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Nation’s Top Health Experts Urge Calm, Offer Advice About Coronavirus

Staying healthy, traveling safely among topics discussed at AARP’s tele-town hall

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Mario Tama/Getty

Three of the top U.S. public health experts addressed concerns over the nation’s COVID-19 outbreak and offered advice related to staying healthy, caring for friends and neighbors, traveling safely and more during AARP’s Coronavirus Information Tele-Town Hall on Tuesday. Here are some of the highlights of what they had to say on key topics, in their own words. You can also listen to a replay of the tele-town hall.

Nancy Messonnier, M.D.

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Director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases

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On risks to older adults

“The disease clearly affects older adults more seriously. Starting at age 60, there’s an increased risk of death, and the risk increases with age. The highest risk of illness is in people age 80 and older, and especially people who are older and have chronic medical conditions like heart disease, lung disease and diabetes.”

On travel

“If you are in the oldest age group — in your 80s with underlying health issues — truthfully, it’s not a great idea for you to get on any kind of flight. If you are in your mid-60s and otherwise generally healthy, I think it’s fine to take small flights, say, within the U.S. But I’d still be concerned about longer flights.”

On caregiving

“If you are delivering food to someone, and you leave it at the door, and they’re opening the door, there’s no risk. If you are caring for someone who has been diagnosed, they should wear a mask. You are perfectly safe in that environment with them.”

Admiral Brett Giroir, M.D.

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Assistant Secretary for Health at the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services


On coronavirus exposure

“This is a close contact disease. It is generally spread person-to-person if you are in close contact with one another — that is within 6 feet of one another — and it is spread through respiratory droplets that people produce when they cough or sneeze. These droplets can land on your nose or mouth or potentially your hands. And if you touch your face, you can get it.”

On precautions 

“Avoid close contact with people who are sick. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Disinfect and clean household surfaces and objects. Wash hands with soap and water, and do it for at least 20 seconds. Wash frequently, or you can use hand sanitizer with a high concentration of alcohol.”

On nursing homes and assisted living facilities

“It’s important to talk to the people running the facility. Ask about policies and procedures, whether they are following CMS [Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services] policy. Be sure they have doubled down. A lot of people are afraid because there’s no vaccine, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have tools. The tools are tried and true.”

Seema Verma

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Administrator for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services



On testing

“The good news is, no matter what type of [insurance] program you are in, you can get a coronavirus test without cost-sharing.”

On telehealth

“[With telehealth], you can call your doctor, you can Skype with them, you can send them pictures. All are covered services. Your doctor can bill for these.”

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