Answering Your Coronavirus Questions: Virus Data, Pandemic Cooking And Mental Health On this broadcast of The National Conversation, we hear from black business owners on how they're doing. We'll also answer your questions about data modeling, mental health and home cooking.

Answering Your Coronavirus Questions: Virus Data, Pandemic Cooking And Mental Health

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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

This is THE NATIONAL CONVERSATION WITH ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michel Martin. And we're here once again to answer your questions.

TARYN: This is Taryn (ph) in Falls Church City, Va.

LENA: My name is Lena (ph) from Washington, D.C.

RAY: This is Ray (ph).

ELLIE: Ellie (ph). I'm calling from Cleveland, Ohio. And my question is...

JIM: Until we have better testing, how can medical professionals say that a majority of the population has not been exposed?

CINDY: How many of us are walking around with COVID-19 without knowing it?

TARYN: I also have a cooking question for my girl Samin Nosrat.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: This one is for Samin.

TARYN: As plant-based alternatives become more popular, what do you see for the future of sustainable cooking and eating?

RAY: So do you have any tips? Thank you.

MARTIN: NPR journalists and outside experts are on hand to offer solid facts, to tell you what we know and to correct some of the misinformation that's floating around. And when we don't know something, we'll tell you that, too. Please send us your questions about the pandemic and the way we live now at npr.org/nationalconversation. On Twitter, you can use the hashtag #nprconversation. But every night, we begin by answering the question, what happened today? President Trump reversed course and said the White House Coronavirus Task Force would continue indefinitely. Yesterday, the administration said the task force would wind down around Memorial Day.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I had no idea how popular the task force is until, actually, yesterday. When I started talking about winding it down, I'd get calls from very respected people.

MARTIN: New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez told NPR why Democrats are pushing for cities and states to get money in the next relief bill.

ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ: We're talking about municipalities that could be in as severe as an issue where they will be laying off first responders and uniformed officials, and this is extremely dangerous.

MARTIN: New research from the think tank the Brookings Institution says one in five children in this country does not have enough to eat. This dramatic rise was captured by their ongoing COVID Impact Survey.

Massachusetts is the latest state to insist on face coverings in public. Anyone without a mask could face a $300 fine.

As states push to reopen, Dr. Ali Khan, the former director of Public Health Preparedness and Response at the CDC, said there are still many people susceptible to the coronavirus in the U.S.

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ALI KHAN: There's this concern about a second wave of seeing additional spikes in cases, especially in large metropolitan areas that were spared - relatively spared during the first fight in the United States.

MARTIN: As we mentioned earlier, we're here to provide solid facts and correct misinformation. And you've sent us many questions about the data behind the pandemic and the confusing statements you've heard about COVID-19. So to help us get some clear answers, we've invited tonight Dr. Michael Saag. He is associate dean for global health and the director of the Center for AIDS Research at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Dr. Saag, welcome. Thanks so much for joining us.

MICHAEL SAAG: Well, thanks for having me.

MARTIN: And before we begin, I wanted to say that you not only study the pandemic. Do I have it right that you are also a COVID-19 survivor?

SAAG: I am. I had it in early March, and it was 14 days of misery, but it's behind me now.

MARTIN: OK. Well, we're very glad that you're doing well. Thanks for joining us. So our first question is about the number of cases and recoveries from Ernest (ph) in Monterey, Calif.

ERNEST: The United States has over 1.2 million cases of COVID-19 as of yesterday, but the number of total recoveries is just over 200,000, which is a very low percentage compared to other countries. Are the numbers correct?

MARTIN: Dr. Saag, you heard that. Is there a low percentage of recoveries? And are these numbers correct?

SAAG: Well, the 1.2 million is correct. And maybe the way to think about recovery is to just kind of take that number and subtract the number of known deaths and you kind of get a sense. So there's about 71,000 deaths in the United States, unfortunately. And so if you do the math that way, then there's probably about 1 to 1.1 million people who are in the process of recovery or have already recovered.

MARTIN: And what's your sense of whether this is - how this compares to other countries where we do know the facts? Thoughts about that?

