The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday broadened its warning about who is at risk of developing severe disease from Covid-19 infection, suggesting even younger people who are obese or have other health conditions can become seriously ill if they contract the virus.
The new advice, timed to influence behavior going into the July 4 weekend, frames the risk as rising with age, jettisoning earlier warnings that mainly those 65 and older faced higher risk. It also puts greater emphasis on the risk presented by a number of health conditions, including having a body mass index of 30 or over. Previously the warning related to people who had a BMI of 40 or over.
The agency is also warning that being pregnant may increase a woman’s risk of being hospitalized and having a severe bout of the illness, based on a study of more than 8,000 pregnant women in the United States who were diagnosed with Covid-19. The study did not find an increased risk of death among the pregnant women, however.
The new advice does not list African Americans or other people of color as being at elevated risk from the virus, even though many states have reported a disproportionate percentage of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths among people of color.
“As we move forward and each of us weigh our risk for infection and make decisions about going about our lives, it’s important for all of us to try the best we can to continue to take steps we know are effective to prevent Covid-19,” CDC Director Robert Redfield told reporters during a press conference, only the second the agency has held since early March.
The new guidance reflects what has been apparent for months now, with countless new severe cases among young people and those with underlying conditions. But warnings of those cases have largely gone unheeded as states have begun to reopen.
The country is seeing a fresh surge of cases, particularly in the West and South, where hospitals are swelling with new cases and state governments are struggling to respond. On Thursday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced the state would pause its reopening in the face of outbreaks across the state.
The new guidance breaks down medical conditions that can influence disease severity into those for which there is strong evidence, and those for which the evidence is not as strong, classifying the latter as conditions that might increase the risk of severe illness.
Cardiovascular disease, chronic kidney disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD, obesity, any immuno-suppressing condition, sickle cell disease, a history of an organ transplant, and type 2 diabetes are classified as having strong evidence of increasing the risk of Covid-19 infection.
Conditions that are considered ones that might increase the risk of severe illness are chronic lung diseases, including moderate to severe asthma and cystic fibrosis, high blood pressure, a weakened immune system, neurologic conditions, such as dementia or history of stroke, liver disease, and pregnancy.
This is a breaking story. It will be updated.