Prevention key to protecting those at high risk during pandemic

Published 8:33 am Wednesday, April 1, 2020

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By Dawn Burleigh

The Orange Leader


With predictions of COVID-19 deaths reaching over 6,000 by August 4 in Texas, with the peak expected on May 6, 2020 with 155 deaths per day.

Those with lung and heart diseases, diabetes and overweight are the highest at risk to have complications with the virus.

Texas is already experiencing a shortage of ICU beds with 2,469 beads needed and 2,259 available throughout the state. Almost 2,000 invasive ventilators are needed.

Based upon available information to date, those at high-risk for severe illness from COVID-19 include:

  • People aged 65 years and older
  • People who live in a nursing home or long-term care facility
  • Other high-risk conditions could include:

  People with chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma

  People who have serious heart conditions

  People who are immunocompromised including cancer treatment

  People of any age with severe obesity (body mass index [BMI] >40) or certain underlying medical conditions, particularly if not well controlled, such as those with diabetes, renal failure, or liver disease might also be at risk

  • People who are pregnant should be monitored since they are known to be at risk with severe viral illness, however, to date data on COVID-19 has not shown increased risk, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Many conditions can cause a person to be immunocompromised, including cancer treatment, smoking, bone marrow or organ transplantation, immune deficiencies, poorly controlled HIV or AIDS, and prolonged use of corticosteroids and other immune weakening medications.

“Those already sick with a respiratory condition are a target for the virus,” Mason Miranda, health writer for said. “They already have trouble breathing. This can lead to a lack of oxygen which is then a lack of oxygen to the brain leading to confusion.”

For someone with dementia, this can increase the symptoms of their condition.

For those with mesothelioma, the virus can create more problems.

Mesothelioma is a rare, aggressive form of cancer that develops in the linings of the lungs, abdomen or heart. Exposure to asbestos is the only known cause of malignant mesothelioma. The average life expectancy of mesothelioma patients is 12 – 21 months after diagnosis. Symptoms can include chest pain, shortness of breath and general fatigue, according to

“On a normal day, a person with mesothelioma, we suggest the always check the grocery store to see if it has or is going through renovations and if it was found to have asbestos,” Miranda said. “It takes a minute to Google, and if no renovations, ‘Great I can go there’. Now they must take more precautions.”

A person with a compromised immunity already takes precautions to not get sick.

“The flu can impact their health. The virus is a double whammy for them,” Miranda said. “Always wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands.”

Besides sanitizing one’s home and washing one’s clothes frequently, Miranda also suggested ‘forgotten’ areas.

“While avoiding crowds, also avoid travel,” Miranda said. “When sanitizing, don’t forget your car such as the steering wheel, emergency brake and shifter.”

While those in the medical field are wearing a face mask to help prevent being exposed to COVID-19, for the general public without respiratory illness, wearing lightweight disposable surgical masks is not recommended. Because they don’t fit tightly, they may allow tiny infected droplets to get into the nose, mouth or eyes. Also, people with the virus on their hands who touch their face under a mask might become infected.
People with a respiratory illness can wear these masks to lessen their chance of infecting others. Bear in mind that stocking up on masks makes fewer available for sick patients and health care workers who need them, according to Expectational Emergency Center. 

Health care professionals are wearing professional, tight-fitting respirators, such as the N95.