Seniors and COVID-19

Sunday Signal

We’ve spent our lives worrying about “macro” disasters — airline crashes, financial dumps, terrorists, even plummeting space junk.

Then a novel microorganism comes along and throws us a whole new curveball. I’m referring to COVID-19, the crown-like spiked coronavirus that arrived in late December with a lethal boom in China, and has spread to 100 countries, sickening more than 100,000 people and killing some 4,000. 

The not yet well-understood microbe is now causing illness and death in our nation. And we are rightfully concerned.

It appears that most folks who get it won’t be seriously ill. But anyone carrying the virus — even those who have not yet developed symptoms — can potentially transmit it to others.

In worst cases, COVID-19 can cause lung lesions and overwhelming pneumonia that can lead to death.

People 60 and older, especially those with chronic illnesses (heart, lung, kidney disease, diabetes and other conditions affecting the immune system), are at highest risk.

The symptoms, which can take two-14 days to appear, include, fever, shortness of breath, dry cough, and fatigue. If you develop these signs, immediately contact your medical provider and preferably not go to an ER unannounced as precise infection control precautions must be in place for incoming patients. 

The respiratory virus can easily spread person to person, mainly among those in close-proximity — within homes, offices, congregate gatherings and other confined spaces. These tiny pathogens can travel through air via respiratory droplets, released when an ill person sneezes, coughs, talks or just breathes.

They can also pass to us from surface/inanimate object contamination, like phones, keys, doorknobs, elevator buttons, etc. 

An excellent “antiviral” weapon is frequent handwashing — minimum 20 seconds with soap and warm water, robustly scrubbing the entire hand.

If soap/water are unavailable use hand sanitizer, which is scarce right now but can be made with alcohol and aloe vera, or just alcohol if that’s all you have. Also, regularly disinfect surfaces, press elevator buttons with your elbow, cough/sneeze into your elbow and keep hands away from your face. 

The Centers for Disease Control reports that regular face masks are not recommended for healthy people as they don’t keep the wee Coronavirus particles from getting through.

The CDC also recommends that seniors, pregnant women and anyone with compromised immune systems use social distancing to help break the viral transmission chain.

Stay home. Avoid travel and enclosed places with large gatherings. Don’t meal/drink share. Skip the handshakes, hugs and kisses — for now.

Get a 14-day food, water, and medication reserve in case you must self-quarantine during this outbreak. Speak with your doctor and loved ones about your concerns and needs. 

We’re are all in this together, and we can help keep ourselves and others healthy by calmly applying these proactive measures.

For more information about COVID-19 info, visit:


World Health Organization

L.A. County of Public Health

Diana Sevanian is a retired R.N. and longtime Signal columnist.

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