In light of the emerging coronavirus outbreak in the U.S., Hawaii seniors should take precautions as they would with any other contagious disease like the flu, Lt. Governor Josh Green said Monday.

At a conference held by the Kokua Council, Green spoke with seniors about their risk for catching COVID-19, which is greater to them compared to those among younger age demographics. The mortality rate for people over 80 years old can be as high as 14%, he said. Still, catching the flu is more probable at this point in time.

“Though the (coronavirus) risk is high, it is infinitely smaller than influenza,” Green said.

Lt. Gov. Josh Green spoke with kupuna on Monday about how they can protect themselves from COVID-19. 

Green was appointed by Gov. David Ige last week to serve as liaison between the state and healthcare community for coronavirus preparedness and response efforts. He said hospitals have enough intensive care capacity and isolation rooms if needed.

He urged people to not visit their elderly loved ones if they are sick, and said the state will ensure that sick-leave policies are in place for people who work in long-term care homes.

As of March 9, Hawaii had reported two confirmed cases — one of which is affecting an elderly man who is over 90 years old, Green said. The other case was confirmed in a former Grand Princess cruise passenger. By Monday, the state had conducted about 20 diagnostic tests.

“This could ramp up very quickly and it will certainly change once we test a lot of people statewide,” Green said. “We will likely find some cases that have been lingering underneath the radar. But know that the preparation will be the same. We’ll still ask people to not be in contact if they’re sick, and if there’s any doubt, please stay home.”

All seniors are discouraged from traveling or attending events with large crowds. They should have a three-month supply of medications, too.

“We’ll also be doing other things like set up mobile centers where people could get a quick test if they need,” he said. “Hopefully it will do what other coronaviruses have done, which is burn out come summer time, but we’ll monitor it.”

To listen to Green’s full remarks, watch this Kokua Council video.

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