What can older adults do to reduce their risk?
Avoid crowds and close contact with others
The best way to dodge a coronavirus infection is to avoid being exposed to the virus. Limit interactions with people outside your household as much as possible, keep a distance of at least 6 feet from others and wash your hands often with soap and water (or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not an option).
The CDC defines close contact as being within 6 feet of an infected person for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period. People who come into close contact with someone who has COVID-19 are advised to quarantine for two weeks, ideally. A 10-day quarantine is an acceptable alternative if no symptoms are noticed, the CDC says. So is a seven-day quarantine if the person in quarantine tests negative for the virus after seven days of staying away from others.
Wear a mask
The CDC recommends “universal use of face masks” in indoor settings (other than your own home, as long as no one is sick with the virus) and outdoors when a minimum physical distance of 6 feet from others cannot be maintained. Face masks help protect the wearer from coronavirus infection, in addition to helping protect others from being infected by the wearer.
The CDC recommends, in particular, the use of multilayer cloth face masks without valves, which are shown to reduce the transmission of respiratory droplets and fine particles. A study published in JAMA Network found that a snug-fitting, two-layer, consumer-grade mask is “nearly equivalent to or better” than a medical-grade mask.
Take precautions in public places
If you need to run out for necessities, the CDC offers this guidance on how to do so safely:
Wear a mask.
Stay at least 6 feet away from others while shopping and while in line.
Consider running your errands first thing in the morning or at the end of the day when fewer people are likely to be shopping. Some stores have special shopping hours for high-risk individuals.
Disinfect your shopping cart or basket with disinfectant wipes.
Use hand sanitizer right away if you handle money, a card or a keypad.
Wash your hands when you get home.
When getting gasoline, use disinfectant wipes on handles and buttons before you touch them; use hand sanitizer immediately after.
Headed to the bank? Use drive-through banking services, automated teller machines (ATMs) or mobile banking apps for routine transactions that do not require face-to-face assistance as much as possible.
Have a plan in case you or someone in your household gets sick
Identify a designated sickroom in your home that can be used to separate sick household members from healthy ones. Make sure you have at least a 30-day supply of prescription medicines on hand to cut down on the number of trips you need to make to the pharmacy. It’s also important to have over-the-counter medications in the house to treat fever, cough and other symptoms, as well as tissues and common medical supplies. You also may want to purchase a pulse oximeter to have on hand. A small device that measures someone’s oxygen saturation level, it can be a useful tool because a falling oxygen level can be an early sign that a COVID-19 patient’s health is deteriorating.