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RPEC Monitoring Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Outbreak – Updated 3-16

Updated (March 16, 2020)

On Monday, March 16, Governor Jay Inslee issued updated guidance to Washingtonians in response to the on-going outbreak of COVID-19

  • To limit the spread of COVID-19 the following public health actions were ordered effective Monday, March 16.
  • All events with more than 50 people are prohibited until further notice
  • All events with fewer than 50 people are discouraged and prohibited unless organizers observe COVID-19 prevention measure.
  • All bars, dance clubs, fitness and health clubs, movie theaters, nightclubs, and other social and recreational establishments until at least March 31.
  • All restaurants and food service establishments cannot provide dining room service. They may remain open for drive-through, takeout and delivery.
  • All other retail – including banks, grocery stores, hardware stores and pharmacies – should and may remain open, provided they observe COVID-19 prevention measures.

Under the order, events include: community, civic, public, leisure, or sporting events; parades; concerts; festivals; conventions; fundraisers; and similar activities.

Inslee also strongly urged those over 60 to self-isolate as much as possible to prevent contracting the virus.

All RPEC chapter meetings have been cancelled through the end of March. The RPEC Executive Board and AFSCME Retirees are recommending cancellation of all chapter meetings for the next 8 weeks, through May 15th. We will be working with chapter leaders to communicate with their members about cancellations and provide alternative ways to connect with them outside of in-person meetings.

From Washington State Alliance for Retired Americans –

Coronavirus: What Older Adults Need to Know

The situation around the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is changing rapidly, and NCOA (National Council on Aging) is taking proactive steps to share the best information we have to protect the public’s health, especially among older adults. Now is the time to stay informed and follow basic tips to protect yourself and those around you.

Older Adults at Higher Risk

The CDC has identified older adults and people who have severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung, or kidney disease at higher risk for more serious COVID-19.   According to the CDC, early data suggest older people are twice as likely to have serious COVID-19.

This is likely because as people age, their immune systems change, making it harder for their body to fight off diseases and infection, and because many older adults are also more likely to have underlying health conditions that make it harder to cope with and recover from. Age increases the risk that the respiratory system or lungs will shut down when an older person has COVID-19 disease.

The CDC has emphasized that the best way to prevent illness is to avoid exposure. That’s why the CDC is recommending that people at higher risk take the following actions:

  • Stock up on supplies.
  • Take everyday precautions to keep space between yourself and others.
  • When you go out in public, keep away from others who are sick, limit close contact, and wash your hands often.
  • Avoid crowds as much as possible.
  • Avoid cruise travel and non-essential air travel.
  • During a COVID-19 outbreak in your community, stay home as much as possible to further reduce your risk of being exposed.

Anthony Fauci, M.D., Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that people with serious chronic conditions, especially the elderly, should think twice about traveling or going to crowded places. He advised that these individuals take the simple steps of “not putting yourself in a situation—whatever that might be—that might increase the risk given your situation.”

The CDC is urging individuals to stay calm and Share Facts, Not Fear. Among the CDC’s advice are these common-sense tips:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces every day.

How to Support Older Adults

People of all ages can support older adults during this time. Many older adults depend on services and supports provided in their homes or in the community to maintain their health and independence. The CDC recommends that family members, neighbors, and caregivers:

  • Know what medications your loved one is taking and see if you can help them have extra on hand.
  • Monitor food and other medical supplies (oxygen, incontinence, dialysis, wound care) needed and create a back-up plan.
  • Stock up on non-perishable food items to have on hand in your home to minimize trips to stores.
  • If you care for a loved one living in a care facility, monitor the situation, ask about the health of the other residents frequently, and know the protocol if there is an outbreak.
  • Help with disinfecting frequently touched surfaces.

Beware of Scams

Unfortunately, scammers are taking advantage of fears surrounding the coronavirus. The Federal Trade Commission has identified several of them and is offering tips to protect yourself and others. These include watching for emails claiming to be from the CDC saying they have information about the virus and ignoring online offers for vaccinations. There currently are no vaccines, pills, potions, lotions, lozenges, or other prescription or over-the-counter products available to treat or cure COVID-19 online or in stores.

If you receive an email asking you to donate to a nonprofit that is fighting the coronavirus, make sure to research the organization first through an independent charity rating service such as Charity Navigator.

Tips for Community-Based Organizations

Local organizations serving older adults, including senior centers, should contact their local health department, which can provide the latest specific guidance on how to respond in the area. Senior centers and other local organizations also can play an important role in sharing trusted information with older adults. Our National Institute of Senior Centers has gathered information and resources related to how senior centers are responding.

A March 13 memorandum from the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services is advising nursing homes to take extensive measures to prevent COVID–19 infection of residents and staff, including:

  • Restrict visitation of all visitors and non-essential health care personnel except in end-of-life circumstances.
  • Screen residents and staff for signs of infection.
  • Cancel group activities such as communal dining.
  • Offer alternatives for residents who wish to socialize but still stay isolated.
  • Advise anyone who enters the facility to monitor themselves for signs of COVID- 19 infection for 14 days after contact.
  • Communicate all updates and announcement through multiple channels.

