If you are over 60, you should not wait a moment longer to take steps to prevent yourself from being infected with COVID-19, the new coronavirus.
That is the advice of a slew of experts, ranging from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
On Sunday, Fauci said now is the time to protect yourself:
“When I say ‘protect,’ I mean right now. Not wait until things get worse. Say no large crowds, no long trips. And above all, don’t get on a cruise ship.”
Fauci said the elderly and those with underlying health conditions are among people who need to take extra precautions. His advice echoes that of many other health experts.
For example, the CDC is now urging big lifestyle changes for people who are at increased risk of suffering serious illness due to infection with COVID-19 — meaning older adults and people with serious chronic medical conditions like diabetes or heart or lung disease.
On its website, the CDC says these people should:
- Stock up on supplies like necessary medications in case they need to stay home for an extended period due to a local outbreak.
- Keep extra space between themselves and others.
- Keep away from people who are sick and wash hands often.
- Avoid crowds whenever possible.
- Stay inside as much as possible if there is an outbreak in the local community.
Both the U.S. State Department and the CDC are recommending that everybody defer cruises — with the CDC noting that older adults and travelers with underlying health issues are especially at risk. The CDC also recommends avoiding nonessential travel like long plane trips.
Who needs to act now?
What age meets the criteria of “older”?
The CDC doesn’t specify, unfortunately. But two other experts have defined “older” as “over 60.”
CNN reports that Dr. William Schaffner — professor of preventative medicine and health policy at Vanderbilt University and a longtime adviser to the CDC — is urging people over 60 and those with chronic medical conditions to avoid:
- Airplane travel
- Going to movie theaters
- Going to family events
- Shopping at crowded malls
- Attending religious services
Schaffner told CNN that for people who are over age 60 or have underlying health problems:
“The single most important thing you can do to avoid the virus is reduce your face to face contact with people.”
Michael Osterholm, former state epidemiologist for Minnesota, agreed that “clearly the time has come to take these steps” if you are over 60.
Osterholm also has advised the federal government on health issues in the past and currently serves as director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.
Both experts say people over 60 and those with health conditions should make these changes now. But they acknowledge that there are times when flexibility is in order. Schaffner tells CNN:
“I’m not asking everyone to stay at home and lock the door for a month. I’m saying, be thoughtful every time you contemplate getting together with a crowd or group.”
Why the coronavrius is a greater risk to people over 60
Why are people over age 60 so vulnerable to COVID-19?
Bloomberg notes that for most people, the new coronavirus causes a mild cough — and few other symptoms — as long as the virus remains in the nose and throat.
However, if the virus reaches the lungs, it can quickly wreak havoc in the form of breathing problems and other severe complications. About 1 in 7 people infected with COVID-19 has reached this stage, and 6% of those infected with COVID-19 have been critical cases.
At some point, the infection reaches a “tipping point” where it becomes very difficult for the patient to recover. David Morens, senior scientific adviser to the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, tells Bloomberg:
“When you get a bad, overwhelming infection, everything starts to fall apart in a cascade. You pass the tipping point where everything is going downhill and, at some point, you can’t get it back.”
That tipping point likely occurs earlier in older people, Bloomberg reports.
If you are at least 65, we have some good news: Medicare will pay for testing for COVID-19 if you meet the requirements we detail in “Medicare to Cover Testing for the Coronavirus.”
Also, there may be ways to protect your savings from the potential economic ravages associated with the virus. For more, check out “Fed Slashes Rate Over Coronavirus ‘Risks’: What It Means for You.”
How worried are you about a coronavirus infection? Sound off in comments below or on our Facebook page.