Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)

Graphic of the coronavirus molecule

As guidance is updated, ACL will post or link to it on this page and share it through the ACL Updates email service.

In addition, ACL recommends following the guidance issued by state and local health departments, and watch the CDC website for the latest national information. (Links below.)

If you need help finding services in your community, the Eldercare Locator can help. Visit https://eldercare.acl.gov/ or call 1-800-677-1116.

 

What do Older Adults and People with Disabilities Need to Know?

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People who are 65 or older are more likely to have serious COVID-19 illness. This may be because immune systems change with age, making it harder to fight off diseases and infection. Older adults also are more likely to have underlying health conditions that make it harder to cope with and recover from illness.

In addition, people of any age who live in a nursing home or long-term care facility are at higher risk. 

Other people who may be at higher risk for getting very sick from COVID-19, regardless of age or disability, include:

  • People with chronic lung disease or moderate-to-severe asthma
  • People who have serious heart conditions
  • People with severe obesity (body mass index [BMI] >40)
  • People with underlying medical conditions, particularly if not well controlled, such as those with diabetes, renal failure, or liver disease might also be at risk
  • People who are immunocompromised. Many conditions can cause a person to be immunocompromised, including cancer treatment, smoking, bone marrow or organ transplantation, immune deficiencies, poorly controlled HIV or AIDS, and prolonged use of corticosteroids and other immune weakening medications including people receiving cancer treatment

Reducing exposure is especially important for people at higher risk of complications!

Take actions to reduce your risk of getting sick
  • Stay home as much as possible.
  • Make sure you have access to several weeks of medications and supplies in case you need to stay home for prolonged periods of time. CDC has great resources to help you plan. 
  • Plan now for what you will do if you, or people you rely on for support, become ill.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing, or having been in a public place.
  • If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • To the extent possible, avoid touching high-touch surfaces in public places – elevator buttons, door handles, handrails, handshaking with people, etc. Use a tissue or your sleeve to cover your hand or finger if you must touch something.
  • Wash your hands after touching surfaces in public places.
  • Avoid touching your face, nose, eyes, etc.
  • Clean and disinfect your home to remove germs: practice routine cleaning of frequently touched surfaces (for example: tables, doorknobs, light switches, handles, desks, toilets, faucets, sinks & cell phones)
  • Avoid crowds, especially in poorly ventilated spaces. Your risk of exposure to respiratory viruses like COVID-19 may increase in crowded, closed-in settings with little air circulation if there are people in the crowd who are sick.
  • Avoid all non-essential travel including plane trips, and especially avoid embarking on cruise ships.

Words to the wise: Planning is key!

Many states and communities are implementing community actions designed to reduce exposures to COVID-19 and slow the spread of the disease. Creating a household plan can help protect your health and the health of those you care about. You should base the details of your household plan on the needs and daily routine of your household members. CDC's planning resources can help.

Everyday actions to prevent illness

You can learn more about how the virus spreads here. Everyone, regardless of age or disability, should follow CDC's recommendations to help prevent the spread of all respiratory diseases, including colds and flu and COVID-19. 

Things you can do every day
  • Stay home when you are sick, and avoid close contact with people who are sick.Comply with local social distancing recommendations!
  • The virus that causes COVID-19 may survive for hours or days on a variety of surfaces. Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces, as well as visibly dirty surfaces.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throwing the tissue in the trash.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
    Follow CDC’s recommendations for using a face mask.
    • CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a face mask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.
    • Face masks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to  others. The use of face masks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
    • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
    • For more information, see CDC’s Handwashing website
    • For information specific to healthcare, see CDC’s Hand Hygiene in Healthcare Settings.
President's Coronavirus Guidelines for America

On 3/16, President Trump announced The President’s Coronavirus Guidelines for America: 30 Days to Slow the Spread. These are:

