ATLANTA, Ga. – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced Thursday that it has expanded its list of people who are at an increased risk of getting severely ill from COVID-19.
While everyone is at risk of contracting the novel coronavirus, some people are more likely than others to become severely ill, meaning they may require hospitalization, intensive care or a ventilator to help them breathe, or they may even die.
Older adults and people with underlying medical conditions remain at increased risk for severe illness, but now the CDC has further defined age- and condition-related risks.
Before, the CDC said those 65 and older were at an increased risk of severe illness. Now, the CDC says it has removed the specific age threshold from the older adult classification. The agency now warns that among adults, risk increases steadily as you age, and it’s not just those over the age of 65 who are at increased risk for severe illness.
The CDC says age is an independent risk factor for severe illness, but risk in older adults is also in part related to the increased likelihood that older adults also have underlying medical conditions.
The CDC has also updated its list of underlying medical conditions that increase risk of severe illness. After reviewing reports, studies and various other data sources, the CDC found there is consistent evidence these specific conditions increase a person’s risk of severe COVID-19 illness:
· Chronic kidney disease
· COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
· Obesity (BMI of 30 or higher)
· Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from solid organ transplant
· Serious heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies
· Sickle cell disease
· Type 2 diabetes
The CDC says these changes increase the number of people who fall into higher risk groups.
An estimated 60% of American adults have at least one chronic medical condition and obesity is one of the most common underlying conditions that increases one’s risk for severe illness – with about 40% of U.S. adults considered obese.
The more underlying medical conditions people have, the higher their risk.
The CDC also clarified the list of other conditions that “might” increase a person’s risk of severe illness, including additions such as asthma, high blood pressure, neurologic conditions such as dementia, cerebrovascular disease such as stroke, and pregnancy.
A report published Thursday further adds to the growing body of research on the risk for pregnant women. Researchers found pregnant women were significantly more likely to be hospitalized, admitted to the intensive care unit, and receive mechanical ventilation than non-pregnant women. However, pregnant women were not at greater risk for death from COVID-19.
“Understanding who is most at risk for severe illness helps people make the best decisions for themselves, their families, and their communities,” said CDC Director Robert Redfield MD. “While we are all at risk for COVID-19, we need to be aware of who is susceptible to severe complications so that we take appropriate measures to protect their health and well-being.”
Protecting yourself, your family, and your community
The CDC says every activity that involves contact with others has some degree of risk right now. Knowing if you are at increased risk for severe illness and understanding the risks associated with different activities of daily living can help you make informed decisions about which activities to resume and what level of risk you will accept. This information is especially critical as communities begin to reopen.
Officials recommend that everyone do their part to implement prevention strategies, such as focusing on activities where social distancing can be maintained, washing your hands frequently, limiting contact with and disinfecting commonly touched surfaces or shared items, and wearing a cloth face covering when you are around people you do not live with, especially when it is difficult to stay 6 feet apart or when people are indoors.
"By taking these steps, you can help protect yourself, your loved ones, and others around you, including those most vulnerable to severe illness," the CDC writes.