ABC7 talks to California surgeon general Nadine Burke-Harris about COVID-19's impact on children

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- On Thursday. ABC7 News sat down with California Surgeon General Nadine Burke-Harris to discuss the impact's of the pandemic on families, and how we can better care for ourselves and stay safe in the coming winter.

Burke-Harris is confident we are not heading for any sort of medical disaster should Californians continue to do their part to stop the spread of COVID-19.

"We absolutely can stop the tide, and the way that we do that is through the actions of all of us," the surgeon general said. "We're asking Californians to stay home and practice the guidelines that we know help to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 by washing hands, wearing a mask, watching our distance, and maintaining that six feet of social distance from others when we do have to go out for essential reasons."

Yet Burke-Harris warns that some of the lasting impacts of the pandemic on children, from physical and mental traumas to toxic stressors, may not be palpable until years from now.

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She says it is critical and timely that California is releasing a roadmap to address some of these challenges head-on, and working to minimize potentially negative long-term impacts of COVID-19 on families.

"Manifestations are some of the things that we kind of commonly, might intuitively recognize," Burke-Harris says, "increased risk for things like depression, or increased risk of substance use or substance dependence. But also some things that many people previously didn't associate with childhood adversity, things like increased risk for heart disease and stroke, even Alzheimer's."

The surgeon general adds that the science shows critical factors in mitigating these traumas include positive family environments and early detection of problems.

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"So one of the things that the science tells us number one is that safe, stable and nurturing relationships and environments are healing for children," Burke-Harris says. "The other thing that the science shows us is that the good news is that there are a lot of places where this work is already happening. But what we need is to make sure that we are doing not only prevention, but early detection and early intervention."

She says pandemic caretaker exhaustion is real, but people must continue to prioritize the common good in acting on these public safety measures.

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"My husband and I have four boys, and we we know what it is like to experience that fatigue," Burke-Harris says, "to know to to be running up against it, you know, how are we taking care of getting these kids out of the house, all of our routines are disrupted. But at the same time, we recognize that the reason that we follow these public health guidelines is to make sure that we have our ICU beds available, to make sure that there is a hospital bed available."

You can watch the whole interview above.

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