Buck Institute update on COVID-19
In full support of Bay Area efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, the Buck Institute is closed through April 7, 2020. Essential scientific activity is being maintained, including work interrogating the potential mechanism of action of the coronavirus. The Buck’s leadership has been in communication with county, state and federal officials and has offered the Institute’s resources and scientific and technological expertise to aid in efforts against the spread of the pandemic.
Our researchers are particularly attuned to the threat the virus poses to our aging population. Unfortunately, our immune systems become less robust with age, which puts older adults at particularly high risk for COVID-19.
Here is some practical science-based advice for older adults as we deal with this public health crisis:
Minimize physical contact with other people, including (unfortunately!) family – especially young family members. Children and young adults are more likely to be asymptomatic or minimally-affected carriers of the virus. This is not the time to volunteer to help with childcare.
Leave the house only if you have no alternative to get the things you need. Don’t have friends or family over. If you need to go shopping, go early in the morning; many places are starting to have “senior hour” as soon as they open. Leave stores if there is a crowd.
Many older adults rely on caregivers who have their own families which may include young children. At a minimum, make sure all caregivers know not to come to “work” (the older adult’s home) if they are sick or if they have had contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.
Wash your hands often, especially after re-entering the house/car or handling anything that was just handled by others. That includes gas pumps, door handles, packages, ATM machines, and the like. Soap and water work great, better than hand sanitizer. There are many videos online that offer advice on how to properly wash your hands.
Cancel any non-essential doctor’s appointments or procedures. If you’re not sure what is essential, talk to your doctor by phone or video chat. Certainly any routine “every 3 months”, “every year”, or “every 10 years” exam should absolutely be postponed. If at all possible do doctor’s visits by phone or video chat. Many practices are rapidly ramping this up, and the federal government is making it easier to do so.
Learn how to have medicine delivered so you don’t have to pick them up. Learn how to use a grocery delivery service, and food delivery services. Ask you family to teach you (via video chat!). Don’t hesitate to ask family or friends to help with essential errands. Everyone wants to pitch in, and everyone has extra time now.
Try to keep a month’s extra supply of essential medications and medical supplies on hand.
Stay social! The new trend on twitter is #PhysicalDistanceNotSocialDistance. Call your friends, call your family. Learn how to video chat. Talk to people through the door or over the backyard fence. Just because you need to minimize physical exposure to people doesn’t mean you have to be isolated!
Stay active! This is so, so, so important. Develop an exercise regimen you can do at home. If you live in a less crowded area, keep going for walks, just keep a 6+ foot distance from others.
Eat well! Use food delivery services and friends/neighbors to keep getting fresh food. Don’t eat too much salty/unhealthy food. Seniors are often at risk of malnutrition. Try to keep on eating fresh and healthy.
Stay productive! Many vital tasks can be done at home. Ask your local hospital or non-profit if they need help with calling people, organizing, etc. Organize your group of friends and neighbors to help each other while minimizing physical contact.
If you haven’t already, compete an advanced directive and health care proxy. This is not fatalistic – it’s necessary anyway, and not something you want to do while you’re sick.
If you do feel sick or get a fever (even mild), call the doctor. Call first, don’t go in person. If you having trouble breathing, do not hesitate to call 911. In other words, get advice early, stay away from the hospital unless necessary, but if necessary, go there quickly.