Here at Virtual Law Office, we deal with estate planning and offer other financial and healthcare services that are primarily taken advantage of by the geriatric population. We frequently meet with aging individuals in order to discuss their plans for both the rest of their lives and the lives/wallets of their families. Novel Coronavirus Disease 2019 (otherwise known as COVID-19) has been entirely unprecedented in both its rise to pandemic-status and its total upending of our way of life, especially because of how dangerous the virus can be to older individuals. In Florida alone, the death toll is marked at 8 people and the pandemic is expected to produce significantly more cases by Friday. As of Wednesday evening at 6 PM, March 18, 2020, the number of COVID-19 cases in Florida is at 328 and rising rapidly. Because the viral infection grows exponentially – meaning that it multiplies in size/infection rate and gets drastically larger from day to day on a global scale – the number of cases in the state is expected to increase rapidly. Southeast Florida has the most confirmed cases of COVID-19, and  around half the confirmed cases in Florida were detected in its southeastern region – at the time of writing, Dade and Broward Counties have 77 and 80 confirmed cases, respectively. With the pandemic taking root here in Florida, some of our business practices will have to change in order to guarantee the safety of those we work with as best we can. Although we will continue operating as usual to serve the needs of our clientele throughout the state of Florida, we will be substituting video and telephone conference options for those wishing to meet face-to-face in order to prevent further transmission of COVID-19. In-office visits will be postponed as per the CDC’s COVID-19 guidelines, and Medicaid planning/application can be conducted without the need for an in-person visit. In the interim of the pandemic, we will replace our normal monthly library presentations with video web seminars. The first video web seminar we hold will be conducted on March 26 from 1-3 PM via Facebook Live so that anyone interested in doing so can participate, provided they have a Facebook account. Until further notice, our services will be conducted virtually, but you can expect the same quality Medicaid and Estate planning you’ve grown used to from our company. Information pertinent to preventing the further spread of COVID-19 throughout our communities and the state of Florida is listed below.

 

Social distancing, the latest and greatest pandemic-prevention technique the CDC has said may work, dictates that people should avoid gathering in groups and generally should avoid each other. If group meetings must be held, the CDC has recommended that they be limited to no more than 50 individuals, and in public, people should aim to remain at least 6 feet away from each other. By doing this, the virus has fewer opportunities to spread, and therefore by practicing social distancing the citizens impacted by the pandemic are able to greatly reduce its spread – statistics show that if just 1 out of every 8 people were allowed to move freely, coronavirus would essentially be stopped in its tracks. Because coronavirus is oftentimes asymptomatic in its onset and duration in certain age groups – meaning that you can be infected and show no symptoms while still being contagious with the virus – social distancing is the best pre-emptive preventative technique for keeping everybody safe. Recent studies conducted on a quarantined cruise ship done on the pandemic’s spread show that 17.9% of cases are entirely asymptomatic in nature. In addition, it grows exponentially, making it impossible to know who is infected and who is not due to how quickly it can spread once it takes hold. This technique must be applied to all the areas of our lives we generally take for granted, including work, family, and social obligations. This means that the responsible thing to do is to stay indoors unless your reason for traveling is of a high enough priority for you to risk spreading the virus – events like trips to the grocery store, going to work if you happen to be part of a group of essential personnel (like cops, firefighters, or emergency medical technicians), and traveling for legitimately important reasons should not be halted. This is social distancing in real life, and “flattening the curve” to stop the spread of infection works.

 

However, social distancing should still be practiced in the store and everywhere else that isn’t your home. In addition, any non-essential events, such as going out to the bar, club, diner, or gym are examples of events that should be cancelled in the best interests of those who may not stand as much of a chance against contracting a more severe version of the virus. Older individuals, especially those over the age of 60, and those already suffering with pre-existing conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, and even mental health issues such as depression and anxiety are much more susceptible to contracting a deadlier version of the virus, which is what makes the entire pandemic so dangerous. Even if you are not demonstrating any symptoms of COVID-19, you may still be a carrier of the virus and unknowingly spread it to more susceptible individuals, who have a severely reduced chance of fighting it off without incurring any lasting damage or even surviving it. Because COVID-19 is both asymptomatic and incredibly widespread (it has already spread to all 50 states and all continents excluding Antarctica), it is more dangerous than any other pandemic we’ve dealt with in a very long time. Common sense directives include making sure to sanitize any area you happen to be working in (if you are not already working remotely), using hand sanitizer or washing your hands thoroughly on a regular basis. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continues to specify that COVID-19 has no vaccine available to protect the population from its worst impacts and cites that the only way to avoid contracting the virus is to avoid coming into contact with anyone who has it. In addition, COVID-19 spreads through respiratory droplets produced when infected persons cough, sneeze, or excrete bodily fluids (spittle is something to watch out for – keeping a 6-foot distance from others ensures that everyone else’s spittle, coughs, and sneezes don’t get you sick).

 

If you think you are sick with COVID-19, stay home. The odds dictate that you are sick with COVID-19 because the pandemic is expected to infect 2 out of every 3 people, even if you are not demonstrating symptoms as severe as others who have been infected. COVID-19 impacts certain groups of people more severely or less severely on the extreme ends of the human aging and disease spectrum. For example, if you are over 60 and have been battling Type 2 Diabetes for a number of years you shouldn’t leave your house for many things, because you are dealing with a 5-10x increased risk of becoming seriously ill or even dying. On the other, younger end of the human lifespan are our 0-20-year-old population, most of whom are asymptomatic carriers of the virus already. This group, while not being as severely impacted by the virus as others, are the most at-risk of spreading it to susceptible groups because of its asymptomatic nature being so prevalent specifically among individuals within this age range. For any reasonably healthy adult between the ages of 20-60, the category most of us fall into, the impact of COVID-19 is unknown and entirely individual. This means that you may become severely ill or be asymptomatic – you could also fall anywhere in between. Early symptoms of COVID-19 are quite similar to those of the influenza virus, and that is why staying home and avoiding others becomes so important if you think you’re sick. Your case of the sniffles could be a common cold, or it could quite literally grow to kill your grandmother and aging parents, and that is the reality of the situation. With that all being said, avoid elderly people and those who may be more susceptible to COVID-19 if possible. Steps you can take at home in order to help reduce the spread of the virus include staying home if you feel unwell and covering up any coughs or sneezes with the inside of your elbow or a tissue (followed by an immediate handwashing or hand sanitizing). If you must go out, wear a face mask to prevent the transmission of any viral droplets – remember that you don’t have to be cognizant of a mistake for it to occur. Make sure to disinfect any frequently touched surfaces on a daily basis – phones, tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, door handles/regular handles, desks, phones, faucets, toilet seats, sinks, and keyboards can all hold COVID-19 containing droplets and get you or your loved ones sick. Constant, almost neurotic vigilance and repeatedly engaging in preventative healthcare practices that appear to be an overreaction to the situation at hand is the only way for anyone to escape this pandemic (at least mostly) unscathed.