The Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) Eastern Region assembled a panel of three experts to discuss the continuing COVID-19 pandemic during a live discussion on Facebook on Sunday, July 26. The primary topics of discussion were how to navigate re-opening and becoming comfortable with the “new normal.”
Dr. Kim Hekimian, assistant professor of nutrition at Columbia University, served as facilitator of the discussion, beginning with a presentation of statistics to set the stage for re-opening. In order to stress the importance of continuing the discussion and research around COVID-19 since it is still with us, Dr. Hekimian opened with a quote on the screen, “Everything will be ok in the end. If it’s not ok, it’s not the end.”
Infectious disease specialist Dr. Tsoline Kojaoghlanian and ophthalmologist Dr. Lawrence Najarian joined Dr. Hekimian in the presentation of scientific data and relevant studies. All three panelists provided guidance in accordance with public health experts and infectious disease agencies and offered viewers advice during the live question and answer session.
“The panel discussion presented a wonderful opportunity to listen to three professionals in an intimate setting where we heard from experts as we might on TV, the internet or social media, but were actually able to engage with them as well,” said Ken Sarajian. “To be able to hear from the likes of Dr. Najarian, the president of AAHPO and a professor at NYU, Dr. Hekimian, a public health expert at Columbia University and infectious disease expert Dr. Kojaoghlanian, was incredible. Where can any member of any community get the kind of information, advice and interaction that was provided to us?”
Dr. Hekimian presented the current status of COVID-19 in the US including testing, contract tracing and data surveillance. She also offered updates on ways of combating the virus, including wearing masks and face coverings among other topics. Dr. Hekimian also addressed the fluidity of information and evolving data about this novel coronavirus.
Many of the updates that Dr. Kojaoghlanian covered included navigating the “new normal.” She included an assessment of activities that can be categorized as high, medium and low risk and when to wear masks/face coverings. Her presentation also included an overview of avoiding the three Cs – closed spaces, crowded places and close-contact settings – all of which she explained are impacting the spread of the virus.
Other topics covered included air travel and summer vacation, as well as an update on how the virus impacts children, a particular area of expertise for Dr. Kojaoghlanian, a pediatrician specializing in infectious disease at Maimonides Children’s Hospital in Brooklyn, NY. Notably, she also reminded viewers that all communities are different and will likely navigate reopening based on their respective numbers of cases and data. The key, she mentioned, is knowing that even during re-opening, it may be necessary to “pause,” especially as communities navigate resuming the school year. Prior to ending her presentation, Dr. Kojaoghlanian reminded viewers of the importance of making sure that they and their children are up-to-date on vaccinations, well visits and visits with specialists, should they be necessary.
Building upon the information that both Dr. Hekimian and Dr. Kojaoghlanian presented, Dr. Najarian discussed the implications of the interruption of care during the pandemic. He reviewed studies which depicted a general decline in US citizens’ health during quarantine. While caring for patients with COVID-19 is important, he reminded viewers of the importance of caring for their health conditions as well.
He urged viewers to “know before you go” with regard to participating in public activities, going to the dentist, eye doctor, etc., encouraging viewers to call ahead and ask questions. He also included an overview of protocols and procedures that physicians, dental and optical offices, for example, are taking to ensure that their patients still receive the care they need to stay healthy during the pandemic.
Following their formal presentations, the panelists answered viewer-submitted questions which ranged from the safety of overseas travel, use of hand sanitizer, whether children should be signed up to participate in fall sports and coping mechanisms to reduce anxiety and depression that could result from isolation.
“Not only did they provide us with a wealth of information, but they also answered our specific questions,” said Sarajian. “Personally, they provided me, a senior citizen, with guidance I need as I prepare to go back to teaching in a public high school in New Jersey.”
“The ARF-ER COVID-19 town hall was packed with extremely helpful information about not only the spread of COVID, but it offered helpful measures on how to navigate decision-making going about our daily lives in a safe way. Dr. Kojaoghlanian provided detailed and easy to understand explanations about the level of risk involved in everyday activities, and Dr. Najarian’s insight on what to ask our care providers when we go to see doctors and dentists put my mind at ease and helped me feel like I can have more control over this virus than I thought before the town hall. I look forward to more town halls on this and other topics organized by the ARF-ER. The level of professionalism and expertise brought forth by the ARF ER is unmatched and very much appreciated,” enthused Tsoghig Hekimian.
In their closing remarks, Dr. Hekimian, Dr. Kojaoghlanian and Dr. Najarian touched on the importance of maintaining overall health and shared resources for viewers to find up-to-date information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.