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A person washing their hands with soap and warm water.

What you need to know about COVID-19

Protect yourself and others
By Dr. Rhonda Collins
Revera was the first company in the Canadian senior living sector to appoint a Chief Medical Officer. In her blog series, Dr. Rhonda Collins offers helpful advice for seniors to lead healthy and fulfilling lives.

Right now, health officials, doctors and regular people are keeping a close eye on the development of COVID-19, also referred to as the novel coronavirus. It’s responsible to be mindful and educated about the spread of this new virus, but there are still a lot of myths, misconceptions and inaccuracies being circulated. These inaccuracies can lead to unnecessary fear and I would like everyone to feel reassured that at Revera we are doing everything we can to protect our team members and families.

The most important thing to remember is to remain calm. COVID-19 is a virus, like many other viruses that cause respiratory symptoms. There are four common human coronaviruses called 229E, NL63, OC43, and HKU1. Most people have been exposed to one of these strains in their life, and likely had mild symptoms such as runny nose, sore throat, headache, fever and cough.
“The very best things we can do to prevent the spread of COVID-19 are practicing good hand hygiene, practicing cough etiquette, making sure our influenza and pneumonia shots are up-to-date and staying home if we’re sick.”

Other coronaviruses are common among animals like camels and bats. Rarely these strains can infect people. When they spread from animals to humans, they can then be transmitted among humans. COVID-19 is believed to have been spread from animals to humans and now is spreading from person-to-person. It is most commonly spread through respiratory droplets generated when you cough or sneeze, close, prolonged personal contact or touching something with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose or eyes before washing your hands.

The risk of this virus is greater for the residents who live in our homes because older adults - particularly those with pre-existing health conditions like heart disease or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) – are more vulnerable to these types of respiratory illnesses. As we grow older, our immune system often is not as strong as it was when we were younger. This natural process, called immunosenescence, makes it harder for the immune system to fight off infection.

At Revera, our clinical team has been meeting daily to discuss planning for COVID-19. We have a pandemic plan, which has been reviewed and updated, should we need to implement it. We are communicating to all our sites through memos and on our intranet. We are posting COVID-19 updates on our website. The good news is, our staff have a lot of skill and experience dealing with respiratory illness and outbreaks. We have policies and procedures in place and take guidance from Public Health on when to declare an outbreak and the necessary measures to contain it.

What can you do to prevent the spread of COVID-19?

  1. Stay calm. Anxiety and panic perpetuate rumours. We have learned a lot from SARS and H1N1.
  2. Wash your hands, often. Use soap and water, wash the fronts, the backs, under fingernails and between fingers. Wash for 20 seconds. If you don’t have a watch, sing your ABC’s while washing your hands.
  3. Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze. Don’t use your hand, instead cough or sneeze into your elbow, or use a tissue then throw the tissue in the trash and wash your hands.
  4. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  5. Avoid contact with sick people.
  6. Get your flu shot. While it won’t protect against COVID-19 specifically, it will help prevent the spread of the flu to our vulnerable population as well as your loved ones at home. If you’re eligible, get your pneumonia shot as well. Flu can lead to pneumonia which causes serious illness and death in older adults with weakened immune systems.
  7. If you are sick, stay home until you don’t have symptoms. Please do not go into work or visit loved ones if you are sick. Not only do you risk infecting your loved one or others, you risk starting an outbreak.

The very best things we can do to prevent the spread of COVID-19 are practicing good hand hygiene, practicing cough etiquette, making sure our influenza and pneumonia shots are up-to-date and staying home if we’re sick. We need to all work together to contain the spread of this virus and keep each other safe and healthy. If we cooperate and listen to our health authorities we will be able to work through this together.

Dr. Rhonda Collins, Chief Medical Officer of Revera
By Dr. Rhonda Collins
Dr. Rhonda Collins brings passion and expertise in memory care, dementia, falls prevention and clinical quality improvement to the role of Revera’s Chief Medical Officer. Dr. Collins is a family physician with a certificate of added competence in Care of the Elderly from the College of Family Physicians of Canada.