The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest guidance on the coronavirus for high-risk and older Americans asks people to be prepared to stay home, just in case.
The CDC held a media telebriefing on March 10 to provide an update on the health protection agency’s COVID-19 response. Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, stated that there is a risk of getting very sick or dying from illness with the novel coronavirus, which is capable of spreading easily and sustainably from person to person. Although the CDC does not expect most people to develop serious illness, 15 to 20% could, she said.
Messonnier then discussed the agency’s recommendations for high-risk people — which includes older adults.
“Starting at age 60, there is an increasing risk of disease and the risk increases with age,” Messonnier said. “The highest risk of serious illness and death is in people older than 80 years. People with serious underlying health conditions also are more likely to develop serious outcomes including death.”
Those who are older and have serious health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease or lung disease are at the greatest risk of complications from the coronavirus. The CDC recommends these people and their families to take action now.
Messonnier noted that she thought it was important not to panic — just to prepare.
“This is a time for people to prepare for what they might need to do but not a time for people to clear out the shelves,” Messonnier said. “And I really want to focus on the United States and the families at highest risk … it’s really clear that it is older Americans who are at the highest risk right now, (and) we want to make sure that they’re taking every precaution to prepare themselves so that if there is more widespread transmission, they can stick close to home.”
The CDC released guidelines for people at risk for serious illness from COVID-19 on their website. Messonnier went over these recommendations in the telebriefing.
“Make sure you have supplies on hand like routine medications for blood pressure and diabetes,” said Messonnier, “and over-the-counter medicines and medical supplies to treat fever and other symptoms.”
“Have enough household items and groceries so that you will be prepared to stay home for a period of time,” Messonnier advised. “Take everyday precautions like avoiding close contact with people who are sick, cleaning your hands often, and to the extent possible, avoid touching high touch surfaces in public places. Avoid crowds especially in poorly ventilated spaces.”
The CDC says that those at higher risk should avoid nonessential travel, such as cruise ship travel and long plane trips. Also, friends and family members of people over 60 as well as those with underlying health issues should make plans now in case help is needed.
“If you could end up in the role of helping to care for a family member or friend who is at greater risk, we recommend you familiarize yourself with your loved ones’ medication and help them get extra to have on hand,” said Messonnier. “Help them also get food, medical supplies, and other necessities so they can minimize trips to the store. Create a plan for if they get sick and if you get sick. You have to identify backups to take care of them.
“Everyone has a role to play to protect our family members, friends, colleagues and neighbors who are at most risk.”
Find more help and information about prevention and treatment, getting your household ready, and what to do if you are sick at CDC.gov.