Watch CBS News

Woman helped elderly couple get food when they were too scared to go shopping during coronavirus outbreak

Woman helps elderly couple with groceries
Woman helps elderly couple get food during coronavirus outbreak 01:38

As the coronavirus outbreak continues to spread throughout the globe, older Americans are among the most vulnerable. This poses a conundrum: Do they avoid crowded grocery stores or do they stock up on food? 

One elderly couple from Oregon had recently driven to a Safeway in Bend, Oregon, but they were too scared to get out of their car.

After 45 minutes, the wife cracked her window and shouted out to a young woman, professional runner Rebecca Mehra. "She cracked her window open a bit more, and explained to me nearly in tears that they are afraid to go in the store," Mehra wrote on Twitter.

The couple is in their 80s and heard the coronavirus was disproportionately affecting older people, Mehra wrote. They told her they don't have family nearby that could help them. "Through the crack in the window she handed me a $100 bill and a grocery list, and asked if I would be willing to buy her groceries," Mehra wrote in a series of tweets.

"I bought the groceries and placed them in her trunk, and gave her back the change," she continued. "I know it's a time of hysteria and nerves, but offer to help anyone you can. Not everyone has people to turn to."

After her story went viral, Rebecca Mehra spoke to CBS affiliate KBNZ. "It was the first time I thought about how much this is really affecting my community," she said of the elderly couple who asked her to help them get groceries. KBNZ

Mehra's Twitter thread resonated. "Overwhelmed by the positive response to my tweet yesterday," Mehra wrote on Thursday, one day after posting the initial story. "Over 11 million of you have seen my story and counting. Thank you to everyone who has shared it."

"Frankly most people I know would have done the same thing I did. I was just in the right place at the right time," Mehra wrote. 

She spoke to CBS affiliate KBNZ after her story gained widespread attention online. 

"It was the first time I thought about how much this is really affecting my community," Mehra said, adding that she was just at the right place at right time and wishes she had gotten the couple's names.

"It just felt like a no brainer thing to do in the moment," she said. "It seems like it's inspired thousands of people hopefully to check in on their neighbors, check in on their grandparents, and their parents."

Many elderly Americans, as well as those with serious chronic medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes or lung disease, are at a higher risk of contracting coronavirus – and some of them might not have the help they need.

High-risk individuals should make sure they have a supply of their regular medications on hand in case there's an outbreak that forces them to stay home, according to the CDC. They should also consider a mail-order service for medications. 

The CDC also recommended stocking up on over-the-counter medicines, including those that relieve fevers, as well as medical supplies and household items, such as tissues. Food supply is also important.

All Americans should also be practicing social distancing and proper hand washing to help prevent the spread of the virus.

How to effectively clean your phone amid the coronavirus outbreak 01:17
View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.