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Older Adults At Increased Risk From Coronavirus, Warns Jackson County Health Official

Image of a spiky ball meant to depict the coronavirus
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Illustration of coronaviruses created by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

As COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, continues to spread along the West Coast, older adults are at especially high risk.

Southern Oregon communities including Roseburg, Grants Pass, Ashland and Coos Bay have larger populations of people over 65-years-old compared to Oregon and the national average.

“The facts of the matter are that older adults are much more likely to get seriously ill and having fatal consequences than children, who hardly ever get sick from COVID-19,” says Jim Shames, the health officer for Jackson County.

Four people have died from COVID-19 at a senior nursing facility in Kirkland, Washington as of Monday afternoon, with dozens more showing signs of possible infections at the facility.

Cases of the respiratory illness in Oregon increased to three on Monday with another 86 individuals being monitored for the disease.

Shames says now is the time for seniors to plan for the possibility of being quarantined in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19 if it arrives in Southern Oregon. That preparation means having a care-giving plan while staying at home, a supply of medication, and knowing how to get that extra medication.

“Now’s the time to have that conversation with your pharmacist and, more likely, your insurance carrier,” he says.

For those who choose to prepare, the precautions are basic. Public health officials continue to urge hand-washing and disinfecting surfaces, covering your cough, and calling your health care provider if you feel sick.

“The measures that people talk about, public health measures, they really are effective,” Shames says. “They will be effective for this disease, if people really took them seriously.”

Erik Neumann is JPR's news director. He earned a master's degree from the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and joined JPR as a reporter in 2019 after working at NPR member station KUER in Salt Lake City.