New CDC guidance says older adults should ‘stay at home as much as possible’ due to coronavirus

(CNN)Amid a coronavirus outbreak in the United States, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is encouraging older people and people with severe chronic medical conditions to “stay at home as much as possible.”

Early data suggests older people are twice as likely to have serious illness from the novel coronavirus, according to the CDC.
A Trump administration official tells CNN that the US Department of Health and Human Services “is in the process of doing targeted outreach to the elderly community and those that have serious underlying health conditions.”
The CDC guidance comes as two top infectious disease experts with ties to the federal government have advised people over 60 and those with underlying health problems to strongly consider avoiding activities that involve large crowds.
Dr. William Schaffner, a Vanderbilt University professor and longtime adviser to the CDC, said these two groups should consider avoiding activities such as traveling by airplane, going to movie theaters, attending family events, shopping at crowded malls, and going to religious services.
People in these two groups “should strongly consider not doing these activities at this juncture,” Schaffner said.
“This ought to be top of mind for people over 60, and those with underlying health problems, such as heart or lung disease, diabetes, or compromised immune systems,” Schaffner added. “The single most important thing you can do to avoid the virus is reduce your face to face contact with people.”
Michael Osterholm, the former state epidemiologist for Minnesota, agreed that people over age 60 should take such steps.
“I think clearly the time has come to take these steps,” said Osterholm, who has served on committees advising the federal government on public health issues and is director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.
Both experts, who are over age 60, said they have taken some of these steps themselves.
“When my wife and I need to go shopping, we’re going late at night when there are no crowds, and we get in and out efficiently,” Schaffner said.
He added that his wife goes to a bridge club with dozens of other people — but not anymore.
“She enjoys bridge and it’s an important part of her life and it keeps her mentally active, but she’s going to give it up for a while,” he said.
Osterholm said he has canceled some air travel plans.
“It’s always been easy to be abstract when you’re a public health person when something’s happening in Africa or Asia or the Arabian peninsula,” he said. “But now it’s happening here, and we have to internalize this.”
Schaffner and Osterholm said data from China shows that elderly people and those with underlying health issues are most at risk of becoming seriously ill and of dying from the novel coronavirus. Younger and healthier people often get only mild to moderate symptoms, or sometimes no symptoms at all.

The basics of ‘social distancing’

Schaffner and Osterholm said their advice has some flexibility for important events.
“This is not an instruction. This is not an order,” Schaffner said. “I’m not asking everyone to stay at home and lock the door for a month. I’m saying, be thoughtful every time you contemplate getting together with a crowd or group.”

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For example, if a grandparent wants to attend a grandchild’s wedding, they could sit off to the side, and bump elbows with relatives instead of hugging and kissing.
But someone might want to avoid, for example, a regular weekend religious service.
“Don’t go. Be reverent at home,” Schaffner said.

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Stores in central Texas are running out of medical masks after possible case of coronavirus reported

(CNN)Medical supply stores in central Texas are experiencing a medical mask shortage after a Texas A&M student, having recently traveled to Wuhan, China, may have contracted coronavirus.

The student has experienced symptoms of an upper respiratory virus and went to a local hospital Wednesday evening. A sample has been sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for testing, according to the Brazos County Health Authority.
Results are expected over the weekend or Monday, the authority said. The student is being kept isolated at home until the testing is complete.
Genese Smith, who works at MediCare Equipment in Bryan, Texas, just a few miles from campus, told KBTX that the story typically stocks about 50 masks.
But on Thursday, just a day after the student checked into the hospital, multiple people came into the store looking to buy masks.
“Within about 30 minutes of word getting out, we started getting phone calls asking if we have the masks, what kind of masks did we have, and how many we had available,” Smith told KBTX. “Quite a few people started coming in, asking, and purchasing.”
The store has already ordered more masks, Smith said. Other stores in the area, including Texas A&M’s own Health Services Department, say they’re awaiting shipments of more masks after quickly running out, KBTX reported.

Two confirmed cases of coronavirus in US so far

Wuhan coronavirus, a virus similar to SARS and MERS, first appeared last month in Wuhan, China, but has quickly spread across the world, reaching as far as France and the US. As of Friday, at least 41 people in mainland China have died from the virus, where there are more than 1,300 cases reported so far.
Two cases of coronavirus have been confirmed so far in the US, one in Chicago and one in Washington state. The World Health Organization recommends avoiding close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness, like coughing and sneezing.
Scientists believe this coronavirus started in another animal and spread to humans, so health officials recommend laying off the rare steak or runny yolks, and thoroughly cooking meat and eggs.
But, in general, the public should do “what you do every cold and flu season,” said Dr. John Wiesman, the health secretary in Washington state, where the first US case of Wuhan coronavirus was confirmed. Wash your hands, cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze, and stay home from work when you are sick.

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