Diet and Weight Loss Scams May Lead to Fatter Wallets for Scammers

Nearly half of Americans say they are trying to lose weight, and with more and more people worried about weight gain while stuck at home during the pandemic, that number may very well rise. Unfortunately, scammers know this and are trying to take advantage for their own financial gain. In fact, diet scams are the most common types of health care fraud reported to the Federal Trade Commission.
How It Works• Scammers feature products on websites that appear to be affiliated with legitimate news sites and some products have fake celebrity endorsements.•Many products promise breakthrough or miracle results — often in only a few days or weeks.•They may even promise weight loss regardless of what you eat.
What You Should Know• These products often lure people in with free trials. You could find yourself with an expensive subscription after the free trial period ends.•It can be difficult to cancel these plans and even harder to seek refunds.•Some products advertised today contain banned substances. Sibutramine is one such ingredient. The FDA took it off the market a decade ago because it can raise the risk of heart attack or stroke.
What You Should Do• Before buying a weight-loss product, ask a trusted medical professional to help you figure out if it’s safe and effective.•Check out the company on the Better Business Bureau database (bbb.org).•When signing up for a free trial, read the terms and conditions closely. Make sure you are not signing up for an expensive subscription.

Reprinted from AARP Fraud Network

25 Ways to Stay Safe from Coronavirus

How to protect yourself and others during the pandemic

by Sarah Elizabeth Adler, AARP, July 20, 2020 | Comments: 9triptych of a hand covered in soap bubbles holding a bar of soap a six foot physical distancing sign on  floor and a face maska

When it comes to the novel coronavirus, experts agree that everyday actions such as wearing a mask and staying home if you’re sick are key to slowing the spread of COVID-19. But there’s more. Here are 25 steps that doctors, experts and public health organizations recommend to protect your health — and the health of those around you.

The Basics

1. Wear a mask. When you are around people who aren’t part of your household — in public or not — the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends wearing a nonmedical-grade face covering. Fabric masks and coverings can be purchased or fashioned from a variety of household materials — like this no-sew, DIY version from a sock.

2. Stay 6 feet from others. Social distancing isn’t always easy, but it’s another CDC recommendation. Whether you’re at a local park or a grocery store, keep your distance from other people in public. Why? It helps slow the transmission of COVID-19, which is thought to spread mainly when respiratory droplets from an infected person’s mouth or nose land in the mouth or nose of someone nearby.

3. Keep your hands clean. Yes, it’s super basic. But make regular handwashing (like before cooking a meal and after using the restroom) a part of your routine. Pretend you are a surgeon, and lather with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. No soap and water? Use hand sanitizer containing at least 60 percent alcohol. Also important: Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.

4. Turn to trusted sources. It’s easy to come across myths and misinformation about the coronavirus — especially online. For up-to-date, evidence-based information, visit trusted websites like those maintained by the CDC and the World Health Organization (WHO), as well as AARP’s coronavirus page. WHO also maintains an active COVID-19 “myth-busters” list. For example: Bleach and other disinfectants can help sanitize surfaces, but they should never be ingested or injected.

Running Errands

5. Go with “grocery alternatives.” Ben Chapman, a food safety specialist and professor at North Carolina State University, says that older adults and those at higher risk of COVID-19 complications should opt for alternatives to in-person grocery shopping. That includes delivery services, curbside pickup, or asking a family member or friend to shop on your behalf. If you need to shop in person, look for chains offering special hours for older customers.

6. Give online banking a go. Instead of visiting a local brick-and-mortar branch, create an online account via your bank’s or credit union’s website or app. This will allow you to perform most day-to-day banking activities — like checking account balances, making transfers and paying bills — from home, or wherever you have access to your smartphone or computer.

7. Disinfect at the gas pump. When it’s time to fill up your tank, the CDC recommends using disinfecting wipes on gas pump handles and buttons before you touch them. Afterward, use a hand sanitizer containing at least 60 percent alcohol (and wash your hands again when you get home).

8. Go cash-free. Paying with cash requires handing off money to a cashier — plus there’s no easy way to clean bills. Whenever possible, pay with a card (which can be safely swabbed with a disinfecting wipe) or look into touchless payment options, which let you scan your card or smartphone to pay — no swiping or keypad contact required.

At Home

9. Sanitize surfaces. Get in the habit of routinely cleaning “high-touch” surfaces such as tables, toilets and doorknobs. (FYI: Proper cleaning requires a wipe-down with soap and water before using disinfectant.) Cleaning is particularly important after a caregiver, family member or another guest has been inside your home.

10. Keep pets socially distanced, too. Sorry, Fido. According to the CDC, pets are considered part of your household — meaning they shouldn’t interact with people outside of it, or with any family members who become sick. (While a small number of pets have tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19, the risk of transmission from pets to people is thought to be low).

11. Limit gatherings. Move the party outside! The CDC recommends hosting social gatherings outdoors whenever possible and adhering to social distancing guidelines. If you must be inside, make sure the space is well ventilated. Regardless of location, encourage guests to bring their own food and beverages. Any guest who feels ill, or who has been in contact with someone with COVID-19, should not attend.

Recreation and Social Activities

12. Embrace the great outdoors. A day at the beach or a park is likely a safer option than gathering inside someone’s home or at an indoor venue. Remember to keep your distance from others, even in outdoor spaces, and to wear a face covering when maintaining 6 feet of distance isn’t possible.

13. Try online activities. In-person hobbies — from choir practice to book clubs — are going digital, thanks to videoconferencing platforms like Zoom. If you were previously part of a club or group that is no longer meeting in person, consider finding a virtual alternative, or ask your group leader about the possibility of moving meetings online.

14. Dine smart. Restaurants in certain states have returned to serving patrons indoors or at outside tables. The CDC recommends opting for outdoor seating with 6 feet of space between tables whenever possible. Takeout and delivery are also options for those tired of home cooking — and experts say the risk of contracting COVID-19 from either food or food packaging is low.

15. Put a pause on sharing. Normally, sharing during a social outing — whether it’s sunscreen, towels or cooler storage space — is a sign of goodwill. Not so during a pandemic — not even at the swimming pool. “One can sort of say, ‘Well, it’s been in chlorinated water.’ But I would just make sure that we get into the habit of what’s mine is mine,” says Boris Lushniak, M.D., dean of the University of Maryland School of Public Health and former acting and deputy U.S. surgeon general. “The whole issue of sharing things should become passé in the near future, at least.”

16. Avoid handshakes and hugs. Greetings and goodbyes can be tricky at a time when avoiding close contact is key to staying safe. Etiquette expert Myka Meier recommends alternatives to traditional gestures — including a simple nod to say “hello.”

Travel

17. Be aware of advisories. You may face restrictions (like a mandatory 14-day quarantine period upon entering certain states) when traveling domestically. Other forms of travel are discouraged by the CDC, including international travel and all cruises, including river cruises. Taking a plane? Get familiar with new Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screening procedures before you arrive at the airport.

18. Plan for “plan B.” These days, it’s important to have a backup plan in case you can’t access restrooms, restaurants or trip activities as expected. For instance, AAA recommends that road trippers plan their routes — including gas, food and rest stops — and make arrangements for activities such as national park visits in advance, if possible.

19. Know before you book. Many hotels have announced ramped-up sanitization procedures and other practices (like contactless check-ins) to help maintain health and safety. Rental homes or condos are another option for travelers looking to avoid contact with staff or other guests and to cook their own meals. Don’t be shy about asking how your accommodations are adapting during the pandemic.

Health and Wellness

20. Consider rescheduling nonurgent medical appointments. While some appointments can be safely delayed, others — such as follow-up cancer screenings — shouldn’t be avoided because of pandemic fears. The bottom line? “It’s really complicated,” says A. Mark Fendrick, M.D., a professor of internal medicine and director of the Center for Value-Based Insurance Design at the University of Michigan. Get in touch with your doctor for help determining whether you should head in for an office visit.

21. Ask your provider about telemedicine visits, which can be used to diagnose and treat a variety of routine concerns and to monitor chronic conditions. Mental health providers and specialists such as dermatologists also offer telemedicine appointments.