SAAG: Well, it is similar in the sense that - maybe I misunderstood the question. But what's different between the U.S. right now and a lot of other countries in the world is that we have many, many more cases that have been reported and we are experiencing a much higher number. And we've also experienced a lot more deaths. The concept of total recovered, I suppose, is a statistic that basically is looking at people who have had the disease, like me, and has fully recovered. And I'm not sure where that number of 200,000 came from, to be honest. I would just look at it in terms of those who didn't die.

MARTIN: OK. Good, good. That's a good thought. All right. Cindy (ph) in Bucks County, Pa., has a question about the rate of infection.

CINDY: I would like to understand how many of us are walking around with COVID-19 without knowing it. Do we have any new numbers regarding that?

MARTIN: Dr. Saag?

SAAG: I would like to know that as well. The way that we're going to find out is by increasing the testing. And you've heard this over and over again. We don't have enough tests. We need to test more. And that's actually true. The way that we can find this out is two ways. One, keep tracking the people that have symptoms. Test them immediately. Find out who they were immediately in contact with, especially in the 24- to 48-hour period before they got sick, because we've learned that a lot of the transmission occurs in that 24-hour period before symptoms develop. A lot of folks are becoming infected, and the only way we're going to know that is to test them.

And then, finally, you hear a lot about the antibody test, and that's a way that we can find people that were infected, cleared it, sometimes even without symptoms. And the antibody will be positive, and that would tell you that they'd been infected in the past. We don't know the exact number of those who have been infected and remained as we call it asymptomatic or without symptoms, but we need to look into that very carefully. Right now, the estimate is around 25% of those who have been infected. So that means the symptomatic are really where that 1.2 million are coming from. So there's probably another 25% who have been infected we don't know about.

MARTIN: Jim (ph) from Cincinnati, Ohio, has a related question. Here it is.

JIM: Until we have better testing, how can medical professionals say that a majority of the population has not been exposed? I understand the necessity to operate with that assumption under the guise of safety, but when will we get some actual data to make better-informed decisions?

MARTIN: Dr. Saag, I might - can I parse this a bit and say, are medical professionals saying that a majority of the population hasn't been exposed? Is that a - is that an accurate assumption?

SAAG: Yeah. I think what we're saying is what I had sort of just alluded to that there - we don't know how many people have been exposed, right? That's the number of people who might have been around someone and they didn't know it and the person they were around was infected. What I think we're talking about here are people who have been exposed and infected and maybe didn't develop symptoms, as we were just talking about. And that is a critical thing to understand because that will tell us what our level of the population - what our level of immunity might be. And as that number gets higher, then we can start thinking about the concept of what's called herd immunity. The problem is it's going to require about 60% to 70% of the entire population to have been exposed and infected and recovered for that herd immunity to happen. Obviously, we don't want to experience that number of people in the United States becoming infected, and that's where the hope of a vaccine may come into play.

MARTIN: Here's a question from Bertrand, Neb., that speaks to some of the difficulties that you've been alluding to here. This is a question from Sarah (ph), and here it is.

SARAH #1: It is my understanding that in my rural area, when a person has been diagnosed with COVID-19 and members of their household develop symptoms, they are considered to have the disease and are treated as such but that their case is not reported to our local health department. I believe this is leading to a vast underreporting of cases. Does it matter if we know how many cases?

MARTIN: To Sarah's point, why - could you amplify why does it really matter?

SAAG: Oh, it matters a lot. We need to know every person who's been infected for many reasons. First, we'd need to know the actual number, as I alluded to earlier. It's important for us to have a handle not only on the number of people in terms of immunity, but we also need to follow the trajectory of new cases in the United States, especially as we start retracting the stay-at-home orders and trying to get closer to a normal life as it used to be. So we need to know every case.

This also underscores how we need to have standardized approaches to counting cases. Leaving it state by state - and I'm assuming that the story from Nebraska is accurately portrayed here, but Sarah is correct. We need to count every single person. Especially if they've been in a household and have become infected, they need to count as a case.

MARTIN: And I think we have time to squeeze in one more, and this is from Eric (ph) in Middleton, Wis., who wants to know about the metric that would determine reopening.

ERIC: In the shelter-in-place policy, the CDC's Opening Up America Again plan requires a downward trajectory of COVID-19 cases as a prerequisite. Is there a single metric that analyzes this and determines when a population is ready to move from the shelter-in-place protocol to the more standard infectious disease contact trace protocol?

