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Seniors have higher chance of getting coronavirus. So how are nursing homes preparing?

Health officials say seniors, people with compromised immune systems and those with serious chronic medical conditions have a high risk of getting coronavirus.

SACRAMENTO, Calif — The coronavirus has killed more than a dozen elderly residents and sickened several others at Life Care Center of Kirkland, making the Seattle-area nursing home the epicenter of the state's virus outbreak.

The post-acute health care center had 120 patients on Feb. 19, but as the virus known as COVID-19 continued to spread and residents became sick, that number reduced to 55 by Sunday, officials said.

Health officials in Washington said there were 162 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 22 deaths as of Monday. Of those deaths, at least 16 have been associated with the Seattle-area nursing home.

Health officials have said that elderly people, people with compromised immune systems and those with serious chronic medical conditions have a higher risk of contracted COVID-19.

Washington's outbreak has heightened the alert among the Sacramento-region retirement community.

READ MORE: Today's coronavirus updates | Sacramento County changes quarantine guidance

Kim McCoy Wade, the director of the Department of Aging, said retirement homes are doubling down on the standard health care protocols.

"The state is all hands-on deck to be responsive and proactive, and our Department of Public Health is taking the lead," McCoy Wade said. "There is lots of guidance out there for the public and the workforce and people living in residences and their families. It's really about staying safe and staying healthy and following all the protocols while we learn more and do more."

Eskaton Senior Care and Services, a community-based nonprofit, houses over 10,000 seniors in 35 different communities across Northern California. Betsy Donovan, organization's director, told ABC10 that no staff or residents have come down with symptoms or tested positive for the coronavirus.

But they are taking precautions, including creating a task force to address any needs residents and staff would need in case of an outbreak.

Donavan says part of the precautionary measures also includes limiting activities for the elderly residents, including "not having congregate dining. Residents are eating in their rooms and limiting activities," Donovan said.

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Donavan said the Eskaton retirement community is taking in new retirees and staff, but they are being extra careful.

Sen. Richard Pan (D–Sacramento) said even seniors living outside of retirement homes should take precautionary measures.

Pan said that social isolation is not healthy for seniors, but if they are gathering, they should take personal precautions like washing their hands.

"Seniors should avoid large gatherings or travel if they can avoid that," Pan said. "That is something that should be considered as well."

BACKGROUND:

According to the CDC, coronavirus (COVID-19) is a family of viruses that is spreadable from person to person. Coronavirus is believed to have been first detected in a seafood market in Wuhan, China in December 2019. If someone is sick with coronavirus, the symptoms they may show include mild to severe respiratory illness, cough, and difficulty breathing.

Currently, there is no vaccine, however, the CDC suggests the following precautions, along with any other respiratory illness:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds.

The CDC also says facemasks should only be used by people who show symptoms of the virus. If you’re not sick, you do not have to wear a facemask. The CDC says the immediate risk to the U.S. public is low.

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