22. Be prepared for new in-office protocol. Depending on your health care provider, you may be asked to wait in your car or outside the office until you’re called in for your appointment. Other changes, like a temperature check upon arrival, might also be in place.

23. Find in-person pharmacy alternatives. Drive-through pharmacy windows, curbside pickup, mail-order pharmacies and at-home delivery services are all alternatives to in-store visits. Another tip? If you have to go in person, ask your doctor about receiving a larger supply of medicine at one time, like increasing from a 30- to 90-day supply, to cut down on visits.

24. Stay home if you feel ill. If you develop symptoms such as a cough or fever, stay at home except to receive medical care (and call ahead before heading to the doctor’s office). People who have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19 should also isolate at home for 14 days after exposure, per CDC guidelines.

25. Know when to call 911. Don’t put off medical treatment in an emergency if you or a loved one is experiencing a medical crisis such as a heart attack or stroke. People with a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19 should also seek emergency treatment if they experience warning signs such as trouble breathing or persistent chest pain, according to the CDC.

Reprinted from AARP

Your Medical Conditions and Covid-19

People of Any Age with Underlying Medical Conditions

Revisions were made on June 25, 2020 to reflect available data as of May 29, 2020. We are learning more about COVID-19 every day, and as new information becomes available, CDC will update the information below.

People of any age with certain underlying medical conditions are at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19:

People of any age with the following conditions are at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19:

Children who are medically complex, who have neurologic, genetic, metabolic conditions, or who have congenital heart disease are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19 than other children.

COVID-19 is a new disease. Currently there are limited data and information about the impact of underlying medical conditions and whether they increase the risk for severe illness from COVID-19. Based on what we know at this time, people with the following conditions might be at an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19:

Want to see the evidence behind these lists?

The list of underlying conditions is meant to inform clinicians to help them provide the best care possible for patients, and to inform individuals as to what their level of risk may be so they can make individual decisions about illness prevention. We are learning more about COVID-19 every day. This list is a living document that may be updated at any time, subject to potentially rapid change as the science evolves.

Reduce your risk of getting COVID-19

It is especially important for people at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19, and those who live with them, to protect themselves from getting COVID-19.

The best way to protect yourself and to help reduce the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19 is to:

If you start feeling sick and think you may have COVID-19, get in touch with your healthcare provider within 24 hours.

Venturing out into a public setting? What to consider before you go.

As communities and businesses across the United States are opening, you may be thinking about resuming some activitiesrunning errands, and attending events and gatheringsThere is no way to ensure you have zero risk of infection, so it is important to understand the risks and know how to be as safe as possible.

People at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19, and those who live with them, should consider their level of risk before deciding to go out and ensure they are taking steps to protect themselves. Consider avoiding activities where taking protective measures may be difficult, such as activities where social distancing can’t be maintained. Everyone should take steps to prevent getting and spreading COVID-19 to protect themselves, their communities, and people who are at increased risk of severe illness.

In general, the more people you interact with, the more closely you interact with them, and the longer that interaction, the higher your risk of getting and spreading COVID-19.

  • If you decide to engage in public activities, continue to protect yourself by practicing everyday preventive actions.
  • Keep these items on hand and use them when venturing out: a cloth face covering, tissues, and a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol, if possible.
  • If possible, avoid others who are not wearing cloth face coverings or ask others around you to wear cloth face coverings.

Are you considering in-person visits with family and friends? Here are some things to consider to help make your visit as safe as possible:

When to delay or cancel a visit

In general, the more people you interact with, the more closely you interact with them, and the longer that interaction, the higher the risk of COVID-19 spread. So, think about:

  • How many people will you interact with?
  • Can you keep 6 feet of space between you and others?
  • Will you be outdoors or indoors?
  • What’s the length of time that you will be interacting with people?

Encourage social distancing during your visit

  • Visit with your friends and family outdoors, when possible. If this is not feasible, make sure the room or space is well-ventilated (for example, open windows or doors) and large enough to accommodate social distancing.
  • Arrange tables and chairs to allow for social distancing. People from the same household can be in groups together and don’t need to be 6 feet apart from each other.
  • Consider activities where social distancing can be maintained, like sidewalk chalk art or yard games.
  • Try to avoid close contact with your visitors. For example, don’t shake hands, elbow bump, or hug. Instead wave and verbally greet them.
  • If possible, avoid others who are not wearing cloth face coverings or ask others around you to wear cloth face coverings.
  • Consider keeping a list of people you visited or who visited you and when the visit occurred. This will help with contract tracing if someone becomes sick.

Wear cloth face coverings

  • Cloth face coverings should be worn over the nose and mouth. Cloth face coverings are especially important when it is difficult to stay at least 6 feet apart from others or when people are indoors to help protect each other.
  • Cloth face coverings may slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others
    • Wearing a cloth face covering helps protects others in case you’re infected, while others wear one to protect you should they be infected.
  • Who should NOT use cloth face coverings: Children under age 2 or anyone who has trouble breathing, is unconscious, or is incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.

Wash hands often

  • Everyone should wash their hands for at least 20 seconds at the beginning and end of the visit and whenever you think your hands may have become contaminated.
  • If soap and water are not readily available, such as with outdoor visits or activities, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.
  • Remind guests to wash or sanitize their hands before serving or eating food.
  • Use single-use hand towels or paper towels for drying hands so visitors do not share towels. Have a no-touch trash can available for guests to use.

Limit contact with commonly touched surfaces or shared items

  • Encourage your visitors to bring their own food and drinks.
  • Clean and disinfect commonly touched surfaces and any shared items between use.
  • If you choose to use any shared items that are reusable (e.g., seating covers, tablecloths, linen napkins), wash, clean, and sanitize them after the event.

If you are thinking about participating in an event or gathering:

If you are at increased risk for severe illness, consider avoiding high-risk gatherings. The risk of COVID-19 spreading at events and gatherings increases as follows:

Lowest risk: Virtual-only activities, events, and gatherings.

More risk: Smaller outdoor and in-person gatherings in which individuals from different households remain spaced at least 6 feet apart, wear cloth face coverings, do not share objects, and come from the same local area (e.g., community, town, city, or county).

Higher risk: Medium-sized in-person gatherings that are adapted to allow individuals to remain spaced at least 6 feet apart and with attendees coming from outside the local area.

Highest risk: Large in-person gatherings where it is difficult for individuals to remain spaced at least 6 feet apart and attendees travel from outside the local area.

Stay healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic

Staying healthy during the pandemic is important. Talk to your healthcare provider about whether your vaccinations and other preventive services are up to date to help prevent you from becoming ill with other diseases.

  • It is particularly important for those at increased risk of severe illness, including older adults, to receive recommended vaccinations against influenza and pneumococcal disease.
  • Remember the importance of staying physically active and practicing healthy habits to cope with stress.

 If you have an underlying medical condition, you should continue to follow your treatment plan:

  • Continue your medicines and do not change your treatment plan without talking to your healthcare provider.
  • Have at least a 30-day supply of prescription and non-prescription medicines. Talk to a healthcare provider, insurer, and pharmacist about getting an extra supply (i.e., more than 30 days) of prescription medicines, if possible, to reduce your trips to the pharmacy.
  • Do not delay getting emergency care for your underlying medical condition because of COVID-19. Emergency departments have contingency infection prevention plans to protect you from getting COVID-19 if you need care.
  • Call your healthcare provider if you have any concerns about your underlying medical conditions or if you get sick and think that you may have COVID-19. If you need emergency help, call 911 right away.
  • If you don’t have a healthcare provider, contact your nearest community health centerexternal icon or health department.

Actions you can take based on your medical conditions and other risk factors

Asthma (moderate-to-severe)

Having moderate-to-severe asthma may increase your risk for severe illness from COVID-19.

