COVID-19 Advice for Seniors
Please stay safe and well.
UPDATE 3/6/20: The CDC is advising older adults as well as others at higher risk for COVID-19 complications to stay at home as much as possible. In brief, the CDC recommends the following:
What to do if you are at higher risk:
- Stay at home as much as possible.
- Make sure you have access to several weeks of medications and supplies in case you need to stay home for prolonged periods of time.
- When you go out in public, keep away from others who are sick, limit close contact and wash your hands often.
- Avoid crowds.
- Stay up to date on CDC Travel Health Notices.
Visit the CDC website for more detailed recommendations.
Community spread of the COVID-19 virus has been detected here in the United States. The COVID-19 virus is a type of "corona" virus that can cause respiratory illness that according to the World Health Organization can range from very mild to severe. Medical scientists don't yet have a complete understanding of how this virus affects humans. The largest number of confirmed cases so far has been in China. Recently, the Chinese Center for Disease Control published date on the mortality rate from the virus in that country. The overall mortality rate appears to be approximately 2%. This is similar to the mortality rate experienced during the second wave of the 1918 "Spanish" influenza pandemic. However, while fatalities during the 1919 pandemic were highest among previously healthy young adults, COVID-19 mortality appears to be highest for those over the age of 60 as shown in the above chart. The reason for this appears to be that people over the age of 60 have higher rates of chronic illness, and are more likely to have weakened immune systems.
Members of CSU-ERFSA fall into the age groups of concern; however, there are a number of actions that you can take to reduce your risk of being infected. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends to following steps to reduce your risk of contracting the COVID-19 virus:
Wash your hands frequently
Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water.
Why? Washing your hands with soap and water or using alcohol-based hand rub kills viruses that may be on your hands.
[N.B. When washing hands with soap and water, wash thoroughly for at least twenty seconds and rinse with warm water. When using alcohol-based hand sanitizer make sure that it contains 60% or more ethyl alcohol, and rub vigorously until your hands are dry.]
Maintain social distancing
Maintain at least 1 meter (3 feet) - and if possible 2 meters (6 feet) - distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
Why? When someone coughs or sneezes they spray small liquid droplets from their nose or mouth which may contain virus. If you are too close, you can breathe in the droplets, including the COVID-19 virus if the person coughing has the disease.
Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth
Why? Hands touch many surfaces and can pick up viruses. Once contaminated, hands can transfer the virus to your eyes, nose or mouth. From there, the virus can enter your body and can make you sick.
Practice respiratory hygiene
Make sure you, and the people around you, follow good respiratory hygiene. This means covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately.
Why? Droplets spread virus. By following good respiratory hygiene you protect the people around you from viruses such as cold, flu and COVID-19.
If you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical care early
Stay home if you feel unwell. If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention and call in advance. Follow the directions of your medical provider or your local health authority. [N.B. Influenza viruses also are circulating at this time of year, and these also can cause serious illness in older adults. Your medical provider will be able to determine if your illness is the flu or COVID-19, and the appropriate treatment for you.]
Why? National and local authorities will have the most up to date information on the situation in your area. Calling in advance will allow your health care provider to quickly direct you to the right health facility. This will also protect you and help prevent spread of viruses and other infections.
Stay informed and follow advice given by your healthcare provider
Stay informed on the latest developments about COVID-19. Follow advice given by your healthcare provider, your national and local public health authority or your employer on how to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.
Why? National and local authorities will have the most up to date information on whether COVID-19 is spreading in your area. They are best placed to advise on what people in your area should be doing to protect themselves.
In addition to the above steps recommended by WHO, avoid travel to areas where there are significant COVID-19 outbreaks. Currently (3/1/2020) travel advisories have been issued for mainland China, South Korea, parts of Italy, and Iran. This situation is changing rapidly. The Johns Hopkins University is maintaining a "dashboard," which shows the current world-wide state of COVID-19 cases. This dashboard is updated several times per day. An example of the dashboard is shown below:
The column on the left shows the number of confirmed cases by country. It can be expanded to show specific locations within a country where cases have been confirmed. The central panel of the dashboard shows a map with outbreak locations. The two columns on the right show the number of COVID-19 deaths by country, and the number of confirmed cases that have recovered by country. The actual number of recovered cases may be much higher than listed; because, those who experienced mild cases may not have been tested for the virus. The chart in the lower-right corner graphs the cumulative number of confirmed cases in mainland China (orange dots), the cumulative number of recovered confirmed cases worldwide (green dots), and the cumulative number of confirmed cases outside mainland China (yellow dots).
Currently, there is no vaccine available for COVID-19, and it is expected that it will take up to a year to develop one. Also, there are no drugs that have been approved to treat the illness yet. However, a number of existing anti-viral drugs are being tested to see if they have any effectiveness against this virus. (Note that traffic to the Johns Hopkins University "dashboard" is very heavy at times causing incomplete data to be show. If you experience that issue, try again in a few minutes.)
Two final notes: If you have significant existing health issues, don't hesitate to call your medical provider to see if he or she recommends additional precautions beyond those listed above. In addition, because of the fluidity of the situation surrounding the spread of the COVID-19 virus, we plan to update this page as new information becomes available. This article will remain at the top of the list of articles in our News and Views section.
