Minimizing risks as coronavirus pandemic continues

(CDC/ Alissa Eckert, MS; Dan Higgins, MAMS)

While states have eased some restrictions imposed as the coronavirus pandemic unfolded during spring, it’s important not to let your guard down, especially if you have increased risks.

COVID-19 is a new disease, and new information continues to emerge. Stay informed through sources that are regularly updated and reliable, such as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and check public health sites for your state and local area for the latest guidance. Updates for patients and tips to stay healthy are also available at heart.org.

Here’s the latest on some common COVID-19 questions:

Who’s at risk?

Recent data suggests adults with COVID-19 who are overweight or obese, or who smoke or have a history of smoking have an increased risk of severe illness. People with diabetes, compromised immune systems, chronic lung diseases and other underlying conditions are also at increased risk for severe illness, according to the CDC.
Stroke survivors and those with heart disease, including high blood pressure and congenital heart defects, may also face increased risk for complications if they become infected with COVID-19.

The latest national data indicates the novel coronavirus has disproportionally impacted communities of color in terms of number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

How can I reduce my risk?

There are some easy ways to stop the spread of coronavirus, similar to preventing other viruses.

  • Maintain physical distancing (at least six feet).
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Avoid touching public surfaces.
  • Wear a mask or face covering when it’s hard to physically distance.
  • Avoid touching your mouth, nose or eyes.
  • If you sneeze, be sure to use a tissue and throw it away or use the inside of your elbow fold if a tissue is not available. 

What if I’m an essential worker or need to be out?

We all need to be extra vigilant if we leave home. Be mindful that every surface is a potential source of infection. Be sure to wash your hands frequently, using soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol and regularly clean and disinfect surfaces in your home.

Essential workers likely have more chances of being exposed to or contracting the virus. Follow the latest CDC guidance regarding critical workers who have been exposed.

What should I do if I’m stuck at home?

Safety precautions, including washing your hands frequently and cleaning and disinfecting surfaces regularly, are still important. But there are some other things you can do to be prepared in case you or someone in your home becomes ill or can’t leave the house.

Maintain a list of support contacts you could call on, such as friends, relatives, colleagues and neighbors and keep it handy, especially if you live alone.

Check your supply of medications and make sure you have enough for an extended time and know how to get refills if you can’t leave home.

Maintain a healthy lifestyle by getting plenty of physical activity and eating a healthy diet. And don’t forget to stay connected with those you care about because feelings of isolation can take a toll on your health and well-being.

What if someone in my house is exposed to or tests positive for COVID-19?

Contact your health care professional if you experience common symptoms, including fever, cough and shortness of breath.

Make sure there’s a separate bedroom where the person can isolate while recovering. Everyone living in your household must follow recommended precautions as part of home care or isolation, including covering coughs or sneezes, vigorous handwashing, not touching their face and regularly wiping down surfaces with household cleaners.

Create a system that allows the person being isolated to get food and other necessities with minimal risk.

Stay in close contact with your health care team. Keep their contact information handy and ask whether electronic consulting or instant messaging options are available.

What if I have an emergency?

If you experience the warning signs of heart attack or stroke, call 911 immediately. Don't die of doubt. When an emergency strikes, hospitals are still the safest place — even during a pandemic. Getting care as soon as possible improves the chances of survival, and first responders are well trained to avoid spreading germs.