Actions to take

  • Follow your Asthma Action Plan.
  • Keep your asthma under control.
  • Continue your current medicines, including any inhalers with steroids in them (“steroids” is another word for corticosteroids).
  • Make sure that you have at least a 30-day supply of your medicines.
  • Know how to use your inhaler.
  • Avoid your asthma triggers.
  • Call your healthcare provider if you have concerns about your condition or feel sick.
  • If you don’t have a healthcare provider, contact your nearest community health centerexternal icon or health department.
  • If possible, have another member of your household who doesn’t have asthma clean and disinfect your house for you. When they use cleaning and disinfecting products, have them:
    • Make sure that people with asthma are not in the room.
    • Minimize use of disinfectants that can cause an asthma attack.
    • Open windows or doors and use a fan that blows air outdoors.
    • Always follow the instructions on the product label.
    • Spray or pour spray products onto a cleaning cloth or paper towel instead of spraying the product directly onto the cleaning surface (if the product label allows).

Learn more about asthma.Chronic kidney disease

Having chronic kidney disease of any stage increases your risk for severe illness from COVID-19.

Actions to take

  • Continue your medicines and your diet as directed by your healthcare provider.
  • Make sure that you have at least a 30-day supply of your medicines.
  • Stay in contact with your healthcare team as often as possible, especially if you have any new signs or symptoms of illness. Also reach out to them if you can’t get the medicines or foods you need.
  • If you don’t have a healthcare provider, contact your nearest community health centerexternal icon or health department.
  • Have shelf-stable food choices to help you follow your kidney diet.
  • If you are on dialysis:
    • Contact your dialysis clinic and your healthcare provider if you feel sick or have concerns.
    • Do NOT miss your treatments.
    • Plan to have enough food on hand to follow the KCER 3-Day Emergency Diet Planexternal icon for dialysis patients in case you are unable to maintain your normal treatment schedule.

Learn more about kidney disease.

Learn how to take care of your kidneys.COPD, cystic fibrosis, pulmonary fibrosis, and other chronic lung diseases

Having COPD (including emphysema and chronic bronchitis) is known to increase your risk of severe illness from COVID-19. Other chronic lung diseases, such as idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis and cystic fibrosis, may increase your risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

Actions to take

  • Keep taking your current medicines, including those with steroids in them (“steroids” is another word for corticosteroids).
  • Make sure that you have at least a 30-day supply of your medicines.
  • Avoid triggers that make your symptoms worse.
  • Call your healthcare provider if you have concerns about your condition or feel sick.
  • If you don’t have a healthcare provider, contact your nearest community health centerexternal icon or health department.

Learn more about COPD.Top of PageDiabetes

Having type 2 diabetes increases your risk of severe illness from COVID-19. Based on what we know at this time, having type 1 or gestational diabetes may increase your risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

Actions to take

  • Continue taking your diabetes pills and insulin as usual.
  • Test your blood sugar and keep track of the results, as directed by your healthcare provider.
  • Make sure that you have at least a 30-day supply of your diabetes medicines, including insulin.
  • Follow your healthcare provider’s instructions if you are feeling ill as well as the sick day tips for people with diabetes.
  • Call your healthcare provider if you have concerns about your condition or feel sick.
  • If you don’t have a healthcare provider, contact your nearest community health centerexternal icon or health department.

Learn more about diabetes.Hemoglobin disorders such as sickle cell disease and thalassemia

Having sickle cell disease (SCD) increases your risk for severe illness from COVID-19. Having other hemoglobin disorders, like thalassemia, may increase your risk for severe illness from COVID-19.

Actions to take

Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from blood, bone marrow, or organ transplant; HIV; use of corticosteroids; or use of other immune weakening medicines

Many conditions and treatments can cause a person to be immunocompromised or have a weakened immune system. These include: having a solid organ transplant, blood, or bone marrow transplant; immune deficienciesHIV with a low CD4 cell count or not on HIV treatment; prolonged use of corticosteroids; or use of other immune weakening medicines. Having a weakened immune system may increase your risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

Actions to take

  • Continue any recommended medicines or treatments and follow the advice of your healthcare provider.
  • Do not stop taking your medicines without talking to your healthcare provider.
  • Make sure that you have at least a 30-day supply of your medicines.
  • Do not delay life-saving treatment or emergency care.
  • Call your healthcare provider if you have concerns about your condition or feel sick.
  • If you don’t have a healthcare provider, contact your nearest community health centerexternal icon or health department.

Information for people living with HIV.Liver disease

Having chronic liver disease, especially cirrhosis (scarring of the liver), may increase your risk for severe illness from COVID-19.

Actions to take

  • Take your medicines exactly as prescribed.
  • Make sure that you have at least a 30-day supply of your medicines.
  • Call your healthcare provider if you have concerns about your condition or feel sick.
  • If you don’t have a healthcare provider, contact your nearest community health centerexternal icon or health department.

Learn more about chronic liver disease.Pregnancy

Based on what we know at this time, pregnant people might be at an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 compared to non-pregnant people. Additionally, there may be an increased risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes, such as preterm birth, among pregnant people with COVID-19.

Actions to take

  • Do not skip your prenatal care appointments.
  • Make sure that you have at least a 30-day supply of your medicines.
  • Talk to your healthcare provider about how to stay healthy and take care of yourself during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • If you don’t have a healthcare provider, contact your nearest community health centerexternal icon or health department.
  • Call your healthcare provider if you have any questions related to your health.
  • Seek care immediately if you have a medical emergency.
  • You may feel increased stress during this pandemic. Fear and anxiety can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions. Learn about stress and coping.

Learn more about pregnancy and COVID-19.Serious Heart Conditions and Other Cardiovascular and Cerebrovascular Diseases

Having any of the following serious heart conditions increases your risk of severe illness from COVID-19:

  • Heart failure
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Congenital heart disease
  • Cardiomyopathies
  • Pulmonary hypertension

Having other cardiovascular or cerebrovascular disease, such as hypertension (high blood pressure) or stroke, may increase your risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

Learn more about serious heart conditions

Actions to take

  • Take your medicines exactly as prescribed and follow your healthcare provider’s recommendations for diet and exercise while maintaining social distancing precautions.
  • Continue angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors (ACE-I) or angiotensin-II receptor blockers (ARB) as prescribed by your healthcare provider for indications such as heart failure or high blood pressure.
  • Make sure that you have at least a 30-day supply of your heart disease medicines, including high cholesterol and high blood pressure medicines.
  • Call your healthcare provider if you have concerns about your condition or feel sick.
  • If you don’t have a healthcare provider, contact your nearest community health centerexternal icon or health department.
  • Do not delay life-saving treatment or emergency care.

Learn more about heart disease.

Learn more about stroke.

Learn more about high blood pressure.Top of PageObesity

Having obesity, defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or above, increases your risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

 Actions to take

  • Take your medicines for any underlying health conditions exactly as prescribed.
  • Follow your healthcare provider’s recommendations for nutrition and physical activity, while maintaining social distancing precautions.
  • Call your healthcare provider if you have concerns or feel sick.
  • If you don’t have a healthcare provider, contact your nearest community health centerexternal icon or health department.

Learn more about obesity in adults.

Learn about obesity in children.Neurologic conditions such as dementia

Having neurologic conditions such as dementia may increase your risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

Actions to take

  • Take your medicines as prescribed.
  • Make sure that you have at least a 30-day supply of your medicines.
  • Call your healthcare provider if you have concerns about your condition or feel sick.
  • If you don’t have a healthcare provider, contact your nearest community health centerexternal icon or health department.

Learn more about dementia.

Learn about caring for people living with dementia during COVID-19.

Learn about amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).Smoking

Being a current or former cigarette smoker may increase your risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

Actions to take

Learn about smoking and tobacco use.

Learn about the health effects of cigarette smoking.Children with Certain Underlying Conditions

While children have been less affected by COVID-19 compared to adults, children with certain conditions may be at increased risk for severe illness. Children who are medically complex, who have serious genetic, neurologic, metabolic disorders, and with congenital (since birth) heart disease may be at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19. Similar to adults, children with obesity, diabetes, asthma and chronic lung disease, or immunosuppression may be at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19. CDC is investigating a rare but serious complication associated with COVID-19 in children called Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C). We do not yet know what causes MIS-C and who is at increased risk for developing it. Learn about MIS-C.

Actions to take

  • Give medicines as prescribed for your child’s underlying conditions.
  • Make sure that you have at least a 30-day supply of your child’s medicines.
  • Call your child’s healthcare provider if you have concerns and to discuss your child’s specific conditions and risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
  • Well-child visits and vaccines are still important during the COVID-19 pandemic. Stay in contact with your child’s healthcare provider and make sure your child is up to date with vaccines to prevent other diseases. Learn more about how to protect yourself and your family during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • If you don’t have a healthcare provider, contact your nearest community health centerexternal icon or health department.

