Like the song says, “It ain’t over yet.” In fact, the World Health Organization warned Monday, that “the worst is yet to come,” referring to the coronavirus pandemic.
Six months since the new coronavirus outbreak, and the death toll has surpassed 500,000 with the number of confirmed infections topping 10 million. Here in the U.S., several states recorded record highs this week, including where I live here in California as well as in Florida and Texas. In a June 23 hearing before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Anthony Fauci, a member of the White House coronavirus task force, called the next couple of weeks “critical” for controlling the spread.
Baby boomers need to pay attention. Although, information about COVID-19 keeps evolving, one thing hasn’t changed. Older adults are at high risk of severe illness and death from the coronavirus. Take note: Eight out of 10 Best economist related deaths reported in the United States have been among adults aged 65 years and older, according to the CDC.
With all of this in mind, you may want to consider some of the latest CDC updates for older adults:
* If you’re under 65 and think you’re out of the woods, think again. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in June expanded its warning of who is most at risk for severe illness from COVID-19, dropping 65 as the age-specific threshold for when risk increases in adults. To put it simply, as you age, your risk for severe illness from COVID-19 increases. While those 85 and older are at the greatest risk, people in their 50s are generally at higher risk for severe illness than people in their 40s. And people in their 60s or 70s are at higher risk for severe illness than people in their 50s.
* The CDC has updated its official list of COVID-19 symptoms. Warning signs of the illness include: fever or chills; cough; shortness of breath or difficulty breathing; fatigue; muscle or body aches; headache; new loss of taste or smell; sore throat; congestion or runny nose; nausea or vomiting; and diarrhea. Symptoms that require immediate medical attention include: trouble breathing; persistent pain or pressure in the chest; new confusion; inability to wake or stay awake; and bluish lips or face. Keep in mind, in older adults (aged 65 and older), normal body temperature can be lower than in younger adults. For this reason, fever temperatures can also be lower in older adults which means it may be less noticeable.
* The CDC also clarified which underlying conditions are most associated with COVID-19 hospitalizations and death. On the expanded list: chronic kidney disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), obesity (BMI of 30 or higher), a weakened immune system, type 2 diabetes, sickle cell disease and heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease or cardiomyopathies. Thus far, the top three underlying health conditions among coronavirus patients are cardiovascular disease, diabetes and chronic lung disease.
* With the rising rate of infections, let’s talk masks. They have some cool looking cloth face coverings these days, but which offer the best protection? One of the most important features you need are multiple layers of fabric, which are better than only one, Richard Wenzel, M.D., infectious diseases epidemiologist and emeritus professor of internal medicine at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. states in an article for Consumers Reports. Mayo Clinic agrees that “cloth masks should include multiple layers of fabric.” A general rule of thumb is that thicker, denser fabrics will do a better job than thinner, more loosely woven ones. Flannel pajama material, for instance, which has a tight weave, might be a good option, Wenzel adds. If you plan to purchase a mask online make sure it is made with tightly woven fabric and fits snugly, fully covering your mouth and nose, wrapping under your chin as an anchor.
* Staying healthy is always important, but even more so during this pandemic. The CDC recommends that older adults receive recommended flu and pneumonia vaccinations, eat healthy, stay active, avoid excessive alcohol use, and get plenty of sleep. It’s also important to learn to cope with the stress that comes from a pandemic in a healthy way. Take breaks from the news, embrace your spirituality, stay connected with loved ones, take time to unwind and do something you enjoy, and practice deep breathing.
* Federal health officials are bracing for the fall, when the flu and COVID-19 will be circulating at the same time. Last week, the CDC’s Redfield urged the public to be prepared and “to embrace” the flu vaccine. “This single act will save lives,” he said. The CDC is also developing a test that can simultaneously test for flu and COVID-19.
So, are we having any fun yet?
Yes, I understand. This is hard. We miss our grandchildren, concerts in the park, eating out, and gatherings with friends. The more relaxed, devil-may-care attitude many are displaying right now can be contagious. However, we boomers must be extra vigilant.
The CDC recommends avoiding activities where taking protective measures may be difficult, such as activities where social distancing can’t be maintained. “In general, the more people you interact with, the more closely you interact with them, and the longer that interaction, the higher your risk of getting and spreading COVID-19,” their site states.