Remember the Seasonal Flu, Too

It’s also important to remember that we are still in the middle of the seasonal flu season, which impacts older adults every year. According to the CDC, it’s estimated that 70-85% of seasonal flu-related deaths have occurred in people aged 65+.

While there is no vaccine for the coronavirus, it’s never too late for individuals to get their annual flu shot. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about how you can protect yourself and those around you. Don’t forget that Medicare covers vaccines for influenza and other diseases.

With COVID-19 and all health issues, when in doubt, the best course forward is always to consult with your doctor. Many physicians and health care providers are asking that people call or send their questions via email first before coming into the office.

From Washington State Alliance for Retired Americans –

Medicare’s Coverage of the Coronavirus

From eHealthMEDICARE.com 4-12-20 blog post:

In brief: Medicare now covers coronavirus testing. Medicare also covers coronavirus treatment in outpatient clinics, hospitals, and skilled nursing facilities.

You probably see coronavirus (COVID-19) on the news every day. COVID-19 symptoms are similar to flu and include fever, cough, and shortness of breath, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). There is no need to panic over coronavirus. It can be avoided, tested, and the symptoms can be treated.

Does Medicare cover coronavirus testing?

Medicare Part B (medical insurance) now covers a test to see if you have coronavirus. A doctor or other health care provider must order it. You pay nothing for Medicare- covered clinical diagnostic laboratory tests, such as the coronavirus test.

If you have a Medicare Advantage plan, you also will be covered for the coronavirus test.

Does Medicare cover the coronavirus vaccine?

As of March 10, 2020, there is no coronavirus vaccine. However, your doctor may recommend the flu vaccine, which is covered by Medicare.

The severity of the flu should not be underestimated. The Centers for Disease Control and prevention (CDC) estimates up to 45 million flu illnesses in the current season alone and at least 18,000 flu deaths. According to the CDC, it’s estimated that up to 85% of seasonal flu-related deaths have occurred in people aged 65 and older.

Will Medicare cover me if I get the coronavirus?

If you get the coronavirus, Medicare will cover your care as if you were sick with any other illness. The CDC says that “supportive care to relieve symptoms” is the current medical treatment for coronavirus.

Medicare Part A will generally cover your inpatient care in a hospital or skilled nursing facility. Medicare Part B will generally cover your outpatient care. Medicare Part D will generally cover any prescription medication you must take although there is no specific medicine recommended to treat the new coronavirus, according to the World Health Organization. You may wish to have a Medicare Supplement plan to cover out-of-pocket costs associated with your care.

This article is for general information and should not be relied on as medical advice. Check with a medical professional for medical advice.

 

Updated (March 11, 2020)

On Wednesday, March 11th, ​Gov. Jay Inslee announced new community strategies and social distancing plans to minimize COVID-19 exposure, particularly in counties hit hardest by the virus.  A link to his full statement can be found here: https://medium.com/wagovernor/inslee-issues-emergency-proclamation-that-limits-large-events-to-minimize-public-health-risk-38b4d79a563d

Starting today, events that take place in King, Snohomish, and Pierce counties with more than 250 people are prohibited by the state.

This order applies to gatherings for social, spiritual and recreational activities. These include but are not limited to: community, civic, public, leisure, faith-based, or sporting events; parades; concerts; festivals; conventions; fundraisers and similar gatherings.

The governor also strongly encouraged state residents to practice social distancing, which means individuals should try to stay six feet or at least an arm’s length from each other.

Those over 60 years of age, those with underlying health conditions (including heart disease, lung disease, or diabetes), and those who have weakened immune system are strongly encouraged to avoid public gatherings of any size to minimize their risk of exposure.​

Additionally, King County has issued strict requirements for smaller events. Public events with fewer than 250 attendees are prohibited, unless event organizers can take steps to minimize risk. Event organizers must ensure that:

  • Older and vulnerable individuals have been encouraged not to attend
  • Recommendations for social distancing and limiting close contact are met
  • Employees or volunteers leading an event are screened for symptoms each day
  • Proper hand washing, sanitation, and cleaning is readily available
  • Environmental cleaning guidelines are followed (e.g., clean and disinfect high touch surfaces daily or more frequently)

While this guidance is currently for only King County events, we want to share this information more broadly so that retirees in other areas can be prepared and assess their own situations as conditions develop. A link to the full post from King County Public Health is here:https://publichealthinsider.com/2020/03/11/new-limits-on-large-gatherings-other-emergency-strategies-to-slow-the-spread-of-covid-19/


Several RPEC chapters have cancelled their upcoming March meetings. The full list can be found at: http://www.rpecwa.org/chapter-meeting-cancellations/

his list will be updated on the RPEC website as changes occur. We are providing assistance to chapters that cancel meetings by helping them notify their members via robo-call or email​.

Meetings of the RPEC Political Action Committee on March 23rd and the Convention Planning Committee on March 26th will be conducted via conference call.

We will be evaluating upcoming events including Leadership Conference and Convention as they get closer and providing updates to our members as we learn more.

