What you need to know
The coronavirus (COVID-19) situation is changing quickly. We know there is a lot of information available, but there is also misinformation. We encourage you to turn to credible sources for your facts – we give several links at the bottom of this page.
The CDC’s “What to do if you are sick” page has a self-checker to use if you are sick and worry you may have coronavirus. Click here to go.
Here we provide answers to some of the questions our members have had.
Q: What is coronavirus (COVID-19)?
It is a virus-based illness, with symptoms similar to a cold or flu. The main way it spreads is from person to person when someone with COVID-19 coughs or sneezes.
Q: Aside from washing my hands, how can I protect myself?
Like any virus-based illness, the best way to prevent it is not to be exposed to it. Governor Newsom has called for all Californians to stay at home. That sounds harsh, but staying in your own home is the best way to avoid exposure right now. The CDC always recommends common-sense preventive actions – so in addition to handwashing:
- If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick—and stay home when you’re sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, not your hands.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
- Keep all medical-related equipment (such as CPAP machines) clean, according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Q. What if I need something from the market?
If you are able to get to the store, many local groceries are offering senior-only shopping hours, Northgate, Grocery Outlet and Trader Joes are just a few. Call your local store and find out. If you cannot get to the store – if you are sick or have underlying health conditions, do you have family or friends who can help out? They can drop off supplies outside your door. If you’re online, this is a great time to try a service like Amazon or Instacart (will pick up and deliver from your local grocery store). If you’re not online, call and ask a neighbor – or drop a note in their mailbox. We are seeing many communities draw together to support one another.
Q: What if I need a refill on my medications?
This is a good time to think about changing any prescription medications you take on an ongoing basis from a 30-day supply to a 90-day supply.
If you haven’t used the SCAN home delivery pharmacy yet, now might be a good time. This is for medications you take on an ongoing basis and you can get 90-day supplies delivered for free to your home, often at lower cost. Learn how to get started here.
Also: many local pharmacies offer free delivery. Call your pharmacy and ask if they have delivery options that may work for you.
Q. Do I keep my appointments for things like dental cleanings or my annual vision exam?
If it’s strictly a check-up, it’s best to cancel right now. Call the office and let them know. The California Dental Association, for one, is strongly recommending that nonessential and nonurgent dental care be suspended during this time.
Q. If I’m supposed to avoid sick people, should I still go to the doctor?
If you need medical advice, call your doctor’s office. This applies whether you think you have symptoms of the coronavirus or not.
If it’s just a routine visit, you’re probably okay to postpone, but please check in with your doctor’s office to verify. Many doctors are now doing appointments by phone. This is important if you have a chronic condition that your doctor is monitoring.
If it’s not routine, still call ahead. Some medical groups offer 24-hour nurse advice lines for after-hours calls. And many SCAN members have a telehealth benefit. This “doctor appointment by phone” is a good alternative to an urgent care center.
Q. Can I use my telehealth benefit?
We suggest first calling your own doctor. Many doctors are now doing appointments by phone. They have your medical history at their fingertips and can best direct your care, including ordering prescription refills.
Your SCAN telehealth benefit is best for urgent or after-hours care needs. Please know that because so many people are avoiding public places, the telehealth companies are experiencing a very high call volume, so you may have to wait on hold. But, it’s better than sitting in a public waiting room with others who are sick!
Q: Is a provider allowed to check me for illness, such as a fever, before allowing me to be treated?
Yes. Please expect that providers and their staff will implement patient screening exams to help protect medical staff. The CDC recommends this practice for healthcare settings and healthcare providers. This means that if you have a non-urgent appointment and you are found to have a fever when initially screened at that office visit, the provider will likely not treat you. Instead, you may be told to get immediate care from your primary care doctor or an urgent care provider.
Q: Seniors are at greater risk for coronavirus – does that mean I should be tested?
Not if you aren’t sick. If you have heart or lung disease, diabetes, chronic kidney or liver disease, or another underlying health condition, that can put you at higher risk, too. Continue to keep up with your medications and other treatments and contact your doctor if you do get sick.
Q: How do I know if I should be tested for coronavirus?
The CDC has a symptom checker on their website here. Answer a few questions and they’ll provide guidance. Generally, the CDC recommends that you call your doctor if you feel sick with fever, cough, or have trouble breathing, and have been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19, or if you live in or have recently traveled from an area with ongoing spread of COVID-19.
Your doctor will work with your state’s public health department and CDC to determine if you need to be tested for COVID-19.
Q: Am I covered for the cost of a coronavirus test? What if I need care?
Yes, this is covered for $0 when your doctor or a healthcare provider orders it. Of course, related care you need would be covered under your benefits (unless otherwise determined by state law or regulation).
Q: What do I do all day if I have to stay at home?
Call a friend – most seniors are in the same boat, and it’s important to speak to someone every day. Have friends/family/neighbors bring you books, movies or the newspaper. Download some games on your computer or smartphone, whether it’s solitaire, chess, sudoku, words with friends or a silly game like “Candy Crush,” it can keep your mind engaged.
What you shouldn’t do is watch the news channel all day long. Be sure to get your facts from reliable sources, like the CDC – not from social media. It’s equally important to take a break and focus on something you enjoy, like music, movies, cooking, baking, etc.
Probably most important is to get some activity every day and spend time in the fresh air. SilverSneakers has a wide selection of online workout videos. If you don’t use a computer, then walk, dance, garden.
Q. I’m having a hard time right now, I’m both anxious and depressed.
Both are perfectly understandable. This is an unprecedented situation, where much is out of our control. We encourage you to talk about what you’re feeling. Sharing your concerns with a friend, neighbor or family member can help. We encourage you to reach out. If you are feeling this way, chances are others are, too, and would welcome the chance to connect. But you may need to talk with your doctor. Call and find out what to do about how you are feeling. There are online support groups and phone lines, too. Here are a few: nami.org and the Institute on Aging’s Friendship Line: 1-800-971-0016.
Q: I received an email/text/saw a post on Facebook about a product that will protect me from getting (or help me recover) from coronavirus. Will this work?
Beware of any offers to sell you something related to the coronavirus. Scammers will look to take advantage of people with worries about the virus or looking for information.
The FTC reports that scammers are setting up websites to sell bogus products, and using fake emails, texts, and social media posts as a ruse to take people’s money and get their personal information. If you have any questions about your health, call your doctor’s office. For credible information, look to the CDC website.
Q: Should I use a facemask when I’m out in public?
If you’re healthy, no. If you have ongoing health issues, though, talk to your doctor to see if he or she thinks a mask is needed.
Otherwise, the people who should wear facemasks are those who have COVID-19 or are caring for someone with COVID-19.
Q: Do I need to stock up on my medications, food and water?
Everyone should have emergency supplies on hand in the event of an earthquake, power outage or other natural disaster. For prescription medications, try to have a 30-day supply.
Stay in the know.
For details and up-to-date information about coronavirus, please refer to these credible websites:
- The Centers for Disease Control
- California Department of Public Health
- Your local county public health department: find yours here.
For information on your SCAN coverage during this time, click here.