MARTIN: Dr. Saag?

SAAG: Eric, I'm so glad you asked that question, and it is a good one to end on. This is the key point as we start talking about opening up again. The White House had set forward a criteria that we have at least 14 days of consistent downward trajectory in the total number of new cases in the state. So back to Sarah's point, we want - we need to know every case so we can make an assessment. But even as we see that downward trajectory, we need to follow the cases carefully, gently remove some of the restrictions and then monitor like a watchdog whether this is coming back up. And if we see it going up, we need to reengage and protect the public with the restrictions again.

MARTIN: That's Dr. Michael Saag. He's an associate dean for global health and the director of the Center for AIDS Research at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Dr. Saag, thanks so much for sharing your expertise with us. And we hope you'll stay with us on THE NATIONAL CONVERSATION WITH ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

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MARTIN: This is THE NATIONAL CONVERSATION WITH ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michel Martin.

By now, you've probably heard that African Americans are more likely than other groups to be experiencing negative impacts from the effects of COVID-19. But what you might not have heard is that the same thing seems to be true of African American-owned businesses. According to the Center for Responsible Lending, 95% of black-owned businesses stood little chance of participating in the first round of the Paycheck Protection Program. That was the most significant pot of money Congress offered to small businesses in the CARES Act. So we've turned to an expert to answer questions about how black-owned businesses can survive this economic downturn. Eugene Cornelius is senior director for the Center for Regional Economics at the Milken Institute. Mr. Cornelius, welcome. Thanks so much for joining us.

EUGENE CORNELIUS: Oh, thank you. Thanks for having me.

MARTIN: And we have a couple of black business owners with us as well. Amaya Smith launched the Brown Beauty Co-op in Washington, D.C., nearly two years ago with her business partner Kimberly Smith. Amaya, welcome.

AMAYA SMITH: Hi, Michel. How are you?

MARTIN: Good. And Sage Ali is one of the owners of Ben's Chili Bowl. That is a Washington, D.C., landmark started by Sage's parents some 61 years ago. Sage Ali, welcome to you as well.

SAGE ALI: Thank you, Michel. Happy to be here.

MARTIN: So, Amaya, I'm going to start with you. First of all, just tell us a teeny bit about the business. What was the idea behind it?

SMITH: Sure. So the Brown Beauty Co-op is a co-op. It is retail boutique focusing on makeup, skin care and hair care products for women of color. And a majority of our makers - our product makers are women and people of color. And so we really wanted to create a safe space where women of color can be affirmed and find products that are just for them, especially in a beauty industry that often marginalizes us.

MARTIN: And so you have a downtown location in sort of a desirable area with, I guess, a lot of walking traffic, a lot of people and offices around it. So what's happened since the pandemic began and the mayor of Washington, D.C., like, you know, mayors across the country, closed businesses deemed nonessential? What's happened?

SMITH: Yeah, so we're in Dupont Circle, the heart of downtown. And we had a lot of great foot traffic. We were a year and a half into business, so just starting to grow. And we actually started closing a little bit before the city closed down because I think a lot of businesses and other workplace organizations had closed maybe a couple weeks before that. People had went to work from home. So we saw an immediate decrease in foot traffic probably early March, maybe second week in March, and had to close and tried to come up with some creative ways to pivot and really change our business model, but by the third week, you know, doors were closed. And, you know, we really had to rethink sort of the whole experiential model of people coming in store when we were now closed.

MARTIN: So do you have a question for Eugene Cornelius? Is there something you think he might be able to help you with?

SMITH: Yeah. I think it was important that you highlighted the disparities when you opened and would love to hear from Eugene. Sort of outside the Paycheck Protection, what other opportunities are there for black small businesses who often don't have enough employees to qualify or, you know, didn't have access to capital before this?

CORNELIUS: Well, believe it or not, there are other programs, and other programs even under the stimulus program, that you could qualify for. If you have a reduction in operations, such as revenue coming in from cancellation of customers, that's a loss, and there is the SBA disaster - Injury Disaster Loan that you would be qualified for. That's a 10-year loan for up to $2 million at a 4% interest that you can go for.