  1. Listen to and follow the directions of your state and local authorities.
  2. If you feel sick, stay home.  Do not go to work.  Contact your medical provider.
  3. If your children are sick, keep them at home.  Do not send them to school.  Contact your medical provider. 
  4. If someone in your household has tested positive for the coronavirus, keep the entire household at home.  Do not go to work.  Do not go to school.  Contact your medical provider. 
  5. If you are an older person, stay home and away from other people. 
  6. If you are a person with a serious underlying health condition that can put you at increased risk (for example, a condition that impairs your lung or heart function or weakens your immune system), stay home and away from other people.  E
  7. Even if you are young, or otherwise healthy, you are at risk and your activities can increase the risk for others. It is critical that you do your part to stop the spread of the coronavirus:
    • Work or engage in schooling from home whenever possible.
    • If you work in a critical infrastructure industry, as defined by the Department of Homeland Security, such as healthcare services and pharmaceutical and food supply, you have a special responsibility to maintain your normal work schedule.  You and your employers should follow CDC guidance to protect your health at work.
    • Avoid social gatherings in groups of more than 10 people.
    • Avoid eating or drinking in bars, restaurants, and food courts – use drive-thru, pickup, or delivery options.
    • Avoid discretionary travel, shopping trips, and social visits.
    • Do not visit nursing homes or retirement or long-term care facilities unless to provide critical assistance.
  8. Practice good hygiene:
    • Wash your hands, especially after touching any frequently used item or surface
    • Avoid touching your face.
    • Sneeze or cough into a tissue, or the inside of your elbow.
    • Disinfect frequently used items and surfaces as much as possible.

 * School operations can accelerate the spread of the coronavirus.  Governors of states with evidence of community transmission should close schools in affected and surrounding areas.  Governors should close schools in communities that are near areas of community transmission, even if those areas are in neighboring states.  In addition, state and local officials should close schools where coronavirus has been identified in the population associated with the school.  States and localities that close schools need to address childcare needs of critical responders, as well as the nutritional needs of children.

 ** Older people are particularly at risk from the coronavirus.  All states should follow Federal guidance and halt social visits to nursing homes and retirement and long-term care facilities.

 *** In states with evidence of community transmission, bars, restaurants, food courts, gyms, and other indoor and outdoor venues where groups of people congregate should be closed.

Watch for symptoms and emergency warning signs

  • COVID-19 symptoms include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. If you feel like you are developing symptoms, call your doctor.
  • If you develop emergency warning signs for COVID-19 get medical attention immediately. These include:
    • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
    • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
    • New confusion or inability to arouse
    • Bluish lips or face
    • This list is not all inclusive. Consult your medical provider for any other symptom that is severe or concerning.

Follow your state's guidance

Decisions about community measures will be made by local and state officials, in consultation with federal officials as appropriate,  based on the scope of the outbreak and the severity of illness.  It's important for everyone to pay close attention to information and instructions published by states. Click on the "state-by-state links" box to find yours (and if we missed something, please send them to us through our web form.)  

State-by-state links

 

Information for the Aging and Disability Networks

Grant and Program Guidance

Guidance for Recipients of Discretionary Grants 

This FAQ covers the COVID-19-related questions we are hearing most often from recipients of discretionary grants. 

Older Americans Act Programs

Older Americans Act

Older Americans Act Disaster Relief

On March 13, 2020, the President declared that the ongoing pandemic is of sufficient severity and magnitude to warrant an emergency determination under section 501(b) of the Stafford Act, and that the emergency exists nationwide.

The President also stated that requests for a declaration of a “major disaster” as set forth in section 401(a) of the Stafford Act may be appropriate and encouraged governors and tribal leaders to consider requesting such a declaration. Declaration of a major disaster would trigger disaster relief authority in the Older Americans Act (PDF).

Senior Nutrition Program

New! This question will be added to the next update of the FAQ:

Q. Many congregate meal sites are closed. Will ACL expand the definition of “homebound” to allow home-delivered meals to be provided to the people who usually participate in congregate programs?

