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COVID-19: Precautions for People at Risk of Severe Illness

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To help keep more people safe, health authorities around the country and the world are working tirelessly to understand how coronavirus (COVID-19) affects people. What is known so far is that older adults and people who have chronic illnesses or compromised immune systems face a high risk of becoming severely ill from coronavirus.

If this is you, or someone in your family, you can take extra precautions to minimize the risk of illness and stay healthy.

Who’s Most at Risk of Severe Illness From Coronavirus?


From the data we have now, older adults and people who have underlying health conditions are more likely than other groups to get severely sick from coronavirus. Others at risk include those with disabilities, the homeless population and pregnant women.

If you believe you're at risk for coronavirus (COVID-19), please contact your health care provider or the local Department of Health. Risk factors that may indicate COVID-19 include fever, cough or flu-like signs, AND either recent international travel OR contact with someone recently diagnosed with COVID-19.

Older Adults
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that data from the United States suggests fatality is highest in people over age 85 (10–27%), followed by those 65–84 years old with 3–11%.

People With Pre-Existing Health Conditions
If you have a compromised immune system, or someone in your family does, you likely have a higher risk of getting sicker from coronavirus.

People with these pre-existing health conditions and are at high risk are more prone to develop serious illness.

CDC high risk categories include:

  • Chronic liver disease and/or kidney disease undergoing dialysis
  • Chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma
  • People 65 years and older
  • People of all ages with underlying medical conditions, particularly if not well controlled such as diabetes, HIV or AIDS
  • People who live in a nursing home or long-term care facility
  • People with severe obesity (body mass index of 40 or higher)
  • Prolonged use of corticosteroids like prednisone or other immune weakening medications
  • Serious heart conditions

Extra Precautions to Take


On March 31, 2020, the White House and the CDC issued an update called The President’s Coronavirus Guidelines for America: 30 Days to Slow the Spread. The guidelines recommend that older adults and those with a serious health condition should stay home and away from other people for 30 days.

Just like others in your community, it’s important to follow the recommended precautions to help stop the spread of coronavirus. But if you are in a higher-risk group, it is essential to take these extra precautions while you’re at home to reduce your risk of getting sick.

Have a Supply of Household Goods
As you prepare to stay at home for a while, stock up on the following items:

  • Household items and groceries
  • Necessary medications
  • Over-the-counter medications
  • Tissues, soap and hand sanitizer

Create a Backup Plan
Create a backup plan in case you become sick. Think about other medical supplies you use, such as oxygen, incontinence products or supplies for dialysis or wound care, and arrange to have enough on hand if you need to stay at home for a prolonged period.

Coronavirus Warning Signs to Watch For


If you feel sick, call your doctor or set up a video visit with them through the AdventHealth app. Older adults and people who have chronic health conditions or compromised immune systems should seek help as soon as possible — even if their symptoms are mild.

Symptoms that may indicate COVID-19 include fever, cough, or flu-like signs, AND either recent international travel OR contact with someone recently diagnosed with COVID-19. 

Emergency Warning Signs to Know


Seek immediate medical attention if you develop the following emergency warning signs, says the CDC:

  • A bluish color on lips or face
  • Difficulty breathing
  • New confusion or an inability to arouse
  • Persistent pain or chest pressure

Extra Guidance — and Encouragement — From the CDC


In a recent video briefing, infectious disease leaders from the CDC described preventive measures to help protect older adults from becoming infected with coronavirus.

“I want everyone to know that you do need to take this coronavirus seriously,” said Admiral Brett Giroir, MD, assistant secretary for health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “But do not panic — you are not helpless. In fact, you have a lot of power to protect yourself, your family and your community.”

If you have elderly loved ones, or friends or family members with chronic health conditions, you can support them in several ways, without leaving home.

We’re Here to See You Through This


We’re here for you and your family through this pandemic. Visit our Coronavirus Resource Hub for regular coronavirus updates, answers to your coronavirus FAQs and more important resources for your family.

If you want to see your primary care provider without leaving your house, you can use the AdventHealth App to visit your doctor virtually, in the comfort of your own home.

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