There's also the Federal Reserve's Main Street Lending Program that most people aren't talking about. The federal Treasury - the Federal Reserve has put in over $3 trillion in liquidity into the stimulus package. And if you've been in business and you're - you are a U.S. citizen, you can go for these loans under the program. And, therefore, anyone that's been in business before March 13 of 2020 and have less than 15,000 employees, so someone like yourself can go for these. These are four-year maturity duration loans, and they have a one-year deferment on principal and interest during this period, so you may want to look into that. That is a good loan for you.

It - another loan for you then is available through D.C. and other local community developments, and it is the Microloan program - if you don't need much cash. They go up to $50,000 in direct cash that can be a cash flow through this process.

MARTIN: If you have a question for Eugene Cornelius, you can send it to us at npr.org/nationalconversation or share it on social media using the hashtag #nprconversation. Let's turn to Sage Ali. I mean, Sage, I mean, look; if people have been to Washington, D.C., then they surely have been to Ben's Chili Bowl. You know, it's just - I don't even know what else to say about it. But restaurants everywhere are hurting. What's been the effect on your business?

ALI: Aw, thanks, Michel. You know, like Amaya, I would say that we had a very similar experience in terms of timing, you know, meaning, you know, early March, things started to shift for us, and by the second week or so, it was really dramatic. You know, spring is our busiest season, and it's suddenly just dropped to - I - we ended up having to close a number of locations. We have a total of nine locations, and that includes franchises, et cetera. But the family owned three Chili Bowls and Ben's Next Door, and we only now have Ben's Chili Bowl at U Street. The original location is still open. Everything else is shut down completely. And at Ben's U Street, we were devastated, and we dropped over 80% in terms of our revenue.

MARTIN: Now, I understand that you've been able to get some money from the CARES Act, but I've been reading where a number of businesses have gotten the money but they're afraid to spend it. So do you have any questions for Mr. Cornelius about how to spend that money or about the CARES Act in general? Is there something he can help you with?

ALI: Yeah, there's one concern that we have. You know, so we have finally been approved for our PPP loan, and the money should be coming very soon. So what we're wondering at this point is we have a number of employees - and we've always treated our people like family and we still feel very close to everyone. And many of our employees are at home, and some have, you know, parents that they live with. Some have young children, et cetera. And so they're nervous. You know, we still are on lockdown, technically. We're still on the stay-at-home orders. And, you know, how do we bring people back or how do we address a situation like that in which we want them to come back, the business needs them to come back, the loan seems to be dependent upon that, but we don't want people to be uncomfortable? We certainly don't want them to be unsafe.

MARTIN: Mr. Cornelius, what about that, as quickly as you can? I think a lot of people have that question.

CORNELIUS: You have to understand the makeup of the loan. The makeup of the loan is for you to keep people employed. Now, it does not say they have to be at work and they have to be at the duty station. Nowhere does it say that they have to be punching the clock at 8 o'clock - eight hours. If they are at home and you keep them employed because you know you don't want your business interrupted and you want your recovery to be smooth and you have the human capital and talent you need to do it - to reopen when you reopen, as long as you continue to pay their salaries, that is a part of that forgivable loan. So you are not in violation if they stay at home.

MARTIN: Well, thanks to all of our guests. We'll keep in touch. Eugene Cornelius is senior director for the Milken Institute - at the Milken Institute Center for Regional Economics. Amaya Smith co-owns the Brown Beauty Co-op in Washington, D.C. And Sage Ali is one of the owners of Ben's Chili Bowl, also in Washington. Thanks, all, so much for being here. And this is THE NATIONAL CONVERSATION WITH ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

This is THE NATIONAL CONVERSATION WITH ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michel Martin.

It's been about two months since most people across the country started spending the vast majority of their time at home and eating most, if not all, their meals at home. And that comes with the new challenge of cooking every single meal. And whether that's for one person or two or for a big family or crowd of roommates, many of us are looking for inspiration in the kitchen and at the dining table. Well, we are lucky because with us now to answer your questions is chef and author of "Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat" and host of the Netflix series by the same name, Samin Nosrat. Chef, welcome. Thank you so much for joining us.

SAMIN NOSRAT: Hi. Hi, Michel. Thanks so much for having me.

