I’m at risk. No sense kidding myself. I’m 77 years old, have a history of bronchitis and sinus infection, struggle with chronic congestion and often must put a breathing strip on my nose in order to get a decent night’s sleep.
If I had any of the following complicating conditions, I’d be even more vulnerable to the novel coronavirus otherwise known as COVID-19, that is sweeping our country: diabetes, heart trouble, cancer, previous bouts with pneumonia or emphysema, any other lung or kidney disease.
Most at risk, according to health experts monitoring the pandemic, are people 60 and older and those who have “underlying medical conditions” — and with such conditions, you may be at severe risk even if you are much younger.
So what are those of us who fall into these categories supposed to do?
“Shelter in place” is the common wisdom. And that, depending upon your circumstances, can be extremely challenging. The 40 million residents of the State of California have been ordered by Gov. Gavin Newsome to “stay at home.” Thus far the states of New York, Connecticut, New Jersey and Illinois have followed suit.
No, people there are not all elderly or plagued by pre-existing conditions. It’s simply that the virus has spread with such a rage in certain locations that keeping virtually everyone confined to their home is thought to be the best counter.
China, the country where novel coronavirus sprang up, has, in effect, “turned the corner” and begun to dial the disease down through draconian measures, ordering millions into home confinement with severe sanctions for those who defy the rules.
Coronavirus did not spread over the length and breadth of China the way it is spreading here in the United States. It was kept largely to Wuhan Province, where it was born, and one adjacent province, with a smattering of cases elsewhere.
Now the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines for Americans say that if you are “older” or have any “underlying medical conditions,” you should just stay home. For how long they haven’t said. Maybe it’s “until further notice.” That applies to people in all 50 states.
“Shelter in place” in the instance of, say, poisonous gas contaminating the atmosphere, would be much stricter than for the coronavirus. In such a case everyone would be truly stuck. Food would have to be delivered by couriers wearing gas masks.
For this virus, never leaving the interior of your apartment or house is not required. You can indeed duck out to the store, get what you need, keep a distance of six feet from others (when possible) and return home. (Spray purchases with a diluted bleach mist.) You can do the drive-through at a fast-food restaurant or even get takeout from inside a restaurant.
You can walk the dog, go with family members to a park or a rural trail and take a hike — always maintaining a safe distance from others.
Ideally, do not spend time in close proximity to others, even to other family members who do not live with you.
Novel coronavirus is spread in two ways: airborne and on surfaces. That could mean clothing, wood or ceramic counters, plastic utensils or other plastic items, even doorknobs.
Virus-laden droplets from an infected person’s sneeze, cough or even breathing can hang in the air and contaminate anyone who breathes them in. And some surfaces can hold contaminants for up to 72 hours. Keeping sanitizing spray with you everywhere is not a crazy idea. And wash your hands with soap and water, thoroughly and often!