Coronavirus: How to protect your physical
and emotional health

On March 11 the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic. An epidemic refers to an uptick in the spread of a disease within a specific community. By contrast, the WHO defines a pandemic as a global spread of a new disease.

We know that this is not just a public health crisis, it is a crisis that will touch every sector, and I wanted to let you know that you can count on Youper.

This crisis is generating stress and anxiety, and that’s OK. After all, these feelings will help us to act and adopt measures so every one of us will be involved in the fight against the coronavirus and emerge victoriously.

As a physician, psychiatrist and CEO at Youper, I wanted to contribute with a quick summary of positive news and a list of things for helping us uplift our mood, face this crisis with the heads up and without panicking.

  1. Fight fear with facts. Stay informed by trusted sources. There are two main sources: The World Health Organization and the other is your national authority.
  2. Avoid media intoxication. The sudden and near-constant stream of news reports about an outbreak can cause anyone to feel anxious. Try to avoid watching, reading or listening to news that causes you to feel distressed, particularly several times a day. Seek information mainly to take practical steps to prepare your plans and protect yourself and your loved ones. To do that, you don’t need 24/7 updates. Seek information updates at specific times during the day once or twice.
  3. Protect yourself and support others. Assisting others in their time of need can benefit the person receiving support as well as yourself.
  4. Honor caretakers and healthcare workers supporting people affected with COVID-19 in your community. Acknowledge the role they play to save lives and keep your loved ones safe.
  5. Find opportunities to amplify positive stories and voices of people, cities, and countries who have experienced the COVID-19 and have recovered or are making progress in that direction.

I’ll use this opportunity to share some positive facts and stories.

Infection rates are heavily a function of the social distancing and similar policies that companies and governments adopt. Countries that are adopting preventive measures such as adequately informing the population (handwashing, avoiding mass events, and staying home when sick) will have the viral spreading curve flattened.

It’s expected that the number of cases in the US increases in the next weeks, and then starts going down when the protective measures are adopted, as happened in Korea (chart below).

Predictions of fatality rates depend on estimates of the number of cases in the population, which is hard to know when many people have mild or no symptoms at all. The mortality rate considering all cases, not only moderate and severe, will be likely around 0.6% similar to Korea’s average is showing.

Because the Coronavirus’ mutation rate is far lower than Influenza’s, there are substantial views that the herd immunity gained across the population this spring will prevent COVID-19 from flaring up next fall/winter.

Despite the good news, in social media times and an abundance of information, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and overreact to an outbreak like this. We know that controlling anxiety it’s easier said than done, but a good mental exercise is to ask yourself:

Am I doing what I need to protect myself, my family, my neighbors, and my work colleagues?

The answer to this question is a 6-item list created by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  1. Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place. If soap is not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  2. Avoid close contact with people who are sick (Flu or Covid-19).
  3. Stay home if you are sick, except to get medical care.
  4. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, throw used tissues in the trash and immediately wash your hands with soap and water (use a sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol, if soap is not available).
  5. Wear a facemask if you are sick. If you are NOT sick: You do not need to wear a facemask unless you are caring for someone who is sick (and they are not able to wear a facemask). Facemasks may be in short supply and they should be saved for caregivers.
  6. Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks. If surfaces are dirty, clean them with detergent or soap and water prior to disinfection.

That’s it. Reassure yourself that you’re doing what is needed and keep moving forward.

I hope this post helped you feel more empowered and optimistic. Please share with your family and friends if you believe it could do the same for them.


Dr. Jose Hamilton Vargas
Psychiatrist & CEO at Youper


  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  2. Korean Center for Disease Control
  3. World Health Organization. Mental Health Considerations during COVID-19 Outbreak.