COVID-19: Understanding the Coronavirus and How to Reduce Risk

The situation in Connecticut is emerging and rapidly evolving. Stay updated on information as it becomes available from ct.gov/coronavirus and the CDC.

If you think you have been exposed to COVID-19 and develop a fever and symptoms such as cough or difficulty breathing, call your healthcare provider for medical advice.

COVID-19, also known as the coronavirus is a respiratory illness caused by a virus that spreads person-to-person. Older adults, people with disabilities, and people of any age who have serious underlying medical conditions might be at a higher risk for severe illness. It’s important to understand how you best protect yourself and those around you

As Connecticut continues to reopen, it’s important to remember that the possibility of infection remains a threat. This is especially worrisome for older adults, people with disabilities, and individuals of any age who have serious underlying medical conditions.

Now as before, it’s critical that everyone adhere to guidelines and mandates in order to keep ourselves and our community safe and healthy. Download this helpful visual for information to help stay safe in the community

The information below can help you and the people you care about take preventative measures to reduce the risk of catching coronavirus.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the virus that causes COVID-19 is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person through “respiratory droplets” produced when an infected person talks, sneezes, or coughs. When in close contact with an infected person (thought to be within six feet), these droplets can travel through the air and enter the lungs of a noninfected person through the mouth or nose. While the virus can spread easily between individuals, it may also be spread in other ways including touching a surface with infected respiratory droplets on it and then touching one’s own mouth, nose or eyes. This is now not thought to be the main way the virus spreads, but more research needs to be done to find out more about the spread of the virus. In some cases, individuals that do not show symptoms of COVID-19 can still spread the virus. 

Older adults and people with disabilities can take additional measures to protect their health and safety in public spaces. The CDC recommends that if you go out in public, to put distance between yourself and other people, wear a cloth face mask, and wash your hands often. During this coronavirus outbreak, it is recommended to stay home as much as possible

  • Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face cover when around others if you have to go out in public. Continue to keep about 6 feet between yourself and others. The cloth face cover is not a substitute for social distancing.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks.
  • Stay in touch with others by phone or email. You may need to ask for help from friends, family, neighbors, community health workers, etc. if you become sick.
  • Consider online options to engage with your family, friends and community.
  • Avoid public transportation if possible.
  • Pay attention to your community as guidelines continue to loosen throughout Connecticut and across the country. Tune in to local radio or television news broadcasts and https://portal.ct.gov/Coronavirus/Reopen-CT to learn more about important changes in your community. Remember that the threat of the coronavirus remains present and that higher risk populations should continue to take the proper precautions to protect themselves.
  • While some doctors may be conducting regular appointments online, don’t hesitate to seek medical help and necessary in person doctors appointments.

According to the CDC, older adults, people with disabilities and people who have serious chronic medical conditions are believed to be especially at risk of catching the coronavirus. The CDC has specific guidelines and actionable tips you can use to reduce your risk of getting sick. If you or someone you care for are at risk, learn more here.

Older adults and people with disabilities can take additional measures to protect their health and safety while at home and help prevent the spread of coronavirus.

  • According to the AARP, you should stock up on important prescription medication for at least 30 days. This allows you to be prepared if you become ill with the coronavirus and may prevent frequent trips to the pharmacy. 
  • Consider stocking up on over-the-counter medications to treat fever, cough and other symptoms, as well as tissues and common medical supplies.
  • According to the CDC, if you are experiencing difficulties getting your prescription medication, consider refilling your medications with a mail-order service.
  • The CDC recommends creating a household plan of action involving household members, caregivers and healthcare providers to discuss what to do if you or someone on your care team is affected by coronavirus. Learn how to get your home ready here.
  • Tell your caregiver what medications you are taking and discuss how coronavirus may affect your ability to fill your prescriptions.
  • If you are a caregiver, monitor the food and medical supplies (oxygen, incontinence care supplies, dialysis, wound care) needed and create a backup plan.
  • Call your doctor ahead of your visit and let them know if you are infected with coronavirus or suspect you are experiencing the symptoms.
  • For a helpful checklist for older adults on how to prepare and stay safe, please download this CDC checklist.

As the coronavirus situation continues to change, older adults and people with disabilities may find the sources or organizations they rely on for meals and groceries have been affected. The following tips may help you ensure your health and safety.

  • Stock up on non-perishable food items such as frozen or canned goods to have on hand in your home to minimize trips to stores.
  • Consider ways of getting meals and groceries delivered directly to your home through delivery services or through friends or family members.
  • If you have meals or groceries delivered to your home, call the service you use to see if you can have it dropped off directly outside your door
  • Some stores may have modified hours for higher risk populations, including older adults or people of any age with serious underlying conditions. Call your local store and ask if this is the case in your community.

