elderly couple wearing masks shops in store

Businesses Are Reopening Nationwide: What Does That Mean For The Elderly And Immunocompromised?

The quarantine haircut is finally behind us, thanks to the reopening of hair salons around the country. Those, along with other businesses like retail stores and restaurants, are slowly but surely reopening their doors to Americans.

While there are significant restrictions and safety measures in place, people are no longer stuck at home completely. However, that doesn’t mean everyone should be running out to get a trim or dine in their favorite restaurant. From masks to handwashing to maintaining distance, everyone should remain just as cautious as before — especially the elderly and those with a weakened immune system.

Roughly 52 million Americans are 65 years or older and 7 million American adults have a weakened immune system.

Sources: Population Reference Bureau, CNN

Because your immune system gradually declines as you age, the elderly are at a greater risk of severe illness or complications from COVID-19. In addition, people who are immunocompromised (having a weakened immune system) also live with that risk each day. Some reasons a person may be immunocompromised include cancer treatment, smoking, organ transplantation, and immune-weakening medications.

Across the country, Americans of all ages are faced with the challenge of navigating this pandemic with a weakened immune system. And while nationwide closures made it a little easier temporarily, immunocompromised people are now having to readjust to protect themselves from a virus that could take their lives.

The Challenges Of Being Immunocompromised During The Covid-19 Pandemic

One of the most challenging parts of being immunocompromised in the midst of a pandemic is the fact that other people might have no idea that your immune system isn’t as strong as theirs.

Many people who have a compromised immune system have an invisible illness.

For instance, lupus is an autoimmune disorder in which your immune system that usually fights infections attacks your healthy tissue instead. A person with lupus may look completely healthy, but an infection like the common cold or COVID-19 could cost them their life. Or, for someone who is elderly, their outer appearance may not necessarily reflect their age, and they may look a lot younger than they are.

This invisibility can be highly problematic. Others around someone who is immunocompromised don’t always realize it, and they might not recognize that their actions can have a serious impact on that person’s safety.

If you have a compromised immune system you already know from flu season that there’s not much you can do about others’ behavior. Some people might still refuse to wear masks or not adhere to social distancing guidelines.

But you can control what you do — and there are measures you can take to ensure your safety, which is critical as businesses reopen their doors to everyone.

Caution And Vigilance: Staying Safe As Businesses Reopen

As Americans are flocking to beaches and restaurants, if you’re immunocompromised, you may be a little more hesitant to join in on the festivities — and rightfully so. Still, with the right precautions, there are ways to safely enjoy yourself.

Consider The Risk Of Your Destination

Just because many businesses reopened at similar times doesn’t mean that the risk of contracting COVID-19 is the same at each place. The risk of exposure depends on factors like how many people are around and what kind of space is available to maintain distance from others. Before making the decision to go out, consider the risks of your destination:

  • Going to the beach or pool: Low risk
  • Using a public restroom: Low to medium risk
  • Eating indoors at a restaurant: Medium to high risk
  • Getting a haircut: Medium to high risk
  • Attending an indoor religious service: High risk

Remember: There’s no such thing as a zero-risk outing during a pandemic. If you’re able to order take out versus dining in, that’s guaranteed to be the safer option. But if you’re absolutely itching to get out, opt for safer options, such as dining outdoors or bringing a picnic to a park that’s not crowded.

Strictly Adhere To Guidelines To Protect Yourself

While businesses have implemented many important guidelines to keep customers safe, it’s still your responsibility to adhere to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines on protecting yourself COVID-19, including:

  • Washing your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds (or using a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol)
  • Staying at least 6 feet apart from others outside of your household
  • Avoiding crowded places
  • Wearing a mask and asking others in your group to do the same

Keep Yourself As Healthy As Possible

During a pandemic and every day, it’s important to make healthy lifestyle choices if you have a weakened immune system. Make sure you get enough sleep, drink plenty of water, eat nutritious foods, and incorporate physical activity into your daily routine. These are all things that, should you be exposed to COVID-19, go a long way toward helping your body fight off the virus.

In addition, if you’re immunocompromised due to a health condition, make sure you keep up with your regular treatment plan. Continue taking your prescribed medication, keep going to your regular appointments, and contact your doctor right away if you’re not feeling well.

The anxiety surrounding COVID-19 is very real for all Americans, but for those who are at risk of severe complications, the pandemic can be even more overwhelming. As businesses reopen their doors, be sure to make informed decisions and take measures to protect yourself. And as you’re reintegrating yourself into the world again, take it slowly. The world will still be there when you’re ready.

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