MARTIN: Well, you just wrapped up a mini podcast series called "Home Cooking" to answer people's questions during this pandemic. What kinds of questions have you been getting?

NOSRAT: Well, because I started the promotion of the show with beans, we got a lot of bean questions.

(LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: Lots of beans.

NOSRAT: And - but, you know, we've gotten all sorts of things from all sorts of different people all over the world. It's been really amazing. Some of the most touching are from someone who had the coronavirus and now has lost her sense of smell, so she wanted to know what she could cook to sort of make things exciting for her. And we also had some relief workers who wanted to know what to bring for lunch that wouldn't go bad, you know, without a refrigerator. So there's been all sorts of good stuff.

MARTIN: Well, you know, I know that many people, myself included - who am I kidding? - wanted to join in with your idea to have, like, a big lasagna dinner this past weekend. Mine turned out delicious, just letting you know.

NOSRAT: I heard you made one.

MARTIN: Yes, I did. But...

NOSRAT: I'm so excited.

MARTIN: But one of the ideas here was that, you know, not being able to share a meal or cook with others is a big loss for a lot of people. And we have Debs (ph) from Seattle on the line to talk a little bit about that. Hi, Debs. Debs, you there?

DEBS: How are you doing?

MARTIN: Good. You there?

DEBS: Yes, I'm here. Can you - yes. Can you hear me?

MARTIN: Yeah.

DEBS: Great.

MARTIN: So tell us about your experience at home and in the kitchen during this time.

DEBS: Sure. So I live alone, and my experience has been mixed. You know, I love to cook. I love to share food. Food is a way of showing love for me. It's like it's that intersection of connection and culture and health and everything. And so, you know, like anything special, eating something that's really nice feels kind of more real when the experience is shared. So normally I'll, like, save a special ingredient for when maybe somebody's going to come over. And obviously, it's different now.

So some days, I make really nice things for myself, like yesterday was actually my birthday, and I made this super gorgeous meal with local foods, some cool foraged ingredients I'd found. A friend dropped off this beautiful cake. And some days, it's more like just getting myself fed or I have less of an appetite. I'm being more frugal. I hosted a Zoom Passover Seder this year, which was lovely, but, like, it was missing the part where I feed everyone this great meal. And I actually thought about doing - I thought about doing the lasagna project, but, you know, then I'd have this giant lasagna, and I'm one person, and I thought it might be sad.

(LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: Well, first of all, let us say - first of all, we must say happy birthday.

NOSRAT: Happy birthday, for sure.

DEBS: Thank you.

MARTIN: And your present is I'm not going to sing to you, so - because, you know, you don't want that. But do you have a question for Chef?

DEBS: Yeah, I do. So I'm a huge appreciator of everything that you do. So right now, even beyond sharing food, so much of the conversation and guidelines right now assume people live with other people. And that can, like, leave those folks who live alone feeling a little invisible. So for those of us who live alone and love the connected experience of sharing special food, what advice in general can you give us to make this easier?

NOSRAT: Yeah, I live alone, so I fully feel you. I have been doing a lot of sharing with my neighbors at a distance (laughter). So I had some milk that was going bad last week, so I made, like, a huge double batch of chocolate and tapioca puddings, and I just put it out. And I sent a little message to everyone, and I said, bring your own bowl and spoon (laughter). And I just put the pudding out, and then everybody came and took pudding and went back to their houses.

But a big part of it for me is like what you're saying, is the act of sharing is so fulfilling and gratifying. And not being able to do that in my house has been really sad. So I think part of it is just honoring that sadness. And another part is just looking for people to feed. I mean, in my neighborhood, we have a, like, a doc of - like, a shared document of people who need people to do shopping for them, or they can't leave their house and they need, you know, food dropped off. So that's been also a little bit fulfilling is to share food with people who can really use it.

DEBS: Awesome.

MARTIN: So, Debs, thanks so much for joining us. And happy birthday once again.

NOSRAT: Yeah, big happy birthday.

DEBS: Thank you. And thanks for your answer.

MARTIN: You know, there's a related question, Chef, and this is from Sarah (ph) in Los Angeles. And here it is.

SARAH #2: I was wondering if Samin had any good ideas for cooking for one that doesn't include batch cooking.

