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July 24, 2020

Underlying medical conditions put half of U.S. adults at risk of severe COVID-19

CDC report examines prevalence of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and others at county level

Adult Health COVID-19
adults covid 19 risk.jpg Richard B. Levine/Sipa USA

About half of U.S. adults are at risk of getting severe COVID-19 due to the prevalence of five underlying medical conditions. Above, people line up outside a Zara store in New York City on June 28, 2020.

Nearly half of American adults are at risk of developing severe complications from the coronavirus due to underlying medical conditions.

About 47% of U.S. adults have at least one of five conditions that put them at higher risk of severe COVID-19, according to a study published Friday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Those underlying conditions are obesity, diabetes, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and chronic kidney disease

Researchers used U.S. Census population data and self-reported health information from 437,500 people in 3,142 counties to determine the counties where people have the highest risk of developing severe COVID-19. 

This information could help local decision-makers better allocate resources and implement mitigation strategies, they said. 

"These data can provide important local-level information about the estimated number and proportion of persons with certain underlying medical conditions to help guide decisions regarding additional resource investment, and mitigation and prevention measures to slow the spread of COVID-19," the researchers wrote.

Among the five underlying conditions, obesity is the most common, with a weighted prevalence rate of 30.9%. Diabetes is next, at 11.4%. COPD and heart disease have prevalence rates of 6.9% and 6.8%, respectively. Chronic kidney disease, at 3.1%, is the least common. 

Though urban areas have more people with underlying conditions, the prevalence rate of underlying conditions is higher in rural areas, researchers found. The median prevalence rate in metropolitan counties is 39.4%. In rural counties, it spikes to 48.8%. 

Adults in the Southeast and Appalachian regions are most likely to have one of the underlying conditions. 

The counties with the highest prevalence rates are mostly found in Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and West Virginia. Certain counties in Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas and northern Michigan also have higher prevalence rates. 


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