Learn about preventing illness in your children.

Learn more about congenital heart disease and specific genetic and neurologic disorders in children.People with Multiple Underlying Conditions

The more underlying medical conditions someone has, the greater their risk is for severe illness from COVID-19.

Actions to take

  • Continue your medicines and treatment plans as directed by your healthcare provider.
  • Make sure that you have at least a 30-day supply of your medicines.
  • Call your healthcare provider if you have any concerns or feel sick.
  • If you don’t have a healthcare provider, contact your nearest community health centerexternal icon or health department.
  • Do not delay emergency care.

Top of PagePage last reviewed: June 25, 2020Content source: National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD)Division of Viral DiseaseshomeYour Health

Reprinted from Medicare.gov

7 Myths About Face Masks

Why they’re really recommended, plus when and where you should wear themman wearing a face mask outdoors Face masks are everywhere. What were once reserved for hospitals and health care settings are now a common sight on sidewalks and in businesses throughout the country. Still, there are a number of misconceptions when it comes to masks. Here are seven common face-mask myths, busted.

Myth 1: You don’t need to wear a face mask if you don’t feel sick.

This was the prevailing advice at the beginning of the pandemic, but not anymore. Experts have learned more about the coronavirus and how it spreads, and now the recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is that everyone — including people who feel perfectly healthy — should wear a face covering in public settings where it may be difficult to maintain at least 6 feet of space from other people. Think: grocery stores, pharmacies, retail shops, hair salons, crowded parks and more.


The reason? It’s an added layer of protection. The virus is thought to spread easily between people who are in close contact with one another by respiratory droplets produced when an infected person talks, coughs or sneezes. And because some infected people might be presymptomatic or even asymptomatic, and as such are at risk of unknowingly spreading the virus to others, a face mask provides “an extra layer to help prevent the respiratory droplets from traveling in the air and onto other people,” the CDC says.

People who feel sick should stay home and not venture out in public. That said, they should wear a face mask when interacting with family members or caregivers at home.

Myth 2: Everyone should be wearing surgical masks or N95 respirators.

The advice from the CDC is that the general public should wear cloth face coverings, not medical-grade masks, which are best left for health care professionals on the front lines of the pandemic. The CDC-recommended coverings can be purchased (major clothing retailers such as Gap and Disney are selling them), sewn or fashioned from everyday household items, such as bandannas and rubber bands — even socks.


Myth 3: A loose-fitting mask works just fine.

This is false. The key is to make sure your face mask “fits snugly but comfortably against the side of the face,” says the CDC, and completely covers the mouth and nose to help prevent respiratory droplets from escaping. That said, it’s important to make sure you can breathe without restriction with it on.

Myth 4: Your cloth face covering protects you from getting a coronavirus infection.

Cloth masks may reduce your risk of getting infected, but there haven’t been enough studies on them “in real-world settings” to know for sure whether they protect the wearer from becoming infected with the coronavirus, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) reports. What’s more likely is that cloth face coverings help prevent an infected wearer from spreading disease to others by minimizing the dispersal of respiratory droplets via talking, coughing and sneezing. (Studies looking at the effects of cloth face masks on influenza and other diseases also support this theory, NASEM points out.)

Even with a face mask on, it’s important not to abandon other preventative measures, such as frequent handwashing and physical distancing, the CDC says. Mitigating the risk of COVID-19 (the illness caused by the coronavirus) requires a multipronged approach, “which includes social distancing and isolation and hygiene and wearing the masks,” explains Gonzalo Bearman, M.D., an associate hospital epidemiologist and chair of the Division of Infectious Diseases at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine. “It’s not one or the other. It’s all of it.”

Myth 5: Babies should wear face masks.

Children under 2 should not wear a face mask, the CDC says. Neither should anyone who “has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.”

Myth 6: You should wear a face mask even when you swim.

If you plan to head to the pool or the beach this summer, don’t forget to pack your face mask. It will come in handy when you’re out of the water and around others. That said, you should not wear your face mask in the pool.

“The issue of getting a mask wet, the issue of then breathing through that mask — it’s a setup for danger,” says Boris Lushniak, M.D., dean of the University of Maryland School of Public Health and former acting and deputy U.S. surgeon general.

When you’re in the water, the best way to reduce your risk of spreading or acquiring the virus is to keep a distance of at least 6 feet from other people and to wash your hands often when you’re done swimming.

Myth 7: Your face mask doesn’t need to be washed.

Masks collect germs, so it’s important to wash them after each use, the CDC advises. If you’re using a washing machine, regular laundry detergent and warm water work just fine. To wash your mask by hand, mix up a solution of bleach and water (4 teaspoons of household bleach per 1 quart of room-temperature water) and soak your mask for 5 minutes before rinsing it with cool or room-temperature water. The CDC has detailed instructions on how to wash your face mask.

Reprinted from AARP.

7 Things to Know About Hand Sanitizer

When to use it, how it works and why you shouldn’t make it at home

woman outside rubbing hand sanitizer on her hands, the bottle of sanitizer sitting in front of her One of the best ways to prevent a coronavirus infection is to wash your hands with soap and water — and when soap and water aren’t available, public health experts say alcohol-based hand sanitizer is the next best option.

But just how effective are gels and sprays when it comes to getting rid of dangerous germs, such as the coronavirus? Here are seven things you should know about hand sanitizer.


For the latest coronavirus news and advice go to AARP.org/coronavirus.


1. Hand sanitizer kills germs but doesn’t clean your hands

Soap and water reign supreme when it comes to infection control, but believe it or not, soap and water do not kill germs; they remove them. The duo’s effectiveness boils down to the mechanics of handwashing.

The rubbing and scrubbing of soap between your palms and fingers creates friction that breaks down the structure of the bacteria and loosens the germs from your skin, explains Maryanne McGuckin, an infection prevention specialist and author of The Patient Survival Guide: 8 Simple Solutions to Prevent Hospital- and Healthcare-Associated Infections. When you rinse your hands under water, you wash those germs down the drain.

Alcohol-based hand sanitizers, on the other hand, do kill germs on the skin — most germs, anyway. Hand sanitizer is less effective at killing Cryptosporidium, norovirus and Clostridium difficile, all of which cause diarrhea, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says. Scientists suspect hand sanitizer does, however, kill the coronavirus.

Hand sanitizers also don’t work as well if your hands are visibly dirty or greasy, and they may not remove harmful chemicals such as pesticides and heavy metals like lead.

2. Sanitizer trumps soap and water in certain situations

Because handwashing — when done properly — is better at getting rid of germs and grime, hand sanitizer, for the most part, should be used as a backup to soap and water. “The time to use hand sanitizer is when you can’t get to a sink and some clean water and a clean towel,” says Elaine Larson, professor emerita of epidemiology at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and a scholar in residence at New York Academy of Medicine.

That said, the CDC recommends using hand sanitizer as a first choice in certain situations, such as before and after visiting a friend or loved one in a hospital or nursing home. (That’s why you’ll often see dispensers posted directly outside patient rooms.) A squirt of hand sanitizer on your way in and out reduces the likelihood you’ll introduce a dangerous bug or leave with one. It’s also a good idea to use hand sanitizer regularly when interacting with people who have weakened immune systems, Larson says.

3. Not all hand sanitizers are equal

To kill most disease-causing germs, the CDC recommends using a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol. Anything less than that may not work as well “for many types of germs,” and could “merely reduce the growth of germs rather than kill them outright,” the CDC says.

When searching the shelves, you may come across hand sanitizers that contain benzalkonium chloride instead of alcohol. These products, however, are not recommended by the CDC, since “available evidence indicates benzalkonium chloride has less reliable activity against certain bacteria and viruses” compared to alcohol-based sanitizers.

4. Sanitizing technique matters

Hand sanitizer works best when used correctly. Apply the recommended amount to the palm of your hand (make sure it’s enough to cover the entire surface of both hands) and distribute the sanitizer all over, paying special attention to the fingertips, “because that’s where you touch most other things,” Larson says.