NOSRAT: Oh, yeah. Story of my life (laughter) because I do the same thing, where...

MARTIN: Well, please. That's so like teenagers, who like it - I shouldn't talk about people, but who like it yesterday, but then today, it's like, ew, no. So, please.

NOSRAT: I know. Well, that's my whole thing is, too, if I make a batch of it, then I have to eat it for 22 meals in a row. Like, so I think (laughter) I'm learning a new thing, too, you know, here.

So one thing that is sort of a - it's a little half-hybrid answer - is to make batches of stuff that are not seasoned in any direction, so, like, for example, to cook a pot of chickpeas and turn some of it into hummus and then another part of it can become, like, Italian chickpea and pasta soup. So you can have multiple flavors with a single ingredient. That's been helpful for me.

But also, I think just learning to make simpler stuff, you know, and can realize that egg on toast can be dinner. I made a really yummy - like, one of the first things I made that was really nice was I made these scrambled eggs that I grated a whole bunch of cheese into and ate them on toast with a pile of boiled asparagus. And I just had it that one meal, and it was gone. So I think - I wish I had some tidy answer for you, but I think it's just about using a fresh vegetable and maybe an egg and sort of scaling down what your dinner - what your idea of dinner is.

MARTIN: Well, here's a related question. This is from Andrea (ph) in Pomona, Calif.

ANDREA: How do I prepare healthier meals for my family after making comfort foods for so long? These are things that have cheese and cream cheese and condensed soups. I would like to know how to make healthier meals that don't break the bank.

NOSRAT: Oh, yeah. That's a great question. I mean, I think for a lot of us, getting our hands on fresh vegetables is really difficult. Luckily, you're in California, where there are so many farms, so you can sign up for a community-supported agriculture box, a CSA. I actually just did that today 'cause I was, like, sick of just having, you know, one head of lettuce every 10 days or whatever.

But another thing that I did right at the beginning was I bought many different kinds of frozen vegetables, and even canned vegetables, but frozen more. Like, I got broccoli. I got - at Trader Joe's, I got artichokes, you know, peas. I have so many frozen peas. And that way, I can work some vegetables into whatever I cook, which is always sort of my goal - is to make sure every meal has, you know, at least half a vegetable. So I do eat still a lot of pasta and a lot of rice-based stuff. I just bulk it up with vegetables. So I feel you on the comfort food. I'm like, if I eat one more piece of cheese I'm going to turn into a wheel of cheese, so, yeah.

(LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: Yes. Well, we need - Chef, we need to take a short break. And you're going to stay with us for a few more minutes, I understand. So we do hope that you will stay with us on THE NATIONAL CONVERSATION WITH ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. Please stay with us. More with Chef Samin Nosrat, talking about all things food.

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MARTIN: This is THE NATIONAL CONVERSATION WITH ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm still here with Samin Nosrat, and we're talking about all things food and cooking during the pandemic. I want to go to a question we didn't have time to get to before the break. This is from Ellie in Cleveland, Ohio. And I think this is a question I'm sure you're getting a lot, which is searching in the pantry for something new. Here it is.

ELLIE: Where do you go for food inspiration, especially right now when food is feeling pretty repetitive and a lot of people are in cooking ruts?

NOSRAT: Oh, man, do I feel you.

(LAUGHTER)

NOSRAT: I'm, like, trolling the dregs of my cookbooks. I have to say, I have quite a cookbook collection, and there's so many books I've never opened, so I'm going through those. But I think for me, what I like to think about - for example, because we did this lasagna project, I was making so much lasagna. My initial sort of comfort direction was very Italian-ish, like meatballs and pasta and pizza. And I realized I was so sick of my own - that taste of, like, my own cooking. And what I really missed was being able to just go get Korean food or Chinese food or Thai food. So I pulled down books from, you know, those different cultures. Maangchi is this amazing YouTube star and cookbook author, and she just has the greatest Korean recipes. And so I've been making a lot of, like, kimchi fried rice and kimchi pancakes just to get into a different corner of the world. So I think if you're craving, you know, Mexican food, look for a Mexican author. And you don't even need the books now. We just have so much resources online. But I think the thing is just get out of your zone. Get out of your zone, 'cause that's the beauty of this country is there's so much beautiful cooking from all over the world. So when we're forced back into our homes and just doing what we're used to, we're really missing out.

