In spite of Washington State’s ongoing efforts to contain it, COVID-19 is spreading more rapidly by the day, especially among people aged 20-40. And while they are less likely to become seriously ill from the virus, they can still spread it to friends, family and neighbors – without even knowing they have it. Many young people are also in the higher risk categories recently updated by the CDC.
Who’s at risk: An update
Much about the virus remains a mystery, but we are learning more each week about who is most vulnerable. The CDC has updated its list of people who are at increased risk of severe illness and those who should take extra precautions to avoid getting the virus, regardless of age. Among them are some members of racial and ethnic groups that have experienced longstanding health and social inequities, including Black people, Native Americans and Latinos.
Native Americans and Black people are five times more likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19, and Latinos are four times as likely to be hospitalized, according to the CDC. This reflects disparities in the conditions that influence health outcomes–such as access to healthcare, educational opportunity, and availability of healthy food and physical activity in neighborhoods. In addition, the higher risk for these groups reflects the population of essential workers who have been on the frontlines of the pandemic.
The latest scientific studies reviewed by the CDC show that people with the following conditions are also more at risk of severe illness from COVID-19, regardless of their age:
- Chronic kidney disease
- Chronic lung disease
- People who have had organ transplants
- Serious heart conditions
- Sickle cell disease
- Type 2 diabetes
Obesity is another high risk factor, which the CDC defines as a body mass index is 30 or higher. The CDC previously had cautioned that only those who are seriously obese – those whose body mass index is 40 or higher – were at increased risk. You can calculate your body mass index here.
The latest evidence also suggests that pregnant women and smokers might be at increased risk, as well as people who suffer from:
- Cystic fibrosis
- High blood pressure
- Liver disease
- Type 1 diabetes
- A weakened immune system
If you are in a group that the CDC has identified as high-risk or needing extra precautions, avoid contact outside the home as much as possible.
Protecting Those at Risk
Now more than ever, it is crucial for people of all ages to take these basic steps to slow transmission of the disease:
- Wear a cloth face covering, unless you have a physical condition that makes this unsafe.
- Take social distancing seriously. Keep at least six feet away from other people whenever possible.
- Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly, for at least 20 seconds each time.
- Avoid large group activities and have fewer gatherings. The smaller the gathering, the safer it is.
- Good ventilation helps. Interactions outdoors are safer than indoors. Open windows and doors as much as possible when indoors and around others.
In short, the evidence shows that COVID-19 can infect anyone, regardless of age. Even if you’re not in a high-risk category, your activities can spread the virus to people who are.
When it comes to the coronavirus, no one is invincible. And we all have a responsibility to protect those who are most at risk.
Originally posted on July 8, 2020.