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By Collin Breaux

As anxiety mounts and COVID-19 cases continue to rise, Dr. Kayla Ramsey spoke with families about the best ways they can stay safe and level-headed.

Ramsey—who works at the Hoag Medical Group location in San Clemente—shared health advice with Capistrano Unified School District (CUSD) families during a virtual town hall hosted by the district on Tuesday, Dec. 15.

The pandemic has affected kids’ mental health because they’ve been forced to change their routines and have had to miss significant life events including typical ceremonies, Ramsey said.

“They’ve had breaks in the continuity of health care,” Ramsey said. “A lot of these kids have been missing their immunizations. They haven’t been able to have access to a lot of mental health and occupational health services.”

Kids don’t always have the words to express their worries, Ramsey said. Symptoms to watch out for include increased irritability, trouble sleeping, losing interest in activities they previously enjoyed, and changes in eating habits.

Virtual learning has also presented a new world for students and families. Keeping a daily schedule is important, Ramsey said. That includes setting a time to wake up, get dressed, and have breakfast.

“Having enough breaks (is recommended)—young kids may not be able to focus with virtual learning as easily as, maybe, the older kids,” Ramsey said. “Allowing 20 minutes of class, followed by 10 minutes of physical activity and a little bit of a break (is beneficial). Older kids may be able to focus a bit longer.”

Even with the increase in virtual learning and time spent on electronic devices, Ramsey recommended not getting completely absorbed by technology.

“Limits are so important,” Ramsey said. “As always, technology should be used constructively. You shouldn’t push out sleep, family time.”

Ramsey recommended hand-washing, as have most health experts throughout the pandemic.

Ramsey also mentioned the incoming vaccine, which will initially be distributed to frontline health care workers and high-risk individuals, with availability to the general public coming later.

“A lot of places are expected to get this vaccine pretty soon,” Ramsey said. “I know some counties are already distributing it.”

Mass vaccination is expected to be available in the spring.

Ramsey and CUSD spokesperson Ryan Burris also addressed health and COVID-19 within CUSD. Burris said health experts don’t see schools as a place of transmission due to the high level of safety guidelines implemented.

CUSD students have returned to campus if families have so chosen, and they also can stick with online learning, under the district’s hybrid education model. CUSD has also started an online dashboard, tracking active COVID-19 cases in schools.

“We’re still less than—I think—.5% of the number of students and staff we have, as far as positive cases,” Burris said.

Ramsey said schools have been proactive with taking precautions, and she hasn’t seen surges specifically at schools. Ramsey said the risk of a spread can be comparatively higher at home among families, though she has seen families in which everyone contracted COVID-19 and other families taking precautions in which just one person was afflicted.

General wellness tips from Ramsey are to eat a nutritious diet, exercise, and get enough sleep.

Editor’s Note: An abridged version of this story was published in the Dec. 17 edition of the San Clemente Times.

Collin Breaux

Collin Breaux covers San Juan Capistrano and other South Orange County news as the City Editor for The Capistrano Dispatch. Before moving to California, he covered Hurricane Michael, politics and education in Panama City, Florida. He can be reached by email at                         

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