A. This is already allowed. Neither federal law nor ACL regulations restrict home-delivered meals to homebound individuals.  In fact, the only eligibility criteria for a home-delivered meal defined in the Older Americans Act is age – the recipient must be at least 60 years old. (ACL regulations do not further define eligibility.)

Eligibility is determined solely by the states and local entities, and states and local entities have the authority and power to waive any eligibility requirements they have established for home-delivered meals.

During this emergency, ACL strongly recommends that any state or local policy that limits eligibility for home-delivered meals should be waived.

Additional Nutrition Resources

State Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program

Aging and Disability Resource Centers

Other Older Americans Act Programs

State Units on Aging

Assistive Technology Act Programs

Frequently Asked Questions for State Assistive Technology Programs

New! - Webinars

The SMP National Resource Center, the SHIP National Technical Assistance Center, and the Center for Benefits Access (aka the MIPPA center) have been working with the Administration for Community Living (ACL) to offer a series of webinars to help grantees manage their volunteer programs and outreach efforts during the COVID-19 crisis.

Outreach Strategies During COVID-19 Webinar

Thursday, April 9, 2:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. ET

This webinar provides an opportunity for SMP, SHIP, and MIPPA grantees to get together to share their concerns and, more importantly, their strategies and practices about how to do outreach, counseling, and benefits enrollment during the COVID-19 outbreak.  While the focus of this webinar will be on examples for SMP, SHIP, and MIPPA all ACL grantees are welcome to join and participate. 

Register for the webinar.


Living With COVID-19 Webinar: A Guide for Volunteer Programs

Monday, April 13, 2:30 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. ET

COVID-19 is an unprecedented event. No disaster or disease has ever affected volunteering to the extent that will likely occur in the next few months. In this webinar, Steve McCurley will take attendees through some preliminary discussion of the likely impact of COVID-19 on volunteers and volunteer programs and highlight some of the major issues around which grantees need to begin planning. While the focus of this webinar will be on examples for SMP, SHIP, and MIPPA all ACL grantees are welcome to join and participate. 

Register for the webinar.

 

For all network partners

 Preventing Medicare Fraud – from the Senior Medicare Patrol resource center
For schools using online tools for distance learning

On March 17, the Department of Education released a webinar on ensuring web accessibility for students with disabilities for schools utilizing online learning, as well as a fact sheet on how to protect students' civil rights as school leaders take steps to keep students safe and secure. These resources will assist education leaders in making distance learning accessible to students with disabilities and in preventing discrimination during this Administration-wide response effort

Telehealth flexibilities and resource for long-term care facilities

The Department of Health and Human Services has expanded to telehealth access to combat COVID-19.

  • Medicare beneficiaries can receive a wider range of services through telehealth. See the CMS press release and FAQ for more information.
  • A covered health care provider also may use any non-public facing remote communication product that is available to communicate with patients. The HHS Office of Civil Rights will exercise its enforcement discretion and will not impose penalties for noncompliance with the regulatory requirements under the HIPAA Rules against covered health care providers in connection with the good faith provision of telehealth during the COVID-19 nationwide public health emergency. Details can be found in the OCR press release and this OCR bulletin.
  • The HHS Office of Inspector General provided flexibility for healthcare providers to reduce or waive beneficiary cost-sharing for telehealth visits paid by federal healthcare programs. See the OIG policy statement for more information.
  • CMS has created an electronic toolkit regarding telehealth and telemedicine for long-term care facilities. The toolkit includes electronic links to reliable sources of information regarding telehealth and telemedicine and information on choosing telemedicine vendors, equipment, and software; initiating a telemedicine program; monitoring patients remotely; and developing documentation tools. There is also information that will be useful for providers who intend to care for patients through electronic virtual services that may be temporarily used during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Medicaid COVID-19 guidance:  HCBS waivers, nursing home visitation, telehealth & more 

CMS's COVID-19 web page includes a variety of resources for the networks:

Planning for COVID-19 in your community

Capacity-Building Toolkit for including Aging & Disability Networks in Emergency Planning

ACL worked with the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) and the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) to create this resource to guide the aging and disability networks in increasing their ability to plan for and respond to public health emergencies and disasters.

