What Should People With Underlying Conditions Do to Stay Safe?

April 2020.

Right now, flattening the curve is a priority. To curb the spread of infection, we’re disinfecting door knobs, choosing “contact-less” delivery and seeing friends on Zoom. While social distancing measures are recommended for everyone, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urges extra precautions for members of “higher-risk groups.” That means people over 65 years old, as well as those with compromised immune systems or various underlying illnesses, including diabetes and lung disease.

We asked five doctors what people deemed “higher risk” should do to minimize their risk of coronavirus exposure. Here’s what they had to say. 

Dr. Daniel Vorobiof, MD

Oncologist and chief medical director of Belong.Life

One of the important findings noticed during the first wave of the COVID-19 infection in China was the fact that patients with cancer represented a high-risk immunocompromised population, together with patients suffering from other chronic medical problems and those over 60 years of age. The known preexisting conditions that are considered to be at high risk of developing COVID-19 are cancer (specifically patients currently receiving or who have recently received anti-cancer treatment), diabetes, heart and vascular diseases, autoimmune disorders, HIV/AIDs, preexisting tuberculosis and patients receiving immunosuppressive medications.  

Strict preventive measures for cancer patients need to be put in place in order to reduce possible contamination, such as home isolation, washing of hands multiple times a day, use of masks and gloves when outside the house (such as for a visit to the doctor or medical center) and social distancing. Patients should be prepared to spend a long period at home and try to follow a daily routine, keep in contact with their family and friends, and remain positive and informed. All patients with preexisting conditions should follow the same precautions.

Because of their immunocompromised status, patients with underlying conditions are at high risk of contracting the infection, and thereafter they will have a more difficult course of the disease. We are in this situation alone and together — alone at home, but still connected with the rest of the world. Make the best of it, keep in touch with family and friends, share good news and a laugh — it is good for those of us who are healthy and those who unfortunately are not.

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