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Who's at Highest Risk From COVID-19? CDC Updates Its List

HealthDay News
by -- Robert Preidt
Updated: Jun 25th 2020

new article illustration

THURSDAY, June 25, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- The list of conditions that put people at risk for severe COVID-19 illness has been expanded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

It said that older adults and people with underlying medical conditions remain at increased risk for severe illness, but the agency further defined age- and health condition-related risks after a detailed review of available evidence.

"Understanding who is most at risk for severe illness helps people make the best decisions for themselves, their families, and their communities," CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield said in an agency news release.

"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," Redfield said.

Previously, the CDC said that adults older than 65 were at increased risk for severe illness, but now says that the risk among adults increases steadily with age, and is not limited to those over 65.

The list of underlying medical conditions that increase the risk of severe COVID-19 illness has been expanded and now includes:

  • Chronic kidney disease,
  • COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease),
  • Obesity,
  • Weakened immune system from solid organ transplant,
  • Serious heart conditions such as heart failure, coronary artery disease or cardiomyopathy,
  • Sickle cell disease,
  • Type 2 diabetes.

The changes mean that more people are considered to be at high risk for severe COVID-19 illness. About 60% of American adults have at least one chronic medical condition, and about 40% of U.S. adults are obese.

The more underlying health conditions people have, the higher their risk, the CDC warned.

Other conditions that might increase the risk that were added to the list include: asthma; high blood pressure; neurologic conditions such as dementia; cerebrovascular disease such as stroke; and pregnancy.

A study published June 25 in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report found that pregnant women with COVID-19 were much more likely to be hospitalized, admitted to intensive care, and to require mechanical ventilation than women who aren't pregnant.

However, pregnant women were not at greater risk for death from COVID-19.

As various U.S. states reopen, people who are at increased risk for severe COVID-19 illness need to understand the risks associated with daily activities and make informed decisions about which ones to resume and what level of risk they'll accept, the CDC said.

"Everyone should continue to 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," the CDC said.

"By taking these steps, you can help protect yourself, your loved ones, and others around you, including those most vulnerable to severe illness," the agency said.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on COVID-19.