Precautions for seniors and high risk groups

Let's keep the lid on COVID-19. Alaskans 65 and older and anyone with an underlying medical condition should continue to reduce their risk of exposure to COVID-19. Two out of three Alaska adults have underlying health conditions that increase their chances of serious illness from COVID-19.

On this page:

What you can do to help others

It's important that we work together to protect Alaska elders: 70% of deaths from COVID-19 have been in Alaskans over age 65, although this is only 10% of the population. Sometimes Alaskans ask us how they may help the COVID-19 response. Here's our ask:

  • Think of two people you know who are 65 years of age are or above. An aunt? A friend?
  • Reach out to them and let them know Alaskans ages 65 and above are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
  • Appointments added to our systems yesterday are available throughout much of Alaska. To find a COVID-19 vaccine provider and schedule an appointment they may call 1-907-646-3322. Appointments may also be made online at (if you're able to help someone with this process, thank you!).

Your support may save lives. We can do this, Alaska! We can also support our elders and others by connecting with them virtually and asking what we can do to help:

  • Stay home as much as possible.

  • Ask others to do errands for you.

  • Have enough household items and groceries on hand – or have them delivered.

  • Monitor your health and contact a local health care provider for testing at the first sign that you may be sick.

Recommendations for seniors and high risk groups

  • COVID-19 Cohorting Strategies for Long-Term Care Facilities (PDF)
    The COVID-19 pandemic has shown to have high morbidity and mortality rates among residents and Health Care Personnel (HCP) working in LTCFs. COVID-19 transmission can be prevented by following recommended practices. This guidance is based onscientific recommendations in the prevention and transmission of COVID-19.
    February 5, 2021
  • COVID-19 Recommended Guidance for Congregate Residential Settings (PDF)
    The Department of Health and Social Services is providing the following guidance for operating congregate residential settings, also known as Residential Care Facilities (RCF) during the current public health emergency related to COVID-19. There is no question that RCFs have been impacted by COVID-19 due to the vulnerable nature of the RCF home population combined with the inherent risks of congregate living in a healthcare setting, requires aggressive efforts to limit COVID-19 exposure and to prevent the spread of COVID-19 within these facilities.  
    January 26, 2021
  • Visitation Guidelines for Congregate Residential Facilities (PDF)
    If your facility has started vaccinating residents and staff against COVID-19, you may allow visitation with family members and close friends so long as the conditions of these guidelines are met.
    March 28, 2021
  • COVID-19 Guidance for Skilled Nursing Facilities (PDF)
    The Department of Health and Social Services is providing the following guidance for operating congregate skilled nursing facilities (SNF). There is no question that SNFs have been impacted by COVID-19 due to the vulnerable nature of their population combined with the inherent risks of congregate living in a healthcare setting. These factors require aggressive efforts to limit COVID-19 exposure and to prevent the spread of COVID-19 within these facilities.
    September 15, 2020
  • COVID-19 Interim Guidance for Congregate Nonresidential Settings (PDF)
    This guidance is focused on non-residential congregate settings that serve seniors, disabled individuals, and other vulnerable populations whose age or health status placesthem at higher risk for severe COVID-19. Universities, correctional facilities, schools, childcare centers, and nursing homes should follow guidance specifically for those settings.
    April 23, 2021
  • COVID-19 General Guidance for In-home Caregivers (PDF)
    Alaska Department of Health and Social Services has developed this guidance to assist providers who deliver in-home supports that use direct service professionals and personal care assistants in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Risk of illness increases with age. Patients over the age of 65 and those with chronic medical conditions appear to be at particularly high risk of severe illness from COVID-19. Providers with experience managing respiratory infections (i.e. influenza) should apply the same practices to manage COVID-19 illness.
    June 23, 2020
  • COVID-19 Recommendations for Seniors and High Risk Groups (PDF)
    Persons 65 years and older are at higher risk of developing severe illness and even dying from COVID-19. This risk increases withage. Persons who have serious chronic medical conditions like heart disease, lung disease or diabetes are also at higher risk for more serious illness from COVID-19.
    May 5, 2020

How serious is COVID-19?

A new report from the CDC underscores just how serious COVID-19 can be for those with underlying health conditions:

As of May 30, 2020, among COVID-19 cases, the most common underlying health conditions were cardiovascular disease (32%), diabetes (30%), and chronic lung disease (18%). Hospitalizations were six times higher and deaths 12 times higher among those with reported underlying conditions compared with those with none reported.

Among cases with known race and ethnicity, 33% of persons were Hispanic, 22% were Black, and 1.3% were American Indian/Alaska Native. These findings suggest that persons in these groups, who account for 18%, 13%, and 0.7% of the U.S. population, respectively, are disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

People with diabetes and other underlying health conditions are at increased risk for severe illness if they become infected with COVID-19. In Alaska, African Americans have higher rates of diabetes than any other racial group. It's more important than ever for people with diabetes to learn how to manage their disease to live longer and healthier lives. A diabetes self-management program can help. Programs are available in communities across Alaska.

Families with children with disabilities

Families with children should create a plan for what will happen if the caregiver or caregivers in the family become ill with COVID-19. A COVID-19 family plan should establish a Circle of Support which includes family members, friends, and other trusted people who can help care for children.

Who is at higher risk for serious illness from COVID-19?

Based on currently available information and clinical expertise, older adults and people of any age who have serious underlying medical conditions might be at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.

  • Some groups of Alaska adults face much higher chances of serious COVID-19 illness than others
    January 25, 2021

Based on what we know, those at high-risk for severe illness from COVID-19 include:

  • People 65 years and older; and

  • People who live in a nursing home or long-term care facility
    Please see the DHSS guidelines for Long-term Care Facilities and Alaska Pioneer Home COVID-19 Response for more information.

  • People of all ages with underlying medical conditions, particularly if not well controlled, including:

    • People with chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma

    • People who have serious heart conditions

    • 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 medication

  • People with severe obesity

  • People with diabetes

  • People with chronic kidney disease undergoing dialysis; and

  • People with liver disease

What you can do to reduce risks

People who are at higher risk for severe illness should follow these steps to help reduce their risk of getting sick with COVID-19:

  • Continue your medications and do not change your treatment plan without talking to your doctor.

  • Have at least a 2-week supply of prescription and non-prescription medications. Talk to your healthcare provider, insurer, and pharmacist about getting an extra supply (i.e., more than two weeks) of prescription medications, if possible, to reduce trips to the pharmacy.

  • Talk to your healthcare provider about whether your vaccinations are up-to-date. People older than 65 years, and those with many underlying conditions, such as those who are immunocompromised or with significant liver disease, are recommended to receive vaccinations against influenza and pneumonia.

  • Do not delay getting emergency care for your underlying condition because of COVID-19. Emergency departments have contingency infection prevention plans to protect you from getting COVID-19 if you need care for your underlying condition.

  • If you need emergency help, call 9-1-1. Call your healthcare provider if you have any concerns about your underlying medical conditions or if you get sick and think that you may have COVID-19. 

Resources from CDC