The resources on this page include information to ensure individuals with disabilities, and those who care for persons with disabilities, can continue to make informed decisions throughout the response and recovery phases of COVID-19.

For the most up-to-date information concerning nursing home residents please scroll to the Press Release section on the lower right hand corner of the Long Term Care Ombudsman Program website homepage. 

The following are everyday precautions people of all ages and abilities can perform daily to help prevent the spread of coronavirus and reduce the risk of infection.

  1. Stay at home as much as possible.
  2. Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  3. If you have to go out in public, cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face cover and continue to keep about 6 feet between yourself and others. The cloth face cover is not a substitute for social distancing.
  4. Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing, or having been in a public place.
  5. If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  6. Clean your hands after touching surfaces in public spaces.
  7. If possible, avoid touching high-contact surfaces in public spaces such as door handles, handrails, or elevator buttons.
  8. Avoid touching your face, nose, and eyes.
  9. Avoid non-essential travel.
  10. Watch for symptoms and emergency warning signs.
  11. Have a plan for if you do get sick.
  12. Stay updated as the situation in your local community changes.
  13. Avoid myths and hysteria. Focus on the facts from trusted, reputable sources such as ct.gov/coronavirus and cdc.gov.

Important: As the situation continues to change, it is important to avoid scams, malicious websites, and links or emails from sources you don’t know. It is also important to be aware of unapproved and misbranded products claiming to treat or prevent COVID-19. Learn more about what the FTC and FDA are doing to help you identify and avoid coronavirus scams.

If you are sick with coronavirus or suspect you are infected with the coronavirus, follow the tips below to help prevent the disease from spreading to people in your home and community. The CDC recommends the following steps if you are sick with coronavirus.

  1. Stay home. People who are mildly ill with coronavirus are able to recover at home. Do not leave, except to get medical care and do not visit public areas.
  2. Stay in touch with your doctor. Call before you get medical care. Be sure to get care if you feel worse or you think it is an emergency.
  3. Avoid public transportation, ride sharing or taxis.
  4. Stay away from others as much as possible. You should stay in a “sick room” and away from other people in your home. Use a separate bathroom if available.
  5. Limit contact with pets & animals. Although there have not been reports of pets or other animals becoming sick with coronavirus, it is still recommended that people with the virus limit contact with animals until more information is known.
  6. Call ahead before visiting your doctor. If you have a medical appointment, call your doctor’s office or emergency department, and tell them you have or may have coronavirus.
  7. Wear a cloth covering over your nose and mouth if you must be around other people even at home.
  8. Cover your coughs and sneezes. Throw tissues in a lined trash can and immediately wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  9. Clean your hands often. Wash hands for at least 20 seconds after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing going to the bathroom, and before eating or preparing food.
  10. Use hand sanitizer if soap is not available. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol, covering all surfaces of your hands and rubbing them together until they feel dry.
  11. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands
  12. Avoid sharing personal household items. Do not share dishes, drinking glasses, cups, eating utensils, towels, or bedding with other people in your home.
  13. Clean high-touch surfaces every day. Clean surfaces in your “sick room” and bathroom and let a caregiver clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces in common areas.
  14. Monitor your symptoms. Follow care instructions from your healthcare provider and local health department. 

This is not an exhaustive list. For more information and support, visit ct.gov/coronavirus and the CDC.

It's important to understand the emergency warning signs for COVID-19. If you have any of the following symptoms, call 911 or go to the emergency room right away. Emergency departments have measures in place to keep you safe if you need emergency care.

  • Trouble breathing
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New or worsening confusion
  • Inability to wake or stay awake
  • Bluish lips or face

This list does not include all possible symptoms. Please call your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning to you.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) created a resource providing updated technical assistance on coronavirus questions arising under federal equal employment opportunity law including the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act. This resource covers information related to:

  • Disability-related inquiries and medical exams
  • Confidentiality of medical information 
  • Hiring and onboarding
  • Reasonable accommodation 
  • Pandemic related harassment 
  • Furloughs and layoffs
  • Returning to work

Feelings of isolation and loneliness are being felt by many during this pandemic. However, by observing social distance, wearing face covers when needed and following other current guidelines in effect for Connecticut’s residents, we can all work together as a community to continue flattening the curve. For more helpful information on how to cope during this pandemic read our blog post or visit the CDC.

The following organizations and online resources provide up-to-date information regarding COVID-19 and provide in-depth information about safeguarding the health and wellbeing of yourself, those you care for and your community.

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  2. World Health Organization
  3. CT.gov/coronavirus
  4. AARP