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CDC updates risk factor lists for COVID-19

People of any age can get COVID-19. But those with some common health conditions are at risk of severe illness or even death if they contract the disease.

It’s part of what we’re learning about this novel (new) virus. We know the main ways that COVID-19 spreads. We are learning which drugs work best for patients. We know some racial and ethnic communities suffer more from this disease.

Since early in the pandemic, we see COVID-19 has more severe outcomes as the patient’s age increases. In Pierce County, about 90% of deaths have been in people ages 60 and up. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported 92% of all COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. were people 55 years old or older.

Grandfather playing with two grandsons

And now, we know more about what conditions can make things worse. Certain conditions increase the potential for deadly or severe health outcomes.

Known elevated risk factors

Recently the CDC updated its lists of known and possible risk factors for people who contract COVID-19.

These conditions increase risk for severe illness from COVID-19 regardless of a person’s age:

  • Cancer.
  • Chronic kidney disease.
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
  • Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from solid organ transplant.
  • Obesity (body mass index [BMI] of 30 or higher).
  • Serious heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies.
  • Sickle cell disease.
  • Type 2 diabetes mellitus.

Possible elevated risk factors

These conditions may increase risk for severe illness from COVID-19 regardless of a person’s age:

  • 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 mellitus.

Protect yourself and others

We don’t fully understand how common long-term complications of COVID-19 are. Are they permanent? Will they just go away? It’s still too early to tell. We need more research. 

No matter your age or health, you can take simple steps to protect yourself and people you care about:  

  • Wear a mask when you leave home. No shirt, no shoes, no mask? No service.  
  • Limit your interactions to a small circle of friends and family. 
  • Stay close to home. 
  • Keep gatherings small and outside if possible. 
  • Fresh air and physical distance help keep you safe. 
  • Wash your hands, cover your cough, and keep up your best hygiene and sanitation. 
  • Get tested if
    • You think you were exposed. 
    • You are Black, Latinx, American Indian, Alaska Native, Hawaiian, or Other Pacific Islander.   
    • You are experiencing symptoms.
    • Participated in a large gathering—social, civic, political, business or recreational.

We’re learning more about COVID-19 and how it affects us all every day. As our knowledge of COVID-19 grows, we will continue to keep you up to date. Learn more about COVID-19 at