And again, constant — and proper — handwashing before, during and after a trip into the public is necessary.
The CDC advises against non-essential plane travel for older adults. Several US airlines have already slashed their flight schedules for the next few months.
It's wise to stay off cruise ships for now, too. Cruise passengers are at an increased risk of person-to-person transmission with all the tight quarters, the CDC said
, so if you're already made cruise plans, it's best to cancel them.
The CDC recommends that high-risk groups in communities with outbreaks stay home as much as possible and that people who believe they're sick isolate themselves.
But long-term isolation can be damaging. Perissinotto studies the effects of social isolation in older adults, and she said that loneliness and depression are "huge risks for mortality."
"I don't think the solution of totally being devoid of social contact is the answer," she said. "Yes, there is some prudence we need to have in social distancing, but we also have to be careful to not isolate more -- it can be very detrimental."
So if you need to isolate yourself:
- Don't cut off contact with family or friends.
- Keep in touch to update them on your condition and curb boredom.
What your family can do
To help you, your family should think ahead.
If groups you're a member of are still meeting and none of the other members are sick, Perissinotto said it should be OK to go.
Just exercise caution. It's an individual choice, so if skipping out would reduce some anxiety, that's fine, too.
And if you do go, be sure to wash your hands with soap.
Perissinotto recommends that family, friends and neighbors of older adults do some inventory in case the older adult needs to isolate at home.
Does this person have what they need to spend an extended period of time inside? If not, help them prepare supplies.
If their caregiver calls in sick, is there someone who can step in to take care of them? Have a plan in place to make sure they'll get care if they need it.
If they have a telemedicine appointment coming up, will they know how to access it? Set up the tech and show them how to use it to speak with their physician.
Getting prepared and keeping in touch can help keep families connected if an older member needs to isolate, Perissinotto said.
And, of course, sick family members should not visit — stick to a phone or video call. And if a younger, healthy family member has potentially come into contact with a Covid-19 patient, they should self-isolate and avoid seeing older, susceptible family members.
What you should consider about nursing homes
It's natural to be fearful for family in nursing homes and long-term care facilities, Sinha said: Older people and people with chronic illnesses, both high-risk groups, are living together in tight quarters.
The good news: Most nursing homes and long-term care facilities are prepared for pandemics, Perissonotto said.
The CDC provides training for long-term care facilities on how to operate during pandemics. If you're concerned about the safety of your family member or want to learn about the protocol their facility is following, contact staff at the facility.
What you should do when visiting loved ones at nursing homes
This depends on whether the nursing home is accepting visitors.
The CDC doesn't recommend a blanket-ban on visitors -- just those who show respiratory symptoms, like coughing and sneezing. The Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine
recommends that facilities screen visitors before entering in outbreak areas.
Some long-term care facilities have stopped allowing visitors to protect their patients. Call your facility ahead of time to find out its current policy and set up an alternative mode of communication between residents and family.
And it goes without saying, but if you're sick, don't visit.
If you think you have the novel coronavirus: Stay home and call your physician. If they think you should come in for a test, limit your interaction with other people and don't use public transportation. They may provide a face mask for you to wear while in their office.
If your doctor is not immediately available: Consider calling a local coronavirus hotline. Some city, county and state health departments have numbers you can call to discuss your symptoms and learn more about the virus's impact on the community. Keep in mind that these hotlines are meant as informational resources, and it's impossible to diagnose Covid-19 without a test.
If you're diagnosed with the novel coronavirus and your illness is mild: Your physician may advise that you stay home until you recover. If your symptoms are more severe, you may be hospitalized so physicians can monitor your condition.