UPDATE 3/4/2020: Data from China indicate that mortality rate for COVID-19 is higher for men than women. Chinese doctors believe that this is because many men in China are heavy cigarette smokers, and thus have lung damage that makes them more susceptible to pneumonia. The COVID-19 virus can cause pneumonia directly, and it is believed that most COVID-19 deaths are caused by this. However, some of the pneumonia cases in COVID-19 patients may be caused by opportunistic bacterial infections. Existing pneumonia vaccines provide a degree of protection against bacterial pneumonia. Seniors should check with their medical providers to determine if their vaccination schedule is up-to-date, and whether or not they need one of the pneumonia vaccines.
UPDATE 3/6/2020: The EPA has released a list of cleaning products, including several well-known household cleaning products, that are effective against the virus that causes COVID-19. These products can be used to clean "high-touch" surfaces such as counter tops, doorknobs, etc.
UPDATE 3/9/20: Be wary of scams that take advantage of public concern about COVID-19. There are reports of phishing scams that attempt to steal personal information or to infect your devices with malware, and ads that peddle false information or scam products.
In one example, a phishing email that used the logo of the CDC Health Alert Network claimed to provide a list of local active infections. Recipients were instructed to click on a link in the email to access the list. Next, recipients were asked to enter their email login credentials, which were then stolen.
Be particularly wary of emails or phone calls that ask for personal information.
UPDATE 3/9/20: The CDC is in the process of consolidating much of its information about COVID-19 on a single website: coronavirus.gov - as of today (3/9/20) some of the information on the site was out-of-date. However, those deficiencies are expected to be remedied soon.
UPDATE 3/11/20: We received a warning today about the following specific coronavirus phishing attacks that have been hitting CSU campuses. Be wary, if you receive any of these emails or messages, just delete them:
Coronavirus Phishing Email Information
- We have reports that one of the phishing emails includes a PDF attachment, titled “CoronaVirusSafetyMeasures_pdf”. This will prompt users to download the PDF from a “censorship free” file sharing service. The download will then infect the user’s computer.
- The second malware campaign includes a three-page Microsoft Office document that claims to be from the Center for Public Health of the Ministry of Ukraine. This document contains malicious macros that will steal data from your clipboard.
- There are also reports of phishing emails that claim to be from the U.S. Center for Disease Control. These may suggest that the Coronavirus “has officially become airborne” and that confirmed cases “are occurring in your location.” This PHISHING email will contain a link for more information – but it will redirect you to a generic-looking Microsoft login page. Once you enter your password, it will be stolen.
What to look for?
To protect yourself from phishing attacks, look out for emails and messages that have these characteristics:
- Requests to click on links or open attachments
- Sense of urgency
- Appeal to fear
- Request for sensitive data
What to do?
- Be extra cautious of requests to login and provide information
- Never respond with any phone number via text messaging
- Please check the sender email address
- Do not respond to any email from anyone asking for money or gift cards
- Do not provide sensitive personal information such as usernames and passwords
UPDATE 3/12/20: CalPERS has announced that everyone who receives their healthcare through CalPERS will not have to pay either deductibles or co-pays for COVID-19 screening or tests that are medically necessary. This applies to all CalPERS sponsored HMO and PPO plans.
UPDATE 3/13/20: The following article on CNN has additional steps that older adults should consider to protect themselves during the COVID-19 epidemic:
UPDATE 3/14/20: The CSU-ERFSA State Council Meeting planned for April 18, 2020 at Cal Poly Pomona has been cancelled owing to the coronavirus situation.
UPDATE 3/17/20: There have been some reports that NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as Advil, Aleve, Naproxen, ibuprofen, and aspirin can aggravate the symptoms of COVID-19; however, the clinical evidence is somewhat conflicting. However, if a fever-reducer is needed, those with mild to moderate cases of COVID-19 probably should start by using Tylenol (acetaminophen), being careful not to exceed the maximum recommended dose.
UPDATE 3/30/20: If you use insulin and you are having a problem paying for your insulin because of loss of income during the current corona virus crises, you can contact the Eli Lilly Insulin Assistance Program at the Lilly Diabetes Solution Center at (833) 808-1234. Lilly published a full-page notice in today's L.A. Times (3/30/20) promising to ensure that no one who needs insulin will go without during the current corona virus situation.
UPDATE 3/30/20: If you receive pension benefits and/or healthcare benefits from CalPERS, Marcie Frost - CalPERS CEO - has posted a message about CalPERS' response to the corona virus situation that is available at: https://www.csuerfsa.org/index.php/latest-csu-erfsa-news/79-message-from-calpers-re-coronavirus-and-pension-payments-etc
UPDATE 3/30/20: The recently passed stimulus bill included provisions that ease restrictions on retirement accounts (401k, 403b, IRAs, etc.). These include a waiver of the tax penalty on early withdrawals, and increase in the loan limit to $100,000 for loans taken out against a qualified retirement account, and an option for retirees who are required to take required minimum distributions (RMDs) to forgo the distribution for 2020. More information is available at https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-03-27/coronavirus-bill-lets-struggling-americans-tap-retirement-money