The Toolkit can help emergency managers and public health officials to understand the capabilities and expertise of CBOs within the aging and disability networks and welcome their partnership in emergency planning activities.

While the Toolkit is not specifically focused on COVID-19, its recommendations and resources apply to a wide range of emergency situations. Module Three, which begins on page 21, specifically addresses preparing for public health emergencies, including infectious disease.

Get your Organization Ready - CDC Interim Guidance

This interim guidance is intended to help community-based organizations plan for COVID-19 in their communities. Although it does not answer all the questions we know  the aging and disability networks have, it addresses many of those we have heard most frequently.  

 

More Resources 

From the Federal Government 

White House Coronavirus (COVID-19) Task Force  

Stay on top of the latest information from the official White House COVID-19 Task Force.

USA.gov 

USA.gov has a directory of COVID-19 websites managed by government agencies. 

Health information from CDC 

CDC's COVID-19 web page includes a number of resources, including specific guidance for:

CDC Video

Protecting Civil Rights of People with Disabilities

On March 28, the HHS Office of Civil Rights published OCR Bulletin: Civil Rights, HIPAA, and the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) to ensure that entities covered by civil rights authorities keep in mind their obligations under laws and regulations that prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, disability, age, sex, and exercise of conscience and religion in HHS-funded programs. 

The bulletin states that, “…persons with disabilities should not be denied medical care on the basis of stereotypes, assessments of quality of life, or judgments about a person’s relative “worth” based on the presence or absence of disabilities or age. Decisions by covered entities concerning whether an individual is a candidate for treatment should be based on an individualized assessment of the patient and his or her circumstances, based on the best available objective medical evidence.”

Behavioral health resources to help during social distancing and quarantine 
  • SAMHSA's Tips for Social Distancing and Isolation - This tip sheet describes feelings and thoughts people may have during and after social distancing, quarantine, and isolation. It also suggests ways to care for behavioral health during these experiences and provides resources for more help. (Published Mar. 16, 2020)
  • SAMHSA's Disaster Distress Helpline provides 24/7 crisis counseling and support to people experiencing disaster-related emotional distress.
    • Deaf/Hard of Hearing instructions:
      • Text TalkWithUs to 66746
      • Use your preferred relay service to call the Disaster Distress Helpline at 1-800-985-5990
      • TTY 1-800-846-8517
Information for Medicare beneficiaries

Medicare.gov's COVID-19 page includes information for beneficiaries.  A few key things:

  • Medicare covers the lab tests for COVID-19. You pay no out-of-pocket costs.
  • Medicare covers all medically necessary hospitalizations. This includes if you're diagnosed with COVID-19 and might otherwise have been discharged from the hospital after an inpatient stay, but instead you need to stay in the hospital under quarantine.
  • At this time, there's no vaccine for COVID-19. However, if one becomes available, it will be covered by all Medicare Prescription Drug Plans (Part D).
  • If you have a Medicare Advantage Plan, you have access to these same benefits. Medicare allows these plans to waive cost-sharing for COVID-19 lab tests. Many plans offer additional telehealth benefits beyond the ones described below. Check with your plan about your coverage and costs.
Beware of scams: FTC and DOJ guidance

FTC Guidance: Scammers are taking advantage of fears surrounding COVID-19.  

Tips to help keep them at bay:

  • Don’t click on links from sources you don’t know. They could download viruses onto your computer or device. Watch for emails claiming to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or experts saying that have information about the virus.
  • For the most up-to-date information about the Coronavirus, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
  • Ignore online offers for vaccinations. There currently are no vaccines, pills, potions, lotions, lozenges or other prescription or over-the-counter products available to treat or cure Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) — online or in stores.
  • Do your homework when it comes to donations, whether through charities or crowdfunding sites. Don’t let anyone rush you into making a donation. If someone wants donations in cash, by gift card, or by wiring money, don’t do it.