Continue rubbing the hand sanitizer into your hands until your skin is completely dry — it should take about 20 seconds. This step is key, both Larson and McGuckin say.

“The alcohol works and it does kill the virus and most bacteria, but the problem that we have … is that people don’t use it appropriately for the given period of time,” McGuckin adds.

COURTESY WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION

5. Cleaning products are not a substitute for hand sanitizer

Disinfectant sprays and antibacterial cleaning wipes should not be used as stand-ins for hand sanitizer. These products are meant for “hard, nonporous surfaces,” not human skin, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says.

Even so, some people are using them this way. A report released by the CDC in early June found that approximately one-third of adult respondents in a recent survey engaged in “nonrecommended high-risk practices” with cleaning supplies in an effort to prevent a coronavirus infection. These practices included using bleach on food products, applying household cleaning and disinfectant products to skin, and inhaling or ingesting cleaners and disinfectants — all of which are unsafe.

6. Hand sanitizer can be dangerous

Hand sanitizer can be toxic when ingested, especially by children. It can irritate the lining of the throat and cause gastrointestinal issues. And “drinking only a small amount” can cause alcohol poisoning in kids, according to the FDA. If you or your child ingests hand sanitizer, call poison control or a medical professional immediately.

Hand sanitizer is also flammable. Though the CDC says the incidence of fires due to alcohol-based hand sanitizer is “very low,” it advises hospitals, nursing homes and other health care facilities to store hand sanitizer in a safe manner away from sources of ignition. The U.S. Postal Service also has restrictions on shipping alcohol-based hand sanitizer through the mail due to flammability concerns.

7. Homemade hand sanitizer can be ineffective

There’s no shortage of recipes for homemade hand sanitizer on the internet during this pandemic era. But the FDA, which regulates hand sanitizers, says it’s best to leave the production of germ-killing gels to the professionals.

“If made incorrectly, hand sanitizer can be ineffective, and there have been reports of skin burns from homemade hand sanitizer,” the agency says.

Also: Adding rubbing alcohol to a bottle of non-alcohol hand sanitizer will not make the sanitizer more powerful. The FDA says it “is unlikely to result in an effective product.”

Reprinted from AARP

FBI Warns of More Coronavirus Scams as Outbreak Persists

During pandemic, opportunistic crooks want your data, cash and help laundering  A phishing email from someone posing as the head of the World Health Organization (WHO), and asking recipients to donate money to a coronavirus fund, received on a laptop in London.

Scam Alert: This email is from fraudster lying about being tied to the World Health Organization. Note it is from a gmail address, not from the WHO.

Bill Brown, an FBI official in Washington, has an urgent message for anyone victimized by a coronavirus-related fraud: “Please do report it.” When scams are reported, Brown says, agents and analysts are able to cull incoming complaints to “make sure that we’re addressing every credible threat, and every credible target, quickly and efficiently.”

Brown, a supervisory special agent and chief of the bureau’s Economic Crimes Unit, spoke to AARP about fraud trends during the pandemic. He also discussed anticipated crimes on the horizon.

The unit he leads probes large-scale frauds that victimize individuals, businesses and industries. The cases include elder fraud, corporate and securities fraud, market manipulation, insider trading, Ponzi schemes and other offenses categorized as frauds and swindles.



Scam concept. Money trap concept

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Beware COVID-19 Scams on the Horizon

Here are frauds FBI official Bill Brown expects are lurking on the horizon due to the pandemic:

• Ponzi schemes. Since the U.S. had a strong economy leading up to the novel coronavirus, some aggressive investments in the past may turn out to be smoke and mirrors. In a Ponzi scheme, belief in the success of a non-existent enterprise is fostered by the payment of quick returns to the first investors using funds coming in from subsequent investors. If you can’t reach your investment advisor or broker, or can’t withdraw your money, those are red flags.

• Frauds involving so-called “safe havens.” Be careful of making investments that promise overly inflated rates of return. The rates may not be “astronomical,” but if they exceed what major banks and credit unions are offering, exercise caution. 

• Frauds involving investments in gold and silver. These may not even use the words “COVID-19” to lure potential investors, he says. Remember that all that glitters is not gold.

Today there’s a laser focus on the U.S.-based and foreign crooks who are chasing a payday from the pandemic. They’re government impostors. They’re money launderers. They’re con artists collecting cash for bogus charities. They’re hucksters touting fake and even dangerous “cures” for a disease for which there is no approved remedy.

“COVID was a curveball this year that nobody anticipated, but it is one of our top priorities right now,” Brown says.

The FBI is part of the Department of Justice. More than 3,600 complaints about COVID-19 scams were made to the bureau’s Internet Crime Complaint Center as of April 21, the department said.

According to Brown, experience with economic hardship during the Great Recession and with past disasters including the BP oil spill and Hurricane Katrina has helped law enforcement forecast what misdeeds might surface during the ongoing global health crisis.

Scams that are trending include:

Phishing schemes

These are telephone calls, texts or advisories to click a computer link. The aim is to steal money or personal information, or to infect computer devices with malware.

Be very cautious about what information you reveal during the pandemic, Brown says. Your data might not be exploited right away — but after three, six or 12 months — so don’t count on a quick fraud alert from a bank or credit bureau, he says.

Work-at-home schemes

Fraudsters may offer what they describe as an employment opportunity, but in reality people who accept offers from bad actors are being set up to launder the ill-gotten gains of criminal activity.

The crook might say: “I want you to open a bank account or I want you to make a deposit, and all you have to do is wire [money] somewhere else,” Brown says. Don’t become an unsuspecting “money mule.”

Fraudulent charities and fake entities

Bad actors create them to rip people off. “Everybody has a solid heart and they want to help out in the situation,” he observes.

Advance-fee schemes

Crooks lie and assert they have scarce products for sale. They demand payment in advance but never deliver the goods. “Right now we’re seeing a lot of complaints coming in,” Brown says.

Take your time, talk to a trusted friend

How to stay safe? Says Brown: Be cautious and skeptical. Refuse to act in haste. Consult a trusted person if you are confronting what could be fraud.

Ahead, he envisions more government impostors and complaints from people who incorrectly assumed they were communicating with an FBI or Internal Revenue Service agent or a Social Security Administration employee.

“Those are going to definitely pop up, especially with the stimulus checks,” he says, referring to the $1,200 economic impact payments being distributed to millions of Americans” by the federal government.

The government will not contact you and threaten to dock your Social Security check because of some steep fine you supposedly owe, Brown notes.

If you think you are a victim of a fraud or attempted fraud involving COVID-19, call the National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721 or email at disaster@leo.gov.

If it is a cyber scam, file a complaint through the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.

AARP’s Fraud Watch Network can help you spot and avoid scams. Sign up for free “watchdog

CMS Loosens Rules for Coronavirus Testing

  • Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries can now get tested for the coronavirus without a written order from a physician, which CMS officials say will expand the availability of COVID-19 screenings.
  • Physicans and occupational therapists as well as speech language pathologists can provide telehealth visits, under new orders from CMS. The agency is also allowing patients and medical professionals to hold telehealth sessions over the telephone.
  • Communities that are in phase 1 of the administration’s re-opening plan can begin to provide non COVID-19 treatments and elective procedures that have been curtailed since the coronavirus outbreak.
  • Coronavirus tests will be available for Medicare beneficiaries who cannot leave their homes, and testing will be ramped up in nursing homes, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma said Monday. CMS is making a number of moves to relax regulations on the health care system so, for example, hospitals can treat patients in alternative sites and increase staffing.
  • Medicare officials have issued an alert to all beneficiaries that scammers may try to use the coronavirus as an opportunity to steal their identities and commit Medicare fraud. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid officials reminded enrollees that Medicare will never call them to ask for their Medicare number.
  • The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services recommends that nonessential, elective surgeries and other medical procedures be postponed during the coronavirus outbreak. CMS also asks that nonessential dental exams and procedures be postponed.
  • Medicare expands telehealth options so more patients — especially older adults — can get medical advice and care while remaining in their homes and stemming the spread of the coronavirus.
  • CMS tells Medicare Advantage and Part D prescription drug plans they can relax copays and other cost sharing when it comes to testing for the coronavirus.

Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries can now get tested for COVID-19 without a written order from a physician, which will make it easier for individuals to get screenings in drive-up sites and pharmacies.

“Testing is vital, and CMS’s changes will make getting tested easier and more accessible for Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries,” CMS Administrator Seema Verma said in announcing the change that will be in effect throughout the public health emergency.

The announcement means that any health care professional, including pharmacists who are enrolled in Medicare as a covered laboratory, will be able to order the coronavirus test and CMS will pay for it. CMS will also cover tests individuals take at home and some antibody testing to help determine whether someone may have developed an immune response to the virus and therefore might not be at immediate risk for COVID-19 reinfection.

Telehealth options expanded

Patients can now get telehealth services from an expanded group of health care professionals, including physical and occupational therapists and speech language pathologists, under changes CMS officials say will help ensure that beneficiaries don’t have to leave their homes and risk exposure to COVID-19.

CMS is also waiving the requirement that telehealth sessions must be conducted using video technology, meaning Medicare will pay for telephone-only visits, allowing beneficiaries who do not have access to the internet to still communicate with their medical professionals.

Medicare has been gradually ramping up the use of telehealth in recent years. But while Medicare Advantage plans have been allowed to offer liberal telehealth benefits for several years, beneficiaries of original Medicare have had more limited telehealth benefits, amounting to brief virtual check-ins. And beneficiaries would not generally be able to get telehealth services in their own homes. About 40 million Americans are enrolled in original Medicare.

Tuesday’s announcement will allow all Medicare beneficiaries to “see” their doctors remotely for the kind of routine checkups and monitoring of chronic conditions that would normally be done in a provider’s office. A Medicare enrollee, for example, who has diabetes, can now confer with his or her doctor without leaving the house, and a medical professional can order a new medicine or refill a prescription without needing to see the patient in person. Nursing home residents will also be able to have telehealth consultations with their doctors.

And, while regular Medicare copays will apply to telemedicine visits, CMS officials say that during the coronavirus emergency, providers can waive or reduce cost sharing for telehealth visits.

“Clinicians on the front lines will now have greater flexibility to safely treat our beneficiaries.” Verma said in a statement announcing the telehealth expansion.

Medicare releases guidelines for non-COVID-19 care

Hospitals in states that have reached phase 1 of the administration’s reopening plan can begin providing non-COVID-19 care that has been postponed since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, Medicare officials announced late Sunday.

For areas that have fulfilled the federal recommendations to begin phasing in a relaxation of the restrictions designed to slow the spread of the coronavirus, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has issued a set of guidelines for how hospitals can begin to offer medical care not associated with COVID-19.

In March, CMS asked hospitals to stop providing elective surgeries and other procedures not related to the coronavirus to avoid strain on the health care system. The suspension resulted in outpatient surgical facilities mostly being shut down. 

“As states and localities begin to stabilize, it is important to restart care that is currently being postponed,” CMS said in its announcement. The guidance applies to some elective procedures, care for chronic diseases and some preventive care. CMS also encouraged patients and providers to continue to use telehealth wherever possible, but noted that some medical care must be provided in person.

“We are providing a road map for providers to offer some forms of non-coronavirus-related care to asymptomatic patients,” CMS Administrator Seema Verma said Monday on a conference call with reporters. “These are recommendations, and every state and local officials will need to assess the situation on the ground to determine the best course forward,” including that they have the equipment and supplies necessary to handle the non-virus care, she added.

CMS says hospitals that have adequate facilities and staff to handle non-virus care should establish non-COVID care zones to treat patients for conditions not related to COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus. Guidelines for providing this care include:

  • Staff working in the non-COVID-19 zone should be continually screened for the virus.
  • Staff should wear surgical masks and patients should wear a cloth face covering at all times.
  • Patients should be screened for potential symptoms of COVID-19 before entering the non-COVID zone and, when possible, patients should be tested before getting care in that zone.
  • Staff who work in the non-COVID zone should not also treat patients with coronavirus symptoms.
  • Hospitals should continue to monitor the incidence of COVID-19 and stop nonessential procedures if there is a surge in the virus.

Testing expanded for shut-ins, nursing homes

Medicare beneficiaries whose doctors think they should be tested for COVID-19 but who are not able to leave their homes will be able to get test kits brought to them, thanks to the relaxation of federal health system restrictions during the pandemic.

In addition, Medicare will pay for lab companies to collect samples in nursing homes, which house many older Americans.

“We hope that this will encourage more testing of our nursing home residents, who are among the most vulnerable,” Verma said on a call with reporters Monday night. “We know that over 150 nursing homes have been affected. By increasing testing, we can isolate those patients that have been impacted and keep other residents healthy.”

CMS had earlier announced an expansion of telehealth services, but Verma said those rules are being relaxed even more. Virtual emergency room visits will now be allowed and doctors will be paid for clinical phone calls with their patients, something designed to eliminate any issues Medicare enrollees might have accessing the technology used in more traditional telehealth services. CMS is also expanding the use of telehealth for inpatient rehabilitation, hospice care and home health, Verma said.

Under the relaxed regulations, hospitals will, for example, be able to move patients to alternative sites — such as tented operations, dormitories and outpatient centers — to make room in main hospitals for COVID-19 patients. Rules regarding the ability of hospitals to hire local physicians and other health professionals to meet the surging demand are also being temporarily suspended.



Protect yourself against Medicare fraud

Medicare officials are warning beneficiaries that fraudsters may try to use the coronavirus crisis as an opportunity to try and steal their identity and commit Medicare fraud. 

“In some cases they might tell you they’ll send you a Coronavirus test, masks, or other items in exchange for your Medicare number or personal information,” the alert from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services says. “Be wary of unsolicited requests for your Medicare number or other personal information. Only give your Medicare number to participating Medicare pharmacists, primary and specialty care doctors or people you trust to work with Medicare on your behalf. Remember, Medicare will never call you to ask for or check your Medicare number.”

CMS urges enrollees to treat their Medicare guard like it’s a credit card. Here are some tips the agency has for how to protect against being the victim of Medicare fraud.

  • Medicare will never contact you for your Medicare Number or other personal information unless you’ve given them permission in advance.
  • Medicare will never call you to sell you anything.
  • You may get calls from people promising you things if you give them a Medicare Number. Don’t do it.  
  • Medicare will never visit you at your home. 
  • Medicare can’t enroll you over the phone unless you called first.

Postpone unnecessary care

As hospitals are increasingly facing shortages in everything from protective gear to respirators to personnel, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is recommending that surgeries and other medical procedures that are not absolutely necessary be postponed.

“The reality is clear and the stakes are high: We need to preserve personal protective equipment for those on the front lines of this fight,” CMS Administrator Seema Verma said in a statement announcing the recommendations. CMS officials say postponing elective procedures will free up personal protective equipment (PPE), hospital beds and ventilators.

Dental procedures use a lot of the PPE that is increasingly in short supply and “have one of the highest risks of transmission” of coronavirus because of how close the dentist or his assistants have to get to their patients. “To reduce the risk of spread and to preserve PPE, we are recommending that all nonessential dental exams and procedures be postponed until further notice,” the CMS news release says.


CMS officials also made it clear that the guidance they are issuing is based on recommendations — not requirements. “The decision about proceedings with nonessential surgeries and procedures will be made at the local level by the clinician, patient, hospital, and state and local health departments,” the CMS statement says.

Beyond the urgency of a procedure and the availability of beds, PPE and staff, federal officials suggest that doctors and patients consider the health and age of patients, “especially given the risks of concurrent COVID-19 infection during recovery.”

Here are some examples of procedures CMS officials recommend be postponed and those that could proceed:

  • Postpone: Outpatient surgery and procedures for illnesses that are not life-threatening. Procedures include: colonoscopy, endoscopies, cataract surgery, carpal tunnel release surgery
  • Consider postponing: Conditions that are not life-threatening but could be life-threatening in the future. These procedures require a hospital stay. Procedures include: knee replacement and elective spine surgery; elective angioplasty; low risk cancer procedures.
  • Do not postpone: Most cancer procedures; transplants, cardiac procedures for patients with symptoms, limb-threatening vascular surgery, neurosurgery.

