How to Manage a COVID-19 Outbreak as a Senior

The novel coronavirus, now known as COVID-19 or simply “the coronavirus,” has caused significant strain on public health infrastructure. COVID-19, as a respiratory disease similar to SARS, generally causes only mild symptoms to young people. However, the older one’s age, the higher likelihood of severe symptoms that require hospitalization and a medical ventilator. Therefore, the elderly need to take extra precautions when COVID-19 is in one’s community.

Prevention Recommendations

Firstly, frequent hand washing with warm water and soap functions as an excellent protectorate against catching all kinds of disease, including the novel coronavirus. To make washing easier while in an environment with a high risk of exposure to the disease, one can wear nitrile gloves, which one can wash while worn as one would simply wash their own hands. Hand sanitizer also works, but it doesn’t cut through the oils on the hands, which can cover pathogens. For that reason, using soap and water is generally better.

When engaging with other people, maintaining a distance of six feet is ideal for preventing the inhalation of the same air others may have exhaled. The virus can spread through tiny respiratory droplets that a contagious person may cough, sneeze, or breathe out.  Outside interaction is better than inside interaction because of this same fact about airborne respiratory droplets.

Wearing an N-95 mask is ideal for avoiding exposure to the disease and also, equally importantly, not spreading the virus to others. While it is hard to find N-95 masks during an outbreak of COVID-19, alternatives are better than nothing in this situation. Wearing a mask made for painting or landscaping, or even merely a bandana over one’s mouth like an outlaw in the wild west, is better than nothing when it comes to preventing the spread of respiratory disease.

When returning home from an outing, one should do a few things to prevent bringing the virus into one’s home on a surface like your clothes, hair, or shoes. When you get home, put aside to be washed any clothes you were wearing around other people. Wash your hair or any exposed skin with soap and water. Leave your shoes outside.

There is some evidence COVID-19 can spread to a new host through the eyes. To be extra cautious, one can always wear ski goggles, or swim goggles, or whatever eye wear.

Finally, gloves, masks, and goggles are also good for the reason that they can remind you to maintain a habit that helps prevent the spread of disease: not touching your face. People touch their own faces all the time. So, whatever you can do to not touch your face during an outbreak of COVID-19, the safer you will be.

Staying Home Strategies

Of course, the primary way to avoid contracting the novel coronavirus is to stay home, away from other people, whenever possible. However, the more time one spends at home, the more one can feel mildly depressed or lonely. Staying at home, especially alone, for long periods can also enable us to indulge in our worst habits. For example, a recovering smoker might feel tempted to order tobacco products online, or a social media user may spend excessive time scrolling on their favorite platforms. With these pitfalls in mind, along with the obvious hurdles of getting groceries and seeing friends, here are some best practices for self-isolation or quarantine.


  • Having non-perishables delivered is relatively easy.
    • Foodstuffs that have a long shelf-life and don’t require refrigeration, such as canned goods or grains, can be sourced from an online-warehouse-store, such as Amazon or, as opposed to a grocery store with a more limited system for delivering items.
  • Whole Foods, Amazon Fresh, as well as services like Instacart, can pick up your groceries from your local grocery store and bring them to your door without any face-to-face interaction.
  • Many stores, including Trader Joe’s and Walgreens, have instituted senior shopping hours in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak.
    • If none of the other options are available, seniors may decide to leave their homes and do their own shopping. In this event, please take whatever personal sanitary measures possible (mentioned above), and also think to refer to your local grocery store to see if they have a designated time where only seniors can shop. This sort of “senior-shopping-hour” is to reduce your potential exposure to younger people who may have the disease without knowing it due to the mildness of their symptoms. Other seniors are likely to be more careful with the health of themselves and others compared to young people in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak.
  • If you have a friend or someone else that you can trust to be sanitary with your grocery items, then asking them to do your shopping during a COVID-19 outbreak is a responsible thing to do if necessary. If they understand the seriousness of the disease, they will likely want to help you.

Sanitizing Deliveries

When self-isolating, it is prudent to have delivered whatever items you might otherwise have to go out to buy. Such items include things from coffee beans to toothpaste. However, the point of self-isolation is to avoid contracting SARS-COV-2, which is the virus that causes COVID-19, and one way of contracting it is touching surfaces touched by others in the recent past. A contagious person may have touched plastic and cardboard material in which items are delivered. With that in mind, one might want to find a way of sanitizing things that come in the mail.

  • Separating your item from the packaging
    • While not touching your face, remove the contents of your package and set aside any items or packaging that someone else may have recently touched. Then, wash your hands. For optimal safety, don’t touch the packaging, or anything else someone else may have touched, for three days after its arrival on your doorstep.
  • Soapy water
    • One cost-effective and timely way of sanitizing packages is getting your hands or a towel nice and sudsy with soapy water, then rubbing the soap all over whatever items or surfaces that someone else may have touched. This precaution is also an excellent thing to do with doorknobs and other frequently touched surfaces. Just let the soap air dry or wipe it with a towel; the item or surface is not sanitary until the soap is dry.
  • Alcohol
    • Wipe down whatever items with alcoholic wipes or isopropyl alcohol from a spray bottle. During an outbreak, isopropyl alcohol may be scarce, so diluting it down to a solution of no less than 50% alcohol is an excellent way to make whatever alcohol you have last.
  • Heat
    • Finally, it has been shown that the SARS-COV-2 virus can not survive on surfaces when heated to a temperature of 158 degrees Fahrenheit for a sustained period. One can also put deliveries (not plastic ones, or any others that might be damaged) in the oven at a temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit for ten minutes. The high heat will effectively sanitize the outside packaging of a delivery.

Taking Public Transit or Going to the Hospital During a COVID-19 Outbreak

During an outbreak of COVID-19, older people may have no choice but to go to the hospital or take public transit. Obviously, during an outbreak, these activities would expose one to other people, and thereby expose one to contracting the virus. In these situations, one should take every precaution one feels necessary without anxiety about judgement from others. Wearing a mask, gloves, or even goggles will protect one against the germs of others in public areas. Upon arrival home, don’t forget to wash clothes, wash hair, leave shoes outside, and consider sanitizing one’s mask, gloves, and goggles after taking them off.

Caregivers, Family Members

Older people often have caregivers or family members who help them with some of their day-to-day tasks. Being in the same room with an elderly person warrants taking precautions to stop the spread of germs. Even if a family member or caregiver has self-isolated during their time away from the senior that they help, something to cover their nose and mouth goes a long way for keeping safe the older adult.