CDC expands list of high-risk conditions for COVID-19 complications, removes age threshold

On Thursday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention made revisions to its list of underlying medical conditions that put people at a higher risk of severe complications from the novel coronavirus.

The latest additions to the list of high-risk conditions include: 

  • 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

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According to the CDC, it is estimated that 60 percent of all American adults have at least one chronic medical condition, so the latest changes to the agency’s list increase the number of people who fall into higher risk groups 

“COVID-19 is a new disease. Currently there are limited data and information about the impact of underlying medical conditions and whether they increase the risk for severe illness from COVID-19,” the CDC wrote on their website.

Notably, the CDC also removed the specific age threshold from the older adult classification. “CDC 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 agency wrote.

“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. “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.”

The underlying conditions delineated by the CDC represent a growing list of illnesses that would cause an individual to be at high risk of developing serious health problems or death due to the novel coronavirus.

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The list includes:

  • Asthma (moderate-to-severe)
  • Cerebrovascular disease (affects blood vessels and blood supply to the brain)
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Hypertension or high blood pressure
  • Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from blood or bone marrow transplant, immune deficiencies, HIV, use of corticosteroids, or use of other immune weakening medicines
  • Neurologic conditions, such as dementia
  • Liver disease
  • Pregnancy
  • Pulmonary fibrosis (having damaged or scarred lung tissues)
  • Smoking
  • Thalassemia (a type of blood disorder)
  • Type 1 diabetes

The CDC also added three new symptoms of the novel coronavirus to its ongoing list this week.

Congestion or runny nose, nausea, and diarrhea were added, joining the federal agency's list that already included fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell and sore throat.

The CDC made a similar change in April when officials added six additional symptoms to the list. At the time, these new changes included chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, and new loss of taste or smell.

When the pandemic first began, fever, cough, and shortness of breath were reported to be the most common signs of a COVID-19 infection.

Symptoms can range from mild to severe, with most people beginning to experience them two to 14 days following exposure to the novel virus, or SARS-CoV-2.

The additions to the CDC’s lists come as states like Texas and Florida reversed course and clamped down on bars again Friday in the nation's biggest retreat yet as the number of confirmed coronavirus infections per day in the U.S. surged to an all-time high of 40,000.

Health experts have said a disturbingly large number of cases are being seen among young people who are going out again, often without wearing masks or observing other social-distancing rules.

A number of the hardest-hit states, including Arizona and Arkansas, have Republican governors who have resisted mask-wearing requirements and have largely echoed President Donald Trump’s desire to reopen the economy quickly amid warnings the virus could come storming back.

The novel coronavirus is blamed for 124,000 deaths in the U.S. and 2.4 million confirmed infections nationwide as of June 26, by Johns Hopkins' count. But U.S. health officials believe the true number of infections is about 10 times higher. Worldwide, the virus has claimed close to a half-million lives, according to Johns Hopkins.

Dr. Anthony Fauci provided a solemn reminder on the need for Americans to consider their actions amid the COVID-19 pandemic during the first White House Coronavirus Task Force press briefing in nearly two months.

At the start of the briefing, Vice President Mike Pence gave assurances that “this moment in the coronavirus pandemic is different than what we saw two months ago.” He said that among other things, the U.S. has more supplies on hand now, with no requests from hard-hit states for equipment such as ventilators and protective gear.

“A risk for you is not just isolated to you,” Fauci said in the press briefing, noting that “what goes on in one area of the country may impact another” in reference to multiple states that are experiencing high jumps in their COVID-19 confirmed percentages.

“The chances are, if you get infected, you will infect someone else,” Fauci said. “If we want to end this, we got to realize we are part of the process.”

While the increase in reported cases is believed to reflect, in part, greatly expanded testing, experts say there is ample evidence the virus is making a comeback, including rising deaths and hospitalizations in parts of the country and higher percentages of tests coming back positive for the virus.

Fauci described the risk of an individual potentially infecting people who have more dire health conditions, such as patients receiving chemotherapy treatment or a child with leukemia. 

“Even the ones who are doing well are going to be vulnerable to the spread,” Fauci said, asserting that people have a responsibility to themselves, but also to society in helping to reduce the spread. 

“‘We can be either part of the solution or part of the problem,” Fauci said.

The Associated Press and FOX News contributed to this story.