University of Minnesota Alumni Association

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Up Front

Stories from around the U

The entire Alumni Association has adapted to a new “virtual workplace” and continues to produce compelling content for alumni. A recent weekly staff meeting featured crazy headgear to help keep spirits high.

COVID-19 and Curds

"Necessity is the mother of invention.” That sentiment came fully to life for cheesemaker Alise Sjostrom (B.S.’08) in March, when—in the first week of the COVID-19 quarantine—she found herself with 200 extra pounds of cheese curds. With restaurants closing, her distributor losing orders, and her Brooten, Minnesota, business, Redhead Creamery, needing cash, Sjostrom and her husband took to social media to promote same-day deliveries of those delicious curds.

“And it completely exploded,” she says. “All day we kept accumulating orders. We left at 3:30 p.m. for the Twin Cities and didn’t get home until after midnight.” On that first trip they mostly delivered directly to homes (“Boy, were we glad to have Google maps!”), but after fielding repeated requests, they quickly established a set schedule of delivery runs—weekly to the Twin Cities and monthly to places like Sioux Falls, Rochester, Fargo, and points in between.

"We had to react quickly, and we soon realized this might be the best way to keep our business going,” Sjostrom says. Although Redhead Creamery also ships its products, the deliveries proved more popular—both for the lower cost and the human touch. “It’s been a way for our customers to connect with someone when they otherwise couldn’t,” she says.

Meeting mostly in parking lots, Sjostrom and family members—including her two older children—have fulfilled dozens of orders. The first things they ran out of, she says, were comfort foods like creamy Havarti cheese and Sjostrom’s mother’s homemade apple pies.

“We’re grateful for the excitement and that it’s working so far,” says Sjostrom, who started the business at her parents’ dairy farm in 2014. “Just when a lot of people have been bored and stuck at home, it’s busy every day here.”

You can find more details at the Redhead Creamery Facebook page.

- Lynette Lamb

Professor Shares COVID-19 Care Advice

By now we’ve all been told that we should quarantine at home with milder cases of COVID-19, but what does that mean in terms of self-care? We asked Renee Crichlow, M.D., an assistant professor of family medicine and community health, to share some insight.

How should you quarantine if just one person in the family is sick?

If you get sick, decrease your interaction with others in the home. The best option: stay in your own room and bath and wear face masks when interacting with others. Shared areas of the home should be cleaned and disinfected regularly. If you live in a smaller space, stay out of shared areas until you have been fever-free (without medicine) for more than 72 hours.

Should well family members leave the home?

No, because it could spread the virus beyond the family unit. If one family member becomes ill, consider all members infected and act accordingly: do not engage with people outside the household for at least 7 to 10 days after symptoms have resolved.

Should COVID-19 sufferers use cold and cough medicines?

Mild to moderate COVID-19 can be treated at home with over-the-counter cough and cold medicines. Current recommendations suggest using acetaminophen (Tylenol) rather than ibuprofen (Advil) for treating COVID-19 fevers.

When should I go to the hospital?

Only if you have signs of serious illness such as trouble breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, confusion and an inability to arouse, or bluish lips or face.

How safe are we here in Minnesota?

Minnesota has one of the finest healthcare systems in the country. If we all follow recommendations for social distancing and appropriate care, we can decrease the rate of virus spread and increase the ability of medical professionals to help those most in need. Social distancing will save lives.

Online resources

For the most recent CDC information on COVID-19, including an online “Self Checker” tool and tips for what to do if you or someone you care for is sick, go to cdc.gov/coronavirus.

Advice for Managing in Troubled Times

Photo Credit: Jayme Halbritter

When workplaces and schools started closing in early spring and people were asked to work and learn from home, many families found themselves caught off guard. Accustomed to lives in which family members spent their days headed in different directions, suddenly it was as if everyone was living through a blizzard that wouldn’t end. And all that togetherness isn’t easy.

Luckily, the University of Minnesota has experts, such as Family Social Science Professor William Doherty, who by midMarch was already giving talks on this very subject. Following are a few of his recommendations for coping, both during quarantine and otherwise.

Create a routine. Families, especially kids, need predictability. Go to bed and get up at the same times each day, schedule periods for work, school, meals, relaxation, and family fun.

Reassure children. It’s important to let younger kids know that they aren’t likely to become sick, and if they do, it probably won’t be any worse than colds and flus they’ve had in the past. Reassure them that their parents will be okay. As for older kids, find out what information they have and correct any inaccuracies. Don’t soft-pedal the risks, but don’t be an alarmist either. Remind them that you’re taking all recommended safety precautions.

Set goals. Read that novel you’ve always meant to tackle, listen to podcasts, organize your photos or your spices. Write down your goals and check them off.

Connect with family and friends. Stay in touch—especially with elders—through phone calls, or video links through FaceTime and Zoom. Pay special attention to those who live alone and are thus more isolated.

Limit news consumption. Check in with the latest news once a day and then stop.

Use both buffering and active coping methods. Buffering coping methods, says Doherty, involve actions such as limiting news, eating well, sleeping enough, meditating, etc., whereas active coping methods involve things like helping a vulnerable neighbor with shopping, contributing money to food shelves, and supporting local restaurants. During this stressful time, says Doherty, “Both kinds of coping are important.”

- Lynette Lamb

Coping with Missed Milestones

Prom. High school graduation. Semester abroad. College graduation. First career jobs. For teenagers and young adults, the COVID-19 crisis has meant the loss of many milestones.

We talked to Pauline Boss, an emeritus professor in the Department of Family Social Science, who first coined the concept of ambiguous loss, which she explores in her book, Ambiguous Loss: Learning to Live with Unresolved Grief (Harvard University Press). She shared ways parents and caregivers can help young people process their feelings during this complicated time.

Be honest, but reassuring. Give explanations that provide validation for their feelings and reassurance that we will get through this together. She recommends statements such like “It will get better, but not right away,” and “If someone in our family gets sick, we will figure it out and manage it.”

Do something. Boss recommends taking on projects or activities that accomplish something, whether that’s cleaning a room, walking the dog, reading a book, going for a daily jog, or texting a grandparent every day, just to check in.

Take care of yourself. “We can say we are afraid, but we should also share how we are coping and taking care of ourselves,” says Boss. Model good self-care for your kids by doing activities that lift your spirits during these confusing times, whether it’s a living room workout, Zoom party with close friends, or a bout of baking.

Revere resilience. “Kids are stronger than parents think,” says Boss. This can be a time for kids to step up and discover how adaptive they are and how they can cope in an uncertain time full of real stresses. “Resilience means you are stronger than you were before,” says Boss. “Our young people will be proud that they survived this and have grown from it.”

- Elizabeth Foy Larsen

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