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The CDC is finally issuing some specific recommendations for coronavirus prevention for those at high risk for complications:
- 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.
“If you are at increased risk for COVID-19 complications due to age or because you have a severe underlying medical condition, it is especially important for you to take actions to reduce your risk of exposure,” the CDC says.
Defining People at High Risk from Coronavirus Complications
People at higher risk include:
- Age 60 or older
- Those with weakened immune systems
- Those with heart disease
- Those with lung disease
- Those with kidney disease
- Those with diabetes
- Those with other underlying health problems
- People who are pregnant
These groups should avoid activities such as traveling by airplane, going to movie theaters, attending family events, shopping at crowded malls, and going to religious services, William Schaffner, MD, a professor of medicine in the division of infectious diseases at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, Tennessee, told CNN.
“The single most important thing you can do to avoid the virus is reduce your face to face contact with people,” he said.
Schaffner, who is over age 60, told CNN that he and his wife are going grocery shopping during off-hours when the stores are likely to be less crowded.
Social Distancing vs. Quarantine vs. Isolation
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the definition of social distancing is a way to keep people from interacting closely or frequently enough to spread an infectious disease. Schools and other gathering places such as movie theaters may close, and sports events and religious services may be cancelled.
On the other hand, a quarantine separates and restricts the movement of people who have been exposed to a contagious disease to see if they become sick. It lasts long enough to ensure the person has not contracted an infectious disease.
And a third term, isolation, refers to separating people who are sick from those who are not in order to help prevent the spread of an infectious disease. It lasts as long as the disease is contagious.
What Does Social Distancing Mean in Everyday Life?
Social distancing can take many forms depending on your lifestyle and family and work situation. Remember that the goal is to try to minimize your exposure to environments and situations that could allow for the spread of an infectious disease like coronavirus. But it’s also easy for the concept of social distancing to feel overwhelming or create a lot of anxiety.
If you have any questions about how far to take your social distancing and pre-emptive ‘self-quarantining,’ you should speak to your health care provider. They may be able to provide stress-relieving guidance about situations that are important to you — say, an important family event or attending religious services — based on your specific risks and medical history.
Social distancing can include the following habits and steps:
- Avoid handshaking, hugging, and other intimate types of greetings
- Avoid non-essential travel (your health care provider may have specific guidance for your situation here)
- Avoid crowds, especially in poorly ventilated spaces
- Work from home if this is possible for your work situation
- Avoid unnecessary errands — consider ways to have essential items, like food and other household supplies, brought to your house through online delivery services or through family or social networks
Preparation for Staying Home as Much as Possible
The CDC advises the following for high-risk patients:
- Be sure you have over-the-counter medicines and medical supplies (tissues, etc.) to treat fever and other symptoms. Most people will be able to recover from COVID-19 at home.
- Have enough household items and groceries on hand so that you will be prepared to stay at home for a period of time.
- Contact your health care provider to ask about obtaining extra necessary medications to have on hand in case there is an outbreak of COVID-19 in your community and you need to stay home for a prolonged period of time.
We have heard that some patients in our community may be experiencing issues accessing extra supplies of necessary medication. If this is happening to you, we would like to know about it. Email email@example.com and let us know.
Current Advice for High-Risk People in Seattle and King County
This may not apply to your situation, but here is some of the public health advice issued to high-risk people in Seattle and King County, where the coronavirus has been more widespread. “These measures can potentially impact the spread of the disease,” officials said KingCounty.gov.
- People at higher risk of severe illness should stay home and away from large groups of people as much as possible, including public places with lots of people and large gatherings where there will be close contact with others.
- Workplaces should enact measures that allow people who can work from home to do so.
- If you can feasibly avoid bringing large groups of people together, consider postponing events and gatherings.
- All people should not go out if they are sick.
- Avoid visiting hospitals, long term care facilities, or nursing homes to the extent possible. If you need to go, limit your time there and keep six feet away from patients.
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Cohen E. New CDC guidance says older adults should ‘stay at home as much as possible’ due to coronavirus. March 6, 2020. https://www.cnn.com/2020/03/06/health/coronavirus-older-people-social-distancing/index.html.
Local health officials announce new recommendations to reduce risk of spread of COVID-19. March 4, 2020. Public Health Seattle and King County. https://kingcounty.gov/depts/health/news/2020/March/4-covid-recommendations.aspx.
People at Higher Risk for COVID-19 Complications. Coronavirus Disease 2019. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/specific-groups/high-risk-complications.html.
Taking Care of Your Behavioral Health: Tips for Social Distancing, Quarantine, and Isolation During an Infectious Disease Outbreak. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. https://store.samhsa.gov/system/files/sma14-4894.pdf.