Investor Alert: Look Out for Coronavirus-Related Investment Scams

Department of Justice Guidance on Reporting Fraud

The Department of Justice is remaining vigilant in detecting, investigating, and prosecuting wrongdoing related to the crisis. If you think you are a victim of a scam or attempted fraud involving COVID-19, you can report it without leaving your home:

More COVID-19 information from the Department of Justice.

Resources from our non-federal partners

The COVID-19 situation is fast-moving, and what people need to know is changing fast as well. In the interest of providing information as quickly as we can, we are sharing resources created by our partners in the aging and disability networks and non-governmental agencies when a comparable resource from a government source does not exist. This does not constitute endorsement for one organization over another or indicate support for opinions expressed by the organizations.

For family caregivers
  • New! “Let’s Talk COVID-19” is a guide created by the Washington State Council on Developmental Disabilities to help family, friends, and care providers of people with developmental disabilities as they navigate conversations about COVID-19.
  • These suggestions for family members and friends who support people living with Alzheimer's disease and similar illnesses were put together by the Emory University Goizueta Alzheimer's Disease Center. They also may be helpful for people providing support to loved ones for any reason.
  • The Family Caregiver Alliance is collecting COVID-19 resources and articles for family caregivers.
  • Generations United has produced a COVID-19 fact sheet (PDF) with information to help grandfamilies stay healthy, informed and connected during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The ARCH National Respite Network and Resource Center is collecting resources on respite in the time of COVID-19.
  • The Caregiver Action Network has developed a resource, Tips for Family Caregivers and COVID-19.
Information for people with developmental disabilities and self-advocates
Emergency communications tools for people who do not use verbal communication
  • Emergency communication tool from Temple University Institute on Disabilities: Communication during times of emergency is critical. However, many individuals may not use verbal communication due to their disability, injury, or shock. These communication tools may be used during times of emergency when spoken English or Spanish may not be an option.
  • The UConn Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities has developed a flipbook provides communication strategies for addressing the needs of people who do not communicate through speech to express themselves and/or to understand what is being said to them. Aids include an emergency QWERTY board for typing, pain charts, sign language basics, and icon-based options. It can be printed out and hung inside emergency vehicles for easy reference on the job.
  • New! The Patient-Provider Communication Forum, with the support of the United States Society of Augmentative and Alternative Communication (USSAAC), is providing a free bank of communication supports to patients and their health care workers during the coronavirus pandemic.
     
For people with paralysis  

The Paralysis Resource Center, an ACL grantee, has created this resource for people living with paralysis. See also:

Updated: Resources for Health Professionals and First Responders

AADMD Resources for Those Serving People with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

AADMD's Coronavirus Center is a resource and knowledge-sharing hub for individuals, caregivers, and, in particular, health care workers serving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Tips for First Responders

Tips for First Responders was developed by the University of New Mexico, Center for Development and Disability, the American Association on Health and Disability, and other partners offers quick, easy-to-use procedures for assisting people with disabilities in
an emergency. The guide includes specific tips to support:

  • Seniors
  • People with service animals
  • People with mobility impairments
  • People with Autism
  • People who are deaf or hard of hearing
  • People who are blind or visually impaired
  • People with cognitive disabilities
  • People with multiple chemical sensitivities
  • People who are mentally ill
  • Childbearing women and newborns
  • People With Seizure Disorders

Download as a PDF.

Resources for LGBT Older Adults and People Living with HIV

Fact sheet for older adults and people with disabilities

Common Questions and Answers About COVID-19 for Older Adults and People with Chronic Health Conditions, created by the Alliance for Aging Research and the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases.

Cross-disability resources from the Southeast ADA Center

The NIDILRR-funded Southeast ADA Center is regularly updating a list of resources for people with disabilities.

American Sign Language

COVID-19 resources are now available in American Sign Language on CDC’s YouTube page:

 

En Español

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Last modified on 04/01/2020


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