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Older adults with COVID-19 at greater risk for hospitalization, death

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Older adults are at greater risk of hospitalization or death if they are diagnosed with COVID-19. (Photo: KUTV)

Older adults are at greater risk of hospitalization or death if they are diagnosed with COVID-19.

As Utah continues to see high transmission rates during the holidays, it's important to protect those who are most vulnerable to the virus.

University of Utah Health geriatric experts discussed Friday how older adults are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 and how to provide emotional support this holiday season.

Experts said despite pandemic fatigue, this is the time to be vigilant.

Dr. Mark Supiano, chief of the division of geriatrics at U of U Health, and Dr. Kathie Supiano director of Caring Connections for U of U College of Nursing, say the risks for older adults is higher than ever before.

Both doctors said Utahns should take the common phrase “Christmas in July” quite literally this year, and postpone any holiday gatherings. During the holidays, a lot of families are considering travel. Physicians are, again, encouraging people to not travel.

Supiano points to the current COVID-19 numbers and transmission level in the state. Well over half of the state's 917 COVID-19 deaths come are people 65 and older; a population that only makes up 12% of the state.

The doctor said we need to protect the vulnerable populations by masking up and being physically distant.

Experts are encouraging people to continue to meet over Zoom and reach out in social distant ways. Support groups and resources are also offered by the U of U Health. They can be found here and here.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, eight out 10 COVID-19 deaths reported in the U.S. have been in adults 65 years and older.

A CDC chart shows that people between the ages of 50-74 are 30-90 times higher risk for dying from the virus.

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When looking for symptoms, older adults normal body temperature can be lower than in younger adults. Which means it may be harder to tell when an older adult has a fever.

A single reading higher than 100F (37.8C), multiple readings above 99F (37.2C), or a rise in temperature greater than 2F (1.1C) above the patient’s normal temperature may be a sign of infection, according to the CDC.

Risk for severe illness with COVID-19 increase with age, along with certain medical conditions. The greatest risk for severe illness from COVID-19 is among those aged 85 or older.

Severe illness means that a person with COVID-19 may require hospitalization, intensive care, a ventilator to help them breathe, or they may even die.

The CDC recommends people with underlying health conditions to not delay emergency care, continue treatment plan and to contact their health care provider with questions.

Best practices to stop the spread of COVID-19.

  • Wear a mask while around others
  • Limit in-person interactions with other people as much as possible, particularly when indoors.
  • Keep six-feet of space between yourself and others
  • Wash hands often. If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or the inside of your elbow.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces and things touched often.