CDC: Americans over 60 should stock up on food and medications and avoid venturing out as the coronavirus spreads

CDC: Americans over 60 should stock up on food and medications and avoid venturing out as the coronavirus spreads

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  • In a media telebriefing about the novel coronavirus, Dr. Nancy Messonnier focused on making recommendations for people who are at highest risk of getting ill from the virus.
  • She also noted that, eventually, "many people in the United States " will be exposed to the virus, and "there's a good chance many will become sick."
  • For now, she said people over 60 should stock up on food, medication, and other necessities so they can avoid needing to venture out too much.
  • Caretakers and family members should help older people prepare, and develop a plan for what they'll do if either they or the person they're caring for gets sick.
  • While people over 60 are at greater risk than younger folks, it's important for people to understand that risk increases with age, making those 80 and 90 at the highest risk of all, especially if they have chronic health conditions too.
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People who are over 60 years old, as well as those with underlying health conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and lung disease, are most vulnerable to getting sick or even dying from the novel coronavirus, and should take particular precautions to help protect themselves, Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said in a media briefing Monday.

"Our goal is to protect you," she said. "This will require you and your family to take action."

Taking action means ensuring "you have supplies on hand like routine medications for blood pressure and diabetes, and over-the-counter medicines and medical supplies to treat fever and other symptoms."

Messonnier also recommended people at higher risk and their families stock up on "enough household items and groceries so that you will be prepared to stay home for a period of time."


She reiterated advice to avoid close contact with people who are sick, wash you hands often and well, steer clear of "high-touch" surfaces in public places, and avoid crowds, particularly those in poorly-ventilated spaces.

"This weekend, the federal government made a very specific recommendation in this context that travelers, particularly those with underlying health issues, defer all cruise-ship travel worldwide," she said, adding that people at higher risk should also cancel or reschedule "non-essential travel, such as long plane trips."

Messonnier pointed out that it's important for family members and neighbors to look out for folks who are in these higher-risk categories by, for example, making sure you're familiar with their medications and helping them get necessary food and supplies.

The goal of stocking up, she emphasized, is so more vulnerable people "can minimize trips to the store" and "stay close to home."

Finally, she said, caretakers should make a plan in case their loved-ones do get sick, as well as a plan for if they become ill themselves, like having backup caretakers.


"Everyone has a role to play in helping to protect our family members, friends, colleagues, and neighbors who are at most risk," she said. Even if the recommendations are unpopular or difficult, she added, "at CDC, our number one priority is the health and safety of the American people."

Messonnier emphasized that risk increases with age

The "over-60" marker is not a black-and-white cutoff for people separating people who aren't at risk from those who are.

"I really think it's important for the American public to understand the risk," Messonnier added. "We use these broad categories of over 60 or over 65, but the data really says that as you get older the risk goes up."

In other words, people over 80 or even 90 have the greatest risk of all.

"I would recommend that people make their own decisions based on an understanding of that risk," she said.


This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.