Protecting older relatives from COVID this holiday season

Coronavirus

DENVER (KDVR) — New Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data shows that one in every 100 seniors, people aged 65 and up, has died from COVID in America. The data comes as the U.S. nears the 800,000 COVID death mark.

It’s been said throughout the pandemic, older people are more vulnerable to the sickness. The Problem Solvers wanted to take a closer as to why.

Despite being prioritized first for vaccines, state data shows some older people are still dying of COVID. Doctors are urging everyone to keep their guard up as they meet with older relatives this holiday season.

“Everyone is susceptible to COVID, including younger populations and older populations but the outcomes of COVID in terms of the risk of hospitalizations and even mortality is higher among the elderly population, especially among the age of 65. About 80% of deaths across the country have happened in that age group only,” said Dr. Jaya Kumar, chief medical officer of Swedish Medical Center.

The CDC is highlighting those risks with new data showing just how much of a toll the illness has taken on older Americans.

While we know preexisting conditions like heart disease, diabetes and cancer put older people at higher risk of getting very sick but Kumar said the older you get, the harder it is for your body to fight off disease.

“Our immune systems age as we age. It’s a process called immunosenescence where the quantity and quality of an immune response may not be the same as the younger populations,” said Kumar.

Kumar also said people living in nursing homes are at higher risk simply due to their close living quarters with other elders. Nursing homes are right behind schools when it comes to the largest outbreaks in Colorado.

So what should you do if you plan to visit your elderly loved one this holiday season? Kumar believes making sure everyone around the elderly is vaccinated along with other precautions is key.

“Avoiding mingling with unvaccinated people with this subgroup and if you’re having an indoor gathering, keeping it small and wearing a mask. Also, avoid people who are sick in those gatherings would be key to protecting these individuals come Christmas,” Kumar said.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said so far, 509 people here in Colorado over the age of 60 have died of COVID despite being vaccinated.

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