Avoid contact with the virus—practice “social distancing” to lessen the chance you’ll pick up the virus, lessen the chance that you’ll carry it unknowingly and make others sick, and reduce impact on our health care system. Stay home (indoors or outdoors) as much as you can (“self-quarantine”). Stay home indoors, as isolated as possible, if you are sick.
- Wash your hands often—soap and water work best and you should carry hand sanitizer if you go out. Learn about handwashing—read Hand Hygiene: The Do’s and Don’ts of Handwashing in the December 2019 issue of AgeWise King County.
- Cover your coughs and sneezes—and NOT with your hand! Feel a cough coming on? Grab your elbow and cover your mouth to prevent germs from going the distance (six feet or more). Or cover your mouth with a clean tissue and dispose of it immediately. Then wash your hands or use hand sanitizer. Not all hand sanitizers are alike—look for at least 60 percent alcohol content.
- Don’t touch your eyes, nose, or mouth—you never know what you might be putting in them or what you’re leaving behind the next time you touch a surface.
- Make a prevention plan—talk with your family, friends, and neighbors about the steps you need to take to maintain your health, and determine who will check in on you each day, even if you are well.
- Clean surfaces in your home to remove germs. Enlist help if you need it. This is more important than “spring cleaning”—this removes any virus germs that may have landed in your home that you may inadvertently picked up. The CDC offers guidance on household cleaning and disinfecting practices that are effective.
- Develop your Plan B and Plan C—determine in advance what you need to do if you do get sick. Share your plan with loved ones. Determine who will take care of you. Also, very important, determine what you will do if your caregiver gets sick. Ensure that you have access to food, medications, household supplies, and any special care you may require for at least two weeks in the future.
- Check in with family, friends, and neighbors—be sure that someone is checking in with you daily. Some senior centers are scheduling check-in phone calls. Make sure someone is checking on you daily.
You may hear people question why they should avoid the virus if they are younger and otherwise healthy—a sort of “let’s get this over with” approach. This is highly discouraged by healthcare providers for three reasons:
- You could inadvertently expose someone else who is in a high-risk category—a loved one perhaps.
- You may be at higher risk than you know.
- Your illness puts additional strain on an already overburdened health care system.
Please don’t gamble with your health and the health of your community. Do what you can to protect yourself from coronavirus and other infectious diseases.
What to do if you were exposed to COVID-19
If you are in King County and believe you were exposed to COVID-19—or if you’re a healthcare provider with COVID-19 questions—contact the Public Health—Seattle & King County call center (8 a.m.–7 p.m.) at 206-477-3977.
A tip—make sure you have access to a thermometer and take your temperature before calling your health care provider. You’ll be asked if you have a fever.
For general questions about COVID-19 in Washington state, call the Washington State Novel Coronavirus Call Center at 800-525-0127.
When to seek medical evaluation and advice
If you have a cough, fever, or other respiratory problems, call and speak with your healthcare provider before going to a medical facility. Do not go to an emergency room.
If you believe you are experiencing life-threatening symptoms, call 9-1-1.
Information in this article was compiled by staff at Aging and Disability Services—the Area Agency on Aging for Seattle & King County. Have aging or disability issues? Contact Community Living Connections (toll-free) at 1-844-348-5464.