Coronavirus precautions for patients and others facing higher risks

(CDC/Alissa Eckert, Dan Higgins; inset: American Heart Association)

Eduardo Sanchez, M.D., M.P.H., FAAFP, the American Heart Association’s Chief Medical Officer for Prevention, shares advice and resources for patients and others concerned about the coronavirus.

As we all continue to adapt to life during the COVID-19 pandemic and get into some routine, it’s extremely important that we don’t let our guard down.

The best way to do that is to stick to the simple things we know can stop the spread of the coronavirus. You’ve heard these tips before, but you’ll keep hearing them because they’re currently our best defense against the virus:

  • Continue social distancing, at least 6 feet apart. In fact, stay home as much as you can.

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for 20 seconds.

  • Don’t touch surfaces out in public.

  • Wear a mask or cloth face covering when you’re out in areas where it’s hard to social distance.

  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue and then throw it away. If you don’t have a tissue handy, cough or sneeze into your long sleeve at the elbow fold.

  • Try not to touch your mouth, nose or eyes.

Continue to stay informed about this rapidly changing pandemic. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers regularly updated and reliable information. Be sure to also follow the guidance of your state and local health officials. And you can always find updates for patients and tips to stay healthy at

Who is at risk of infection or complications?

It continues to look like older people with coronary heart disease or high blood pressure are more likely to develop more severe symptoms.

Stroke survivors and those with heart disease, including high blood pressure and congenital heart defects, may face an increased risk for complications if they become infected with the COVID-19 virus. People with diabetes, compromised immune systems, chronic lung diseases and other underlying conditions also may be at risk of more severe illness, according to the CDC.

Also,early national data indicate black people, Hispanics and Latinos appear to be disproportionately impacted.Data from several cities and counties found black people there had higher death rates from COVID-19. Many black people are already more vulnerable to cardiovascular and stroke risks, as well as social determinants of health.  

If you are an essential worker or need to be out

We all need to be extra vigilant if we leave home. Be mindful that every surface is a potential source of infection and that everything you bring inside your house could be contaminated with the virus. Wipe down packages and wrappers, throw away bags and then wash your hands.

If you are an essential worker, you likely have more chances of being exposed to or actually contracting the virus.

The CDC’s new guidance says critical workers who have been exposed may be permitted to continue working if they remain asymptomatic and take additional precautions to protect themselves and others.

Those precautions include pre-screening for fever and other symptoms before work, regularly monitoring conditions at work, and wearing a mask and practicing social distancing at work.

If you’re hunkering down at home

The vast majority of Americans are now being asked to stay home, but safety precautions are still necessary even when you’re away from others. Continue the vigorous handwashing, and clean and disinfect surfaces regularly.

If you do have an