Woman washing her soapy hands in a bathroom

Medicare benefits during the outbreak

Government leaders have already outlined a number of ways Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D plans can be more flexible when it comes to certain costs related to COVID-19. Here are some ways CMS says Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D can potentially “mitigate the impact on the health care system” and help speed up access to care, especially for high-risk populations:

  • Waive cost sharing for COVID-19 tests.
  • Waive cost sharing for COVID-19 treatments in doctor’s offices or emergency rooms and services delivered via telehealth.
  • Remove prior-authorizations requirements — this is when approval from Medicare is required before a certain service is provided.
  • Waive prescription refill limits.
  • Relax restrictions on home or mail delivery of prescriptions.

Reprinted from AARP

10 Myths About the Coronavirus

coronavirus cell and question mark illustration rendered in three dimensional effect

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In a matter of months, the coronavirus has swept across the globe, sickening millions and killing hundreds of thousands in its path. And just as quickly as the virus has spread, so too have falsehoods about its transmissibility and treatment. Here are 10 myths about the coronavirus that you shouldn’t believe.

Myth: Warmer weather will stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Summer is just around the corner, and some are hoping that the warmer weather will put an end to the coronavirus outbreak. Public health experts, however, caution that this may not be the case.

“The science there is not as clear as it needs to be” when it comes to the weather’s impact on the speed of the virus’s spread, says Aaron Bernstein, M.D., interim director of C-CHANGE (Center for Climate, Health and the Global Environment) at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “And I don’t think it can be because, although we have other coronaviruses to draw inference from, we don’t have experience with this coronavirus.”

If this coronavirus acts like other coronaviruses (remember that there are several coronaviruses that can infect humans and cause mild upper-respiratory tract illnesses, such as the common cold), warmer temperatures and more humid weather may slow it down, Bernstein says. These viruses and others, including the bug that causes the flu, tend to spread more during cold-weather months, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). However, “that does not mean it is impossible to become sick with these viruses during other months,” the CDC says.

“There’s some research to suggest that even at slower rates, [the novel coronavirus] is still going to be capable of exponential transmission” during summer’s warm months, explains Bernstein, pointing to places with warm-weather climates such as Singapore, India and Louisiana as examples. These areas have seen large outbreaks of infections despite their hot temperatures.

Another thing to consider? Hot weather increases the risk for hospitalization and death, especially among older adults, whose bodies have a harder time adjusting to temperature changes. This could add stress to hospitals and health care systems around the country that are already burdened with coronavirus outbreaks.

“We have to be mindful” and not rush to abandon preventive measures such as social distancing just because it’s summer, Bernstein argues. The World Health Organization (WHO) says frequent handwashing is also needed to prevent coronavirus infections, no matter how sunny or warm it is outside.

Myth: Young people don’t get sick from a coronavirus infection.

While older adults and people with chronic health conditions — including heart disease, kidney disease, lung ailments and diabetes — are at higher risk than younger, healthier people for getting severely sick from the illness caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19), they are not the only population filling hospital beds around the globe.  

A mid-March analysis from the CDC found that more than half of the nearly 2,500 Americans who had been hospitalized with COVID-19 at that point were younger than 55. And while the rate of hospitalizations for COVID-19 is higher in adults 65 and older, it’s still significant in people under 65.

Jordan Warchol, an emergency physician and assistant professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine at the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC), says she has seen “several people” in their 30s and 40s become critically ill with COVID-19.



“Even though it might happen more often to older people, that doesn’t mean that young people are immune from it,” she says. And, unfortunately, lots of people are “getting severely ill when we otherwise would not expect that because of their age.”

Myth: Social distancing isn’t necessary if you’ve already been infected.

Even if you’ve tested positive for a past coronavirus infection, you still need to take the same precautions as everyone else, experts say. And that’s because we don’t have a definitive answer yet as to whether a previous infection provides extended immunity.  

“We’re still waiting for some of the studies to come out that really tell us for sure that when you’ve had the virus and mounted an antibody to it, that you are protected,” says Roger Shapiro, M.D., associate professor of immunology and infectious diseases at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. However, “the general feeling is that there’s a lot of optimism that this will be the case.”

In the case of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) — two other illnesses caused by coronaviruses — infected survivors develop an immune response that can last for months to years, Shapiro points out. “So we are hopeful that [the novel coronavirus] will be the same.”

The virus’s close cousin, however — the one that causes the common cold — “is a little more tricky” because people get colds “over and over again,” Shapiro adds. “So that’s where some of the hesitation comes.”

Until the research paints a clearer picture, the CDC says everyone — including those who have had a coronavirus infection — should “continue to take steps to protect yourself and others.” This includes frequent handwashing, wearing a cloth face covering in public and keeping at least 6 feet of space between yourself and others.

Myth: If you don’t have fever, cough and shortness of breath, you don’t have COVID-19.

While fever, cough and shortness of breath are the hallmark symptoms of COVID-19, they are not the only warning signs of an infection. The CDC recently updated its list of symptoms to include chills, muscle pain, sore throat, and new loss of taste or smell. “Other less common symptoms have been reported, including gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea, vomiting or diarrhea,” the CDC says.

The newly expanded list makes it easier to catch patients who otherwise may not have qualified for a coronavirus test, thus helping containment efforts, UNMC’s Warchol explains. It also helps the general public know “what to be on the lookout for” in respect to self-isolation as experts learn more about the virus’s impact on the body.

Myth: You can catch COVID-19 from your pet.

There is no evidence to suggest that humans are catching COVID-19 from their pets or that animals play a significant role, if any, in spreading the disease, according to the CDC. Furthermore, the CDC says there is no evidence that the new coronavirus is circulating among wildlife, including bats, in the U.S. The origin of the coronavirus is unknown, though some researchers have tied it to a live animal market in China.

However, it does appear that the illness can spread from people to animals in some rare situations, both the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) say. A small number of animals worldwide have tested positive for the coronavirus, mostly after having close contact with a person with COVID-19. Because of this, public health officials say owners should make sure their pets follow some of the same preventive measures that humans practice.

For example, don’t let your pets interact with people or other animals outside the household, and avoid dog parks or other crowded areas where people and animals play. When walking your dog, keep at least 6 feet of space from other people and animals, the FDA says. And if you are sick with COVID-19, isolate yourself from other people and animals, including your pet, the CDC recommends. Instead, ask a friend or family member to care for your pet until you recover.

Other types of coronaviruses can make pets sick, such as canine and feline coronaviruses. However, “these other coronaviruses cannot infect people and are not related to the current COVID-19 outbreak,” the CDC says.

Myth: Ibuprofen makes COVID-19 worse.

Fever and muscle pain are two common symptoms of COVID-19, and without a formally approved treatment, the CDC recommends that people with mild cases of the illness take over-the-counter medicines to help alleviate uncomfortable symptoms. But a flood of news reports in March claimed that nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen (Advil), could make a case of COVID-19 worse, raising questions about the widely used drug’s safety in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.  

Several experts, however, have since countered these claims, including the FDA. The agency said it isn’t aware of any “scientific evidence” to prove that NSAIDs could aggravate COVID-19 symptoms. In April, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) doubled down on the FDA’s stance. In its treatment guidelines for COVID-19, the agency said there is no difference between acetaminophen (Tylenol) and NSAIDs for reducing fever among patients with and without COVID-19, and that people with COVID-19 who are taking NSAIDs to help manage another condition “should continue therapy as previously directed by their physician.”

Whether you have COVID-19 or not, it’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor or pharmacist before taking any new medication — especially if you have underlying health conditions that can be complicated by certain drugs.

People with kidney disease or problems with stomach ulcers, for example, may be steered toward acetaminophen. “And on the flip side, if you have problems with hepatitis or liver trouble, then acetaminophen may not be the best choice,” David Aronoff, a physician and director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, told AARP. “And that’s why speaking with a pharmacist or a physician or nurse can be really very helpful.”

Myth: It’s dangerous to go outside during the pandemic.