MARTIN: Our next question is - this is going to be something that, you know, sadly is all too familiar for some people but is really new for others in this country, and that's not being able to find something that you want. And we're just setting aside the question here, you know, losing income and not being able to afford some things that you want, and some places you just can't find it. This is from Amy (ph) in Chicago.

AMY: So I've been out of basics like all-purpose flour and yeast for weeks now and haven't really had any luck finding either at the grocery store. Do you have any good suggestions on how to make a recipe work even when you're short on some of the ingredients?

MARTIN: What do you think, Chef?

NOSRAT: I think the - yeah, so I feel you on that. I mean, it's really - I feel like we're in some other time or some other place, going to the store and seeing all those empty shelves. So I feel you. And I definitely feel what it's like for people, you know, who just feel limited by money, too. And the thing about substitutions is you have to think about the role an ingredient plays in a dish. And so you can't just substitute, like, whole wheat flour for cake flour. You won't get a great result (laughter). I mean, you might still eat the cake, but it probably won't be what you were hoping for. So instead, I think, if you do have, say, whole wheat flour but not all-purpose, then I would search for a recipe that uses that ingredient, that was developed for that ingredient. And a great place to look for those recipes is on the package. Usually on the package of alternative flours there's recipes, you know, that were developed and tested using that very flour. And they're kind of - they're formulated to turn out well.

MARTIN: Well, you know what? I feel confident saying that, Chef, you're our comfort food right now (laughter). So thank you...

NOSRAT: Oh, thank you.

MARTIN: ...For cheering us up and making us - making that lemonade when we have the lemons, so.

NOSRAT: (Laughter) I'm so happy, too. Thank you for having me.

MARTIN: That's Samin Nosrat, chef, author and host of "Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat" and host of the podcast "Home Cooking." Thank you so much.

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MARTIN: This is THE NATIONAL CONVERSATION WITH ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

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MARTIN: This is THE NATIONAL CONVERSATION WITH ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michel Martin.

More than a million people in the U.S. have gotten sick with the coronavirus, and all of our lives have changed in some way. Thirty million people have lost their jobs so far. This is during a time when we're trying to socially distance, and many Americans can't go about their regular routines. And all of these things are having enormous effects on mental health in this country. Many of you have called in and written to us about your own struggles, which is why tonight we're hearing from Dr. Amelia Aldao, a clinical psychologist in New York City who specializes in treatment for anxiety. Dr. Aldao, thanks so much for joining us.

AMELIA ALDAO: Yeah, thank you so much for having me.

MARTIN: So I'd like to just start by asking you about your own job during this time, if you don't mind my asking. I imagine things are different for you. How are you practicing in this period? How are you able to do what you do?

ALDAO: Yeah, that's a fantastic question. So I'm a clinical psychologist in - I specialize in anxiety. So more than ever right now, I am, you know, particularly working with clients who are experiencing all kinds of anxiety about the COVID epidemic. And, you know, in some cases, it's people who are particularly anxious about contracting the virus and contracting the disease or giving it to others or having family members getting sick, and in some cases, it's anxiety about other things going on right now - you know, things like losing jobs or the economy and so on and so forth. So, you know, it's very different than other times because in some ways, everybody is talking about COVID. It's a stressor that is affecting all of us, but it is affecting all of us in many different ways. So in some ways, it's not so different as my, you know, usual time as a therapist when all of my clients tend to have different issues.

MARTIN: So let's get to some listener questions now 'cause I'm guessing many of them are going to be familiar to you, at least in terms of the issues that people are bringing here. And anybody who's working remotely now is probably spending more time on video calls, and there's a question that we got about that from Lena in Washington, D.C.

LENA: I actually find FaceTimes and Zooms and all these video conferencing social situations very draining and incredibly depressing. So my question is, how can I keep my relationships with my loved ones without compromising my sanity in a group Zoom call?

MARTIN: I bet this is - I'm sure you've heard this. So, Dr. Aldao, what do you say?

