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Lending our expertise to the fight against COVID-19

Because COVID-19 disproportionately impacts older adults and there is a direct correlation between increased age and negative outcomes, the current pandemic has particular meaning for the Buck Institute. We are taking an all hands on deck approach to tackling this pandemic, bringing our unique expertise in the biology of aging to local, national, and international efforts to find treatments for COVID-19. Scroll down for all the latest news and videos.

COVID-19 Webinar Series

In full support of California’s efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, the Buck Institute is enabling the safe expansion of on-campus research activities while continuing to protect the health of our Buck, Novato and Bay Area communities. Employees who can do their work remotely are continuing to work from home. Scientific activity in the labs is being prioritized while adhering to strict social distancing, mandatory masking, and other safety protocols, and a 50% maximum workforce density at any one time. We are proud that several of our labs have converted their priorities and are now interrogating the connection between the aging immune system and susceptibility to COVID-19.

The Buck’s leadership team is in communication with county, state, and federal officials, and we continue to offer the Institute’s resources and scientific and technological expertise to aid in efforts against the spread of the pandemic. All public events remain canceled until further notice.

For older adults and those that love them:
Tips for remaining safe and as healthy as possible in the time of COVID-19

The Centers for Disease Control and the California Department of Public Health are two good sources for safety information regarding COVID-19. Those wanting a deeper dive into what scientists are doing to quell the pandemic should check out information from the National Institutes of Health.   All government officials warn that older adults (those over 60) and those with compromised immune systems are at increased risk for the disease.

While all of us have been urged (and in some locales, ordered) to shelter-at-home, it is imperative that those at high risk avoid contact with others and practice social distancing if they need to leave their homes. Social distancing means staying home as much as possible and staying at least 6 feet away from others when out in public.

If you think you might have COVID-19:  If you do feel sick or get a fever (even mild), stay at home and call your doctor or local health department to get screened over the phone. Only go in for a swab test if advised to; don’t go in person unless it has been recommended first.  While main symptoms include fever, shortness of breath and a dry cough there are people who present with gastrointestinal issues, body aches and headaches.  If you’re having trouble breathing, do not hesitate to call 911.

Up your cleaning regimen: Wash your hands often, especially after re-entering the house/car or handling anything that was just handled by others. That includes gas pumps, door handles, packages, ATM machines, and the like. Soap and water work great, better than hand sanitizer. There are many videos online that offer advice on how to properly wash your hands.

Delay non-urgent medical care: Cancel any non-essential medical appointments or procedures. If you’re not sure what is essential, talk to your doctor by phone or video chat. Telephone and telemedicine video appointments are becoming increasingly available, take advantage of them.

Make sure you have adequate medication: Older adults should check with their health care providers to see if they should stock up on particular medications.  Family members or friends should check in frequently to make sure older adults are taking medications as prescribed or need refills. Many pharmacies will mail prescriptions.

Obtain the essentials:  Those at risk should ask family members or friends to shop for them or use a grocery delivery service.  Groceries should be left at the door to limit possible exposure to COVID-19.  If possible, wipe down handles before bringing bags or boxes into the house. Aim to have a two-week supply of food available—frozen veggies are just as healthy as fresh.  Older adults who need to shop should take advantage of “senior hours” (usually the first hour of business) when stores are less crowded.  Wear gloves when you leave the house and wash your hands thoroughly when returning home.

Get digitally connected:  Stay social! Many older adults depend on activities at senior centers and volunteer work to keep socially engaged – it’s time to seek out alternatives. Most communities have instituted telephone-based services to make sure older adults stay connected.  The Institute on Aging has a Friendship Line.  Those who are technology-adept should help others utilize FaceTime, Skype or other applications that enable streaming a video connection.  They are great solutions for keeping family and friends connected.  The new trend on twitter is #PhysicalDistanceNotSocialDistance. Just because you need to minimize physical exposure to people doesn’t mean you have to be isolated!

