Feroleto Law, Buffalo NY

Corona Virus Concerns in Senior Facitilies

It is reasonable to be concerned about Corona virus in Buffalo and Western New York nursing homes and senior facilities. In fact, yesterday, March 10, 2020. Industry leaders suggested curtailing social visits to homes across the country, describing the coronavirus is “one of the most significant, if not the most significant issues” the nursing home industry and never encountered.

            However, please keep in mind there are no reported cases of the corona virus, also known as Covid-19, in Buffalo or Western New York. Concern of potential corona virus in Buffalo nursing homes is understandable as this strain of the virus appears to be quite contagious, and also due to the severity of the virus on seniors, particularly in seniors with respiratory problems. However, the virus can be eliminated by disinfection. Also, the likelihood of contracting the virus can be greatly decreased by reducing contact with potential exposures.

            Erie County health Commissioner Dr. Gail Burstein presented in an informational meeting Monday, March 9, 2020 and provided valuable advice. Erie County has its own laboratory for testing of the new coronavirus. 11 people in Erie County have been tested for the corona virus and all have been found not to have the Covid-19 virus.

In addition to our loved ones in nursing homes and assisted living, we need to think about and think the staff, who often deal with difficult circumstances and now risk exposure to the coronavirus.  While concern is certainly warranted, is important we try to stay calm and informed as we move forward. Some facts and preventative measures are provided below.

Facts About COVID-19

            COVID-19, the disease caused by the current strain of corona virus that originated in China appears to get more dangerous with age. A study published in The Journal of American Medical Association found that of the first 45,000 cases studied in China, 80% appear to be mild. The remaining 20% had moderate, severe or critical symptoms. In 2002, a similar virus, known as SARS, that also started in China hit people over 60 the hardest as well.

With COVID-19, so far, children ages 1-9 make up 1% of the Chinese infections with no reported fatalities. The study found that of the people in their 70s who got the virus, 8% died, along with 15% of those 80 or older. People with heart problems, diabetes, or lung issues like COPD are also at a higher risk for severe disease and death. Pregnant women do not seem to be impacted. The Lancet found that 9 women who became infected did not pass the virus on to their babies. Healthcare workers are another vulnerable population with respect to COVID-19. In China, at least 1,700 have become infected while treating patients in China, most in Hubei province where the outbreak began. Overall, nearly 15% of cases among health workers were classified as severe or critical, and five have died.

What Can You Do?

Risk is dependent on exposure. With the current data showing that older adults and those with certain health conditions are at a higher risk of dying from the disease there are certain precautions that can be taken. Understanding who is most vulnerable can help communities prepare and respond effectively if and when the virus arrives. Those who are 65 and older should avoid unnecessary foreign travel. People who aren’t feeling well should stay at home and self-quarantine to avoid passing the illness on to others – especially those who are more immunocompromised. Buffalo senior facilities and nursing homes are keenly aware of and addressing the corona virus and potential exposure to it.

Hand hygiene is the cornerstone of infection prevention. Hand-washing is one of the most effective ways to help prevent the spread and transmission of the disease. We touch our face with our hands, including our nose, eyes, and mouth an average of 15 to 23 times an hour. Most people don’t even realize they are doing it. We also touch door handles, subway poles, handrails, saltshakers, other people’s hands and grocery carts.  Use soap and water for the amount of time it takes to sing the “Happy Birthday” song, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.

A study at Emory University Hospital found that the most common areas missed by handwashers are the thumbs, wrists, and in between fingers. If you touch surfaces, do not touch your face. Other preventative steps include: Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash, and clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.

The symptoms of COVID-19 are: fever, cough, and shortness of breath. The CDC notes they can appear 2-14 days after exposure. The CDC recommends you CALL your doctor, rather than sitting in a waiting room potentially exposing others, if you develop symptoms or have been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19. CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19. Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others. The use of facemasks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).