ALDAO: Yeah, there's a couple of things. So there are two things to do. One thing is to change up the channel of communication. So not everything needs to be a video call and Zoom. You know, sometimes it can be just as good, just as effective to talk on the phone or to text or to interact via social media. So changing up the channel, sort of finding alternatives to being in front of the screen all the time, that can be really helpful.

And the second thing, too, is about changing the content of our communications. Obviously, everything that is going on is very much front of mind. And what happens is that we end up having a lot of conversations with a lot of people in our lives about the same stressful topics, and that also drains us emotionally. So I usually tell people to try to do other activities. You know, maybe you can watch a movie together and talk about it on the phone. Or you can read a book together and talk about it every week. Or do different activities that sort of take your mind away from everything that's going on right now.

MARTIN: Oh. OK, that's great. Here's something I imagine that other - a lot of people are struggling with, which is, you know, looking toward the future with optimism. And this is a question from Bern (ph) in New Jersey.

BERN: Something that I usually do in my pre-COVID life is I try to build things into my week or into my month that I'm looking forward to. But I've been finding it really difficult during the quarantine to have things to look forward to since so much is up in the air. So I'm looking for advice on how I can build things into my life that make me look forward to the future.

MARTIN: What do you say, Doctor?

ALDAO: Yeah, so I think - the way that I like to think about this is an issue of time frame. And right now for many of us here in the U.S., you know, what appears to be the most anxiety-provoking time is when we think of the summer. You know, what is June going to look like? What is July going to look like? Am I going to be able to go to that wedding? Am I going to be able to take that trip? Is my city going to be open? Is it going to not be open? You know, is there going to be a second wave, and so on and so forth?

So what I've been telling people to focus on is two different time frames. The first one is the very immediate future. Now let's focus on what you can do literally tonight, tomorrow, the weekend. What are things that you can do to relax, to decompress, to have fun, to connect with people literally over the next few days?

And then the second thing is to actually think in much longer perspective and think of what are you going to do next year or the year after. What are some of your long-term goals that you have personally, professionally and pretty much in any other domain of your life? Because I think that by sort of changing - you know, anxiety is when you're all in (ph) the future. And the more we're focusing on the next few months, the more uncertainty there is about the future, the more anxious we get, the more difficult it is to engage in our lives and find pleasure in things. So again, either focus on today or focus in the very, very far future.

MARTIN: Here's a question I'm eager to hear you about because it's about parenting. I mean, this is something a lot of parents are concerned about, but I'm guessing some adults are as well. So let's listen. This is Marie (ph), who lives in Southern California. And she's the mom of a 3-year-old.

MARIE: Right now, she's handling being at home pretty well, I think. But just going out on tricycle rides or just, like, a walk around the neighborhood, she seems, you know, kind of afraid of seeing other people who are just, like, walking on the street. And I'm just worried, what are the long-term effects of these stay-at-home orders that we're trying to follow to keep everybody safe? Like, how will this translate into my child developing as a human being later on?

MARTIN: What do you think, Doc?

ALDAO: Yeah, that's a very challenging question. I am myself a mom of twins who are, you know, 2 1/2, so I totally get it. It is incredibly challenging right now. There's not an easy answer for, you know, things that come to parenting. We all have different lifestyles and parenting philosophies. But there's a few things that at least we can do to try to make sure that we can protect our kids and help them develop in the best possible way.

The first one is try to give them, as much as we can, a sense of structure, a sense of normalcy so that when they do face situations that are different, you know, and we tell them to stay away from people and maybe they feel and they sense some of our anxiety, at least that is compartmentalized to a part of the day versus them seeing us being anxious all the time or sort of being worried and finding out about too many things. So creating structure, creating safe spaces, taking them outside but providing them with, you know, guidelines and rules and things along those lines is very helpful.

The other thing is to talk to our kids. It's always easy to assume that they're having the same experience we are and that things that make us nervous make them nervous. That's not always the case, you know, so, yeah.

MARTIN: OK. All right. Thank you so much for that. That's clinical psychologist Amelia Aldao. Thank you so much for speaking with us and giving us that comforting and important advice. Thank you so much.

ALDAO: Thank you so much for having me. Have a great night.

MARTIN: You can still send us questions at npr.org/nationalconversation. Or use that hashtag #nprconversation. This is THE NATIONAL CONVERSATION WITH ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

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