The general advice from experts is to stay home as much as possible to limit your risk of a coronavirus infection, but that doesn’t mean you can’t garden in your yard or take a walk around the neighborhood for some fresh air and exercise. Just make sure you continue to practice precautions — bring some hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol and keep a distance of at least 6 feet from others.  

It’s important to steer clear of crowded parks and group gatherings, the CDC says. And don’t forget to wear a cloth face mask when you do go out. This helps to “protect your community” in case that you unknowingly have the virus, Harvard’s Shapiro adds.

Myth: You should avoid the hospital at all costs if you want to stay healthy.

While in-person appointments at primary care offices are on pause during the pandemic, emergency rooms are still very much open. But recent data show fewer people are accessing them — and this can have deadly consequences.

“If you feel like what’s going on with you or with a loved one is an emergency, please come to the emergency department. We have plenty of measures in place to ensure your safety as far as not transferring coronavirus from another patient to you.”– Jordan Warchol, emergency physician and assistant professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine at the University of Nebraska Medical Center

A poll from the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) found that 80 percent of the roughly 2,200 adults surveyed were worried that a trip to the emergency room would put them at high risk for contracting COVID-19. Nearly one-third admitted to actively delaying or avoiding medical care during the pandemic out of concern for catching the illness.

A recent survey of nine high-volume hospitals illustrates just how much of an impact virus fears have had on medical care. For example, the frequency of one common emergency procedure for reopening arteries in heart attack patients is down by nearly 40 percent since the start of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S.

“COVID-19 is definitely not stopping people from having heart attacks, strokes and cardiac arrests,” the American Heart Association (AHA) and seven other national health organizations said in a joint statement. “We fear it is stopping people from going to the hospital, and that can be devastating.”

Calling 911 immediately is still your best chance of surviving a heart attack or stroke, the AHA says. Other symptoms and conditions that warrant emergency care include difficulty breathing, choking, a head or spine injury, ingestion of a poisonous substance, serious injury, uncontrolled bleeding, and any sudden or severe pain.

“If you feel like what’s going on with you or with a loved one is an emergency, please come to the emergency department,” says UNMC emergency physician Warchol. “We have plenty of measures in place to ensure your safety [with regard to] not transferring coronavirus from another patient to you.”

Myth: Ingesting disinfectants can help treat a coronavirus infection.

Disinfectants help to eliminate germs on surfaces. However, they do not treat an infection inside the body and, in fact, can cause serious harm.

In April, the CDC reported that calls to U.S. poison centers were up by about 20 percent this year, compared with last year, and that they “increased sharply” at the beginning of March, around the same time the virus started spreading in the U.S. The agency stresses that people using disinfectants should follow instructions on the label to reduce the risk of adverse health effects.

The WHO has also warned that bleach and any other disinfectant should not, “under any circumstance,” be sprayed or introduced into the body. “These substances can be poisonous if ingested and cause irritation and damage to your skin and eyes,” the organization says.

Currently there is no approved treatment for COVID-19. Several drug trials are ongoing, and one antiviral therapy, remdesivir, recently received emergency use authorization from the FDA to treat hospitalized patients.

Myth: Mosquitoes and ticks transmit the coronavirus.

The CDC says at this time it has no data to suggest that the coronavirus can be spread by mosquitoes or ticks. The main way the virus is thought to spread is from person to person, through respiratory droplets.

That said, mosquitoes and ticks can spread other diseases, including the Zika virus and Lyme disease. Clothing that covers your arms and legs can help minimize your risk of insect-borne illnesses — and so can insect repellents that have been approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Reprinted from AARP. For the latest coronavirus news and advice go to AARP.org/coronavirus.

Beware of Counterfeit Stimulus Checks

Pandemic doesn’t deter criminals hungry for your cash and sensitive data

Fraudsters across the U.S. are sending counterfeit stimulus checks to people in an attempt to con them into paying an advance fee or turning over personal data, the director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) warns.

“It’s fraud — it’s illegal,” Kathy Kraninger told AARP in an interview on pandemic-related frauds on the agency’s radar. The fraudsters sending fake checks could be after sensitive information, such as your bank routing number, says Kraninger, 45, a lawyer who has led the CFPB since 2018.

So-called “advance fee” fraud schemes aren’t new, but they adapt to the times. In the latest twist, crooks are trying to capitalize on Americans’ eagerness to receive their stimulus payments, made possible under a new law called the CARES Act, to make rash choices and divulge personal details that should be kept private.

On April 2, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) warned consumers that the tax agency would not call them and ask them to verify financial information to get a stimulus check — or to get it faster. The IRS cautioned that scammers might mail bogus paper checks and tell consumers to call a number or substantiate certain information online to cash it.

80 million stimulus payments delivered

More than 80 million stimulus payments — what the IRS calls economic impact payments — already have gone out to Americans via direct deposit, federal officials said Saturday, though some consumers still are waiting for theirs. The payments are up to $1,200 per individual, or up to $2,400 for a married couple. People with eligible dependents under 17 may qualify for an additional $500 payment per dependent. Paper checks are starting to go out this week.

Fraudsters who successfully obtain personally identifiable information such as a Social Security number can commit an array of financial crimes. According to the CFPB, federal agencies are working with the IRS to alert people to scams related to the stimulus payments. Key points from the consumer protection bureau:

  • Generally, the IRS will first contact you by mail, not by phone.
  • The IRS will not insist upon a payment through a prepaid debit card, gift card, money order, wire transfer or other vehicle.
  • Federal agencies with jurisdiction over such illegal practices will work “to stop these scammers and their ill-conceived practices and … enforce the law,” a CFPB spokeswoman says.

The CFPB, an independent agency headquartered near the White House, was begun in 2011 in the wake of the financial and housing crises and Great Recession. Most of its roughly 1,500 staff members, including Kraninger, now are teleworking as they strive to ensure that banks, credit unions, credit card issuers, lenders including mortgage firms, debt collectors and other financial firms treat their customers fairly.



Two more COVID-19 scams

The CFPB has issued alerts about two other kinds of COVID-19 fraud, advising:

  • Older Americans should be on guard against scammers who prey on them by offering to pick up groceries, medications or supplies — but run off with the cash and leave consumers empty-handed.
  • Online shoppers seeking in-demand products — such as medical or cleaning supplies — should avoid unfamiliar sellers on the internet who advertise such goods but in reality don’t have them. Use an established delivery service, order directly from a store or take advantage of grocers and pharmacies offering contactless delivery, the CFPB says.

Talking about fraud prevention, Kraninger, who hails from suburban Cleveland, says she’s counseled her parents to never provide information to someone over the phone or in an email. “Hang up the phone or go to a trusted source,” she says. If there’s a purported issue with a credit card, call the customer service phone number on the back of the card, Kraninger says, and don’t accept someone’s word that they represent the card issuer.

“We all get busy. We all get distracted,” she says. “You have to be incredibly skeptical and vigilant.”

Kraninger, who years ago helped start up the Department of Homeland Security after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, says despite cybersecurity training she once almost fell victim to a phishing scam. With phishing, a bad actor emails, calls or texts you to trick you into sending cash or disclosing personal information. Or the communication is intended to allow the perpetrator to infiltrate your computer and steal sensitive data.

The CFPB enforces 20 federal laws, including the Truth in Lending Act and Truth in Savings Act. With civil enforcement powers, it acts against predatory companies and has returned billions of dollars to harmed consumers. The agency also works to educate consumers to empower them to make informed financial decisions.

Reprinted from AARP Fraud Watch Network

Covid-19 Scams

Unfortunately, scammers are using the COVID-19 pandemic to try to steal your Medicare Number, personal information, and money. And they’re using robocalls, social media posts, and emails to do it. 

Remember, if anyone reaches out to get your Medicare Number or personal information in exchange for something, you can bet it’s a scam.

Prevent Medicare Fraud

Be on the lookout, so you can stop scams before they happen. Here are recent Coronavirus scams to watch for:

  • Robocalls offering you respiratory masks they’ll never send
  • Social media posts fraudulently seeking donations for non-existent charities, or claiming to give you stimulus funds if you enter your bank account information
  • Fake testing kits, cures, “immunity” pills, and offers for protective equipment

Visit Medicare.gov/fraud for more information and tips on preventing Medicare scams and fraud.