Keep moving as much as possible:  Exercise boosts immunity!  If you are able to get outside and socially isolate, go for a walk or do yard work. Check out online workouts and classes; they abound on streaming services. The National Institute on Aging has an exercise campaign called Go4Life that includes free online video workouts. 

Get adequate sleep and manage stress:  Getting through the COVID-19 pandemic will take time. It’s important that all of us learn coping skills to minimize stress.  The CDC recommends that we take breaks from watching, reading or listening to news stories, including social media.  Consider yoga, meditation or deep breathing exercises (many classes are available online). Do activities that you enjoy or take advantage of extra time to develop new hobbies.  Talk with people you trust; share your feelings and concerns.  

Reach out:  If you are an older adult, make an effort to connect with friends and family.  If you are in good health, consider volunteering for a hotline service.  If you know older adults, stay in regular contact to ensure that they are healthy and that they have what they need to get through the current crisis.  We’re all in this together!

Stay productive! Many vital tasks can be done at home. Ask your local hospital or non-profit if they need help with calling people, organizing, etc. Organize your group of friends and neighbors to help each other while minimizing physical contact.

Be prepared: If you haven’t already, complete an advanced directive and health care proxy. This is not fatalistic – it’s necessary anyway, and not something you want to do while you’re sick.

Stay safe and healthy!

Resources for information about COVID-19 and how to respond to it:

Centralized U.S. government information

The Centers for Disease Control

CDC information for older adults

NIH guidelines for treating COVID-19

World Health Organization

California Department of Public Health

California COVID-19 response

San Francisco Department of Public Health

Marin County Health and Human Services

Sonoma County Emergency and Preparedness Information

COVID-19 Fact Check: A page from UCSF medical students with well-sourced, regularly updated information translated into several languages.

New resource from Harvard Global Health Institute​

 Stay healthy and safe!

The Buck is bringing its expertise in aging and metabolism to a huge international effort to find treatments for COVID-19. Led by Buck adjunct faculty Nevan Krogen, a biologist at UCSF, researchers have identified 69 drugs that show initial promise against COVID-19. Buck President and CEO Eric Verdin is heading a subgroup of researchers who are looking at how metabolism impacts molecular targets of some of those drugs. 

Latest update: July 13, 2020:

Dear Buck Community,

Like all of you, I have been watching with dismay as the coronavirus pandemic continues on, seemingly unabated. I understand if there is anxiety as the number of new cases hits all-time record highs in California and here in Marin County. While some of this may be due to increased testing, there is scientific consensus that the rising case numbers derive primarily from community spread through increased social contact as shelter in place restrictions are lifted. The evolving conditions are a timely reminder of the critical importance of sticking to all safety protocols, including the wearing of face coverings and maintaining social distance.

Here at the Institute, as I have said over and over, the safety of our employees is my first, second, and third priority. As our labs return to maximum output, we know that it is only with a healthy and vibrant staff that we can fully dedicate ourselves to our science in the service of our critical mission of helping people live better longer, a mission that is more essential than ever. We have instituted strict safety protocols at the Buck and are gratified by the dedication and commitment of our scientists and staff as they work under very challenging conditions.

Several Buck labs have shifted the focus of their work to the fight against Covid-19. Because of its disproportionate impact on older adults, coronavirus is the quintessential age-related disease. The Buck’s expertise in geroscience, immunology, metabolism, and virology brings a critical perspective to the understanding of how the disease impacts the body, and how best to impede it. In addition to the in-depth work going on at the Institute, we have multiple collaborations ongoing with colleagues at UCSF and across the country.

One of the longtime points of pride in the Buck’s workforce has been its global nature. We know that diversity of thought and background are crucial elements to success. As such, we are following with great interest the Trump Administration’s proposed new visa restrictions. We treasure our global community here at the Buck and will continue to do whatever we can to encourage and nurture an international environment.

These are difficult, unprecedented times. We thank you for your friendship and support, and look forward to the day we can welcome you back to our beautiful campus

Stay safe and healthy,


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