As shown by gas clouds that form after a sneeze, or after a cough, viral particles in the millions can be inhaled if you happen to be in its direct path and are not protected. While social distancing of at least 6 feet reduces the likelihood of these weaponized viral air droplets invading your lungs during casual talking, this distance is not protective if the person you are speaking to (and who doesn’t know he/she is COVID-19 positive) sneezes or coughs in your direction; this is because viral particles can travel much farther than 6 feet (and in some cases 20-30 feet). Therefore, the combination of at least 6-feet o of social distancing AND wearing snug, air-tight fitting masks in public will afford you greater protection/ reduce your risk of infection.
And while 4 out of every 5 who become infected with the virus completely recover without requiring hospitalization, a small percentage will become very sick (e.g., widespread pneumonia, inflammation of the heart, etc) and may require mechanical ventilation/ life support measures.
Listed below are the 10 groups at highest risk of COVID-19 complications.
- Residents of Nursing Homes of Long Term Care Facilities
- Older than age 65
- Lung disease: COPD or moderate-severe Asthma
- Cigarette smoking or vaping
- Morbid Obesity (body mass index of 40 kg/m2 or greater)
- History of Heart Disease
- Diabetes or Hypertension (poorly controlled)
- Dialysis patients
- History of Liver Disease
Encouraging News: While we await results of ongoing clinical trials, at least 2 potential therapies recently tested in critically ill COVID-19 show promise; one is the medication Remdesivir and the second is transfusing convalescent plasma, or blood containing COVID-19 antibodies from those recently infected.
Michael Miller, MD is Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine, Epidemiology & Public at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland USA. He serves on the American Heart Association Leadership Council and his latest book is “Heal Your Heart: The Positive Emotions Prescription to Prevent & Reverse Heart Disease” published by Penguin Random House.