Guidance will be provided to chapter leaders for meetings in April in the coming weeks. We will be in communication with chapters about how to proceed if meetings where chapter officer elections were scheduled are cancelled.


The RPEC Council Office is preparing contingency plans should the Council Office need to close. In the event of a closure, RPEC staff will have the ability to conduct key work functions remotely from home. We will be able to respond to email, voicemail, and requests for electronic copies of materials​

In the event of a Council Office closure, our ability to process requests for printed materials will be limited. In addition, chapter newsletters will not be able to be processed.

We will be able to assist chapters with communication via automated robo-call and group email blast. We can also assist chapter leaders in creating free conference call accounts to enable them to host conference calls.

Here is a link to instructions for alternative means of chapter communications: https://rpecwa.org/wp-content/uploads/Chapter_Robo_Call_Email_Blast_Conference_Call_Instructions.pdf

The health and safety of the our members and staff will continue to be our foremost concern. We encourage you to continue to monitor and abide by the recommendations from public health officials.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions or concerns.

 

Update (March 5, 2020)

RPEC is continuing to monitor the ongoing situation regarding the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak and is passing on the following guidance from state and local health officials.

While this guidance below is currently being recommended for only King County residents, we want to share this information more broadly so that retirees in other areas can be prepared and assess their own situations as conditions develop.

The safety and health of RPEC members is our foremost concern. We will continue to evaluate the continuation of scheduled chapter meetings and other upcoming events and will alert members if plans change.  We have resources that can assist chapters in communicating with their members remotely, including group emails, automated robo-calls, and conference call systems. Chapter leaders may contact the Council Office if they need assistance utilizing these resources.

We are encouraging all members to carefully consider if attending chapter meetings or other events is right for them given their individual health situation.

Below are the current recommendations from King County Public Health.

Public Health is recommending, but not requiring, the following steps:

  • People at higher risk of severe illness should stay home and away from large groups of people as much as possible, including public places with lots of people and large gatherings where there will be close contact with others. People at higher risk include:
    • People 60 and older
    • People with underlying health conditions including heart disease, lung disease, or diabetes
    • People who have weakened immune systems
    • People who are pregnant
  • If you can feasibly avoid bringing large groups of people together, consider postponing events and gatherings.
  • Public Health is not recommending closing schools at this time. If there is a confirmed case of COVID-19, Public Health will work with the school and the district to determine the best measures including potential closure of the school.
  • All people should not go out when they are sick.
  • Avoid visiting hospitals, long term care facilities, or nursing homes to the extent possible. If you need to go, limit your time there and keep six feet away from patients.

More detail on these measures will be available at www.kingcounty.gov/covid

When to seek medical evaluation and advice:

  • If you have symptoms like cough, fever, or other respiratory problems, call your healthcare provider. Do not go to the emergency room. Emergency rooms need to be able to serve those with the most critical needs.
  • If you are having a medical emergency, call 9-1-1.

In addition to the recommendations listed above, the public can help:

  1. Do not go to the emergency room unless essential. Emergency rooms need to be able to serve those with the most critical needs. If you have symptoms like cough, fever, or other respiratory problems, contact your regular doctor first.
  2. Stay home when sick.
  3. Practice excellent personal hygiene habits, including handwashing, coughing into tissue or elbow, avoid touching eyes, nose, or mouth.
  4. Stay away from people who are ill, especially if you are 60 and older or have underlying health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, or a weakened immune system.

Stay informed. Information is changing frequently. Check and subscribe to Public Health’s website (www.kingcounty.gov/COVID) or blog (www.publichealthinsider.com).

 

Original post (March 3, 2020)

RPEC is tracking the developing story regarding the spread of Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) and will continue to follow the guidance from local public health officials.

We will share relevant updates with members as we receive them. We recommend monitoring local media and public health agency communication for regular updates. At this time, RPEC encourages members to evaluate their own health situation and make the most  appropriate decision for them about attending chapter events.

The Washington State Department of Health has established a call center to address questions from the public. If you have questions about what is happening in Washington, how the virus is spread, and what to do if you have symptoms, please call 1-800-525-0127 and press #

The latest guidance for officials suggests the following steps to protect yourself:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash and wash your hands.
  • Clean and disinfect objects and surfaces.
  • Stay at home and away from others if you are sick.
  • Do not go to the emergency room unless essential. Emergency rooms need to be able to serve those with the most critical needs. If you have symptoms like cough, fever, or other respiratory problems, contact your regular doctor first.

Here is a fact sheet from Seattle-King County Public Health with helpful information about coronaviral and how to protect yourself.

https://www.kingcounty.gov/depts/health/communicable-diseases/disease-control/novel-coronavirus/~/media/depts/health/communicable-diseases/documents/novel-coronavirus-factsheet.ashx

Here is some specific advice for the Elderly and those with who may be at a higher risk of serious illness due to underlying health conditions.

https://www.doh.wa.gov/Portals/1/Documents/1600/coronavirus/For%20Individuals%20At%20Risk%20and%20with%20Underlying%20Conditions.pdf

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