might have previously been chalked up to a common cold. It's one more exhausting task in a world full of them.

My sore throat disappeared after one day, so I'll never know exactly what it was. But like so many of you, I felt a societal responsibility to act as if I was infectious. We ordered groceries instead of going to the store. I wore a mask to walk my dog, even though I rarely come within six feet of anyone in our sprawling apartment complex. I'm still doing it, because this is how I'd want one of my neighbors to act, if they had the same fear.

This experience, my second COVID-19 "scare" (I had a cough at the start of the pandemic that I have confidently been told by my doctor was allergy-related) reminds me how privileged and lucky I have been so far to be healthy. Quarantine has been hard, don't get me wrong, but I've been fighting my bouts of depression, boredom, loneliness without the burden of being ill. There are no guarantees that will stay the same in this coronavirus world, but it has filled me with an overwhelming sense of gratitude and relief. I'm carrying that with me as long as it gives me strength and energy.

Celebrity matchmaker Carmelia Ray recommends couples use their own wine and beer for a makeshift tasting date.

Today's dating advice

As my coworker Charlie Trepany so aptly put it: There are only so many movie nights on the couch before couples start getting bored.

"Date night" has long been upheld as a way to keep long-term relationships fresh and healthy, but what happens when getting out of the house – away from childcare responsibilities, bills, chores, sameness – becomes impossible because of a pandemic? Charlie spoke with marital experts about ways to safely spice up a relationship with dates that don't break quarantine protocol. Here are some suggestions:

Have a picnic by candlelight, in your backyard or in a public park with at least six feet from others Pose for a socially-distanced portrait. Photographers and artists can look on from over six feet away outside to capture your love.Craft your own wine and beer tasting. Use shot glasses and a sampler beer pack to create your own flight of brews without needing a bartender

See the full story here.

Working in the time of coronavirus.

Today's tips for mental health support at work

Besides sending much of the American workforce home for months, the pandemic has made many employers focus on another aspect of employee wellbeing: Mental health.

In our Ask HR column, our workplace expert Johnny C. Taylor Jr. had advice for workers who are worried about their mental health, especially if their office is reopening.

Nearly 1 in 4 employees report feeling down, depressed, or hopeless often, and 41% feel burnt out, drained, or exhausted from their work.

You’re exactly right about COVID-19 turning employers’ attention to mental health. As companies create return-to-work policies and procedures, many are now including information and resources to help meet employees’ mental health needs.

Does your company offer an Employee Assistance Program (EAP)? If you’re unsure, ask HR. Through these programs, many organizations offer mental health resources, such as counseling services, through health insurance carriers and EAPs.

As you know, depression and anxiety can make it difficult to focus on work – especially at a time when the world seems upside down. If you feel like your work will be significantly impacted, I suggest working together with your doctor and your employer to explore reasonable accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Read the full Ask HR column here. (And feel free to submit a question.)

Today's reads

Want to garden to help ease your grocery burden amid the pandemic but don't have a yard? My colleague Mary Cadden spoke to gardening experts about what edible plants you can grow indoors successfully. On a personal note, my regrown scallions have been a life-changer so far this quarantine. OK, but seriously, when will there be a vaccine? USA TODAY created a panel of scientific experts to figure it out. Been thinking of shopping? Here are the best 4th of July sales you can browse today. We spoke to Black teens across the country about what it's like to grow up in Tamir Rice's America. Read their stories here. RIP Carl Reiner. Truly one of the all-time greats.

Today's pet

You guys have the cutest pets in many different animal species. I'm very excited to show off a tortoise this week!

Says her human Carla Bowman-Smith, "This is Tortie our tortoise. She woke up after a 5 month hibernation in May. She is a 5 year old California Desert Tortoise. She is a stubborn little thing but we adore her."

A five month hibernation sounds pretty nice right now, huh?


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