Seniors remain cautious, calm during outbreak

  • STEPHANIE SALMONS/Tribune-Herald A crowd gathered Friday at the Kamana Senior Center in Hilo.

  • Springer

  • Shiraishi

Elderly populations are among those most at risk for COVID-19.

Hawaii Island seniors, however, still gathered for classes Friday afternoon at Kamana Senior Center.

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Kim Springer, 62, of Hilo was among those at Kamana and said her main concern is that the virus could be spread by people who are not symptomatic.

“But I think as a whole most seniors know their health issues, if they have any, and for a lot of the seniors that attend this center, a lot of them are physically active. So as far as their overall health, I would assume most of us are in better shape than a lot of others that don’t come out.”

Many seniors, too, will stay home when they feel unwell, Springer said.

“Very rarely do people come and participate in activities when they’re sick.”

The state’s Joint Information Center on COVID-19 said seniors are at a greater risk for the disease, especially those who have underlying health conditions.

Older adults and individuals who have underlying health issues should avoid nonessential travel, including cruises, and neighbor island residents with scheduled medical treatment or follow-up care on Oahu should consult with their doctors.

Seniors also should avoid large crowds, wash hands often, and keep medications and groceries on hand.

If the center were to cancel classes — as of Friday afternoon, spring quarter classes were still set to start later this month — Springer said it won’t have much impact, “just no social life. But it’s OK.”

“We’ll miss it,” said Joanne Yoshida, 69, of Hilo. “We’ll miss the activities, but we’ll understand.”

Springer, an instructor at Kamana Senior Center, said attendance during the past 10-week session has been lower than previous sessions — not necessarily because of the coronavirus, but for other reasons — but have been constant.

Eileen Shiraishi, 76, of Hilo said she didn’t have any particular concerns about the virus and hasn’t taken many other precautions other than “constantly washing hands.”

Despite the rush by others to stock up on supplies, Springer said she hasn’t.

“I figure when I need something, hopefully I can get it … I think if everybody would just not panic. You need to stop panicking.”

Meanwhile, John Pini, 72, and his wife, 74, live in Kulaimano Elderly Housing in Pepeekeo, wanted to know why more proactive measures weren’t being taken to test seniors.

“I feel like we have a right to be tested because our age, No. 1, and our health reasons,” he said.

Although he and his wife have no symptoms, Pini said people could unknowingly carry the virus.

The Joint Information Center did not respond to questions about those concerns posed by Pini, whether there are plans for proactive testing for especially high-risk populations, or why that may not be feasible.

However, in its daily update on Friday, the Joint Information Center said, “Testing those who are well or at low risk for exposure is not an efficient use of resources. To ensure judicious use of resources, health care providers statewide are triaging and determining if their patients meet the criteria to initiate COVID-19 testing.”

Testing at the DOH State Laboratories Division is being conducted on persons under investigation who are at high or medium risk.

High risk individuals are those who have been living with an intimate partner, or is caring for a person who has been confirmed positive for COVID-19, according to the update.

Those who are at medium risk, meanwhile, are those who have traveled to an affected country or state, as determined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, within the past 14 days; has had intimate contact with a confirmed symptomatic person; or has had close contact with a symptomatic person without precautions.

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People who are low risk are those who have been in the same indoor environments, such as planes and restaurants, without having close contact with a confirmed symptomatic person.

Email Stephanie Salmons at ssalmons@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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