Seniors and COVID-19

By Lynnette Wood

Chair Orcas District Committee, Orcas Senior Center

At the Orcas Senior Center, we’re working to make a safe, proactive, and appropriately scaled response to the spread of the novel coronavirus. The Orcas Senior Center non-profit, San Juan County and the Whatcom Council on Aging (which oversees the nutrition program) are working in close collaboration to make timely decisions both now and in the future. We are following Health Department recommendations for community actions. These actions may, at some point, include cancellation of certain services, programs or classes; postponement of events; or even temporary closure of the Senior Center facility. Such actions will be taken on a case-by-case basis and as conditions warrant.

In the meantime, in recognition of the fact that the spread of COVID-19 is person-to-person, we are taking steps to limit such contact as much as possible. For instance, we are eliminating self-service items in the lunch program, sanitizing frequently touched surfaces, and will be increasing the frequency of janitorial services.

We urge all visitors to sanitize their hands immediately upon entering the building, wash hands frequently, and limit direct person-to-person physical contact.

Looking toward the future, we realize that we may need to cancel services, programs or classes; postpone events; or close the facility. We will communicate these changes through our normal channels including signage at the Center and our website, We know many people depend on the hot meals program and we are exploring ways to meet these needs for those who would be most affected in case of facility closure.

Epidemiologists tell us that the threat of COVID-19 is a result of the ease with which the virus is transmitted combined with the fact that some people show only mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. A community response is one in which the entire community takes steps to protect one another, regardless of age or health status. The COVID-19 virus probably cannot be stopped, but it can be slowed with a strong community response. By practicing everyday prevention measures like frequent hand washing, staying home when sick, and covering coughs and sneezes, we may be able to slow the spread of the disease so that infections happen over a longer period of time. This would make a big difference as far as how many people become seriously infected at any one time, thus improving the ability of our medical professionals to effectively treat them.