In Italy, the most affected country in Europe, more than 100 people have died from COVID-19. All either were old, already had health problems or both.
Of the 21 deaths across the U.S. as of Sunday, at least 16 had been linked to a home for old people near Seattle, Washington. The Seattle Times reported that a second similar home and a retirement community in the area had each reported one case of the virus.
That has gotten the attention of other old people homes in the U.S., especially in Florida and California. Both those states have large numbers of old people.
About 2.5 million people live in long-term care centers in the United States.
"For people over the age of 80 ... the (death) rate could be as high as 15 percent," said Mark Parkinson. He is president of the American Health Care Association.
The federal government inspects such centers. It is now working on plans to control infection centers with confirmed cases of coronavirus.
Federal rules already require the centers to employ an infectious disease prevention specialist. However, action to deal with the coronavirus has been uneven at such centers.
About 160,000 old people live in some type of special care homes in Florida. These places are not screening visitors "because we're not at that stage," said Kristen Knapp. She is a spokeswoman for the Florida Health Care Association.
The Palm Gardens Corporation operates 14 Florida old people homes. Each is now requiring visitors to answer some questions upon arrival. They are asked about their health, recent travel and contact with others, said company Vice President Luke Neumann.
At the South Shore Rehabilitation and Skilled Care Center south of Boston, patient Leo Marchand keeps a container of disinfecting cloths near his bed. He uses one several times a day. The 71-year-old retired truck driver has breathing problems. The possibility of getting the coronavirus worries him.
Many old people housing centers across the country have reported difficulties in finding medical masks and clothing because of shortages.
Some visitors have been angry about the screenings. Janet Snipes is the director of the Holly Heights Nursing Center in Denver. She said it has been difficult to explain to visitors that the screening is necessary to keep the old people there safe.
I'm Susan Shand.