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Health Department Advises Seniors and People with Chronic Conditions to Avoid Mass Gatherings

Three more county residents now have tested positive for novel coronavirus

Friday, March 6, 2020


Contra Costa Health Services (CHHS) today issued new recommendations advising elderly residents and people with chronic health issues to avoid mass gatherings to protect themselves against novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

County health officials say older people, especially those over 80, and people with underlying medical conditions – such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, or chronic lung diseases like COPD — are more vulnerable to COVID-19. For that reason, health officials recommend they should avoid going to the following types of bigger events where large numbers of people are within an arm's length of each other:

  • Concerts
  • Sporting events
  • Parades

The recommendation does not include avoiding typical office environments, grocery stores, or shopping centers, where it is unusual for large numbers of people to be within arm's length of one another.

CCHS is also recommending that organizations that primarily serve seniors or medically vulnerable individuals cancel large group event such as bingo and movie screenings.

"We are making these recommendations because of what we are seeing happen in other areas where the virus is more prevalent," said Deputy Health Officer Dr. Rohan Radhakrishna. "In those places, seniors and medically vulnerable people are getting more ill from COVID-19 than others, and even dying. Avoiding crowded events will help protect these folks from being exposed to the virus."

COVID-19, a new respiratory virus with symptoms similar to the flu, originated in China last year and has since spread to the United States. Fever and cough are commonly associated with COVID-19. The Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors will consider declaring a local emergency on March 10, 2020.

Local COVID-19 Cases

So far, four Contra Costa County residents have tested positive for the coronavirus. Three of those people have had known exposure to someone who tested positive for COVID-19. It's unclear how the fourth resident was infected, suggesting that the coronavirus may be circulating in Contra Costa.

Three of the four are under home isolation and didn't require hospitalization. The other person is in critical condition in a local hospital.

For most people, COVID-19 results in mild to moderate symptoms. While information about risk factors for COVID-19 infection is evolving, the best evidence currently available makes clear that risk of severe illness begins to increase at age 50 for those who contract COVID-19, and increases with age (i.e., an 80-year-old person is at greater risk than a 70-year-old person). The highest risk group are persons age 80 and over.

Adults and children with underlying medical problems also are likely at higher risk for severe disease, including persons with cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, or chronic lung diseases like COPD, as well as those who are immunocompromised.

Dr. Radhakrishna said people can take simple steps to protect themselves from COVID-19 and other communicable diseases:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap isn't available
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
  • Stay home when you are sick

"Don't be scared, be prepared," Dr. Radhakrishna said.

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Send feedback and story ideas to editor Will Harper at will.harper@cchealth.org