Stethoscope on desk with notepad.

On June 25, 2020, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) expanded its list of risk factors of individuals more likely to develop severe illness or die from COVID-19. Previously, the CDC had identified those 65 years of age and older as high risk. Now, the CDC notes that the chance of severe illness from COVID-19 increases with age and recognizes that the risk does not suddenly increase at age 65. Rather, “people in their 50s are at higher risk for severe illness than people in their 40s. Similarly, people in their 60s or 70s are, in general, at higher risk for severe illness than people in their 50s. The greatest risk for severe illness from COVID-19 is among those aged 85 or older.”

The CDC also expanded its lists of underlying health conditions that place individuals (of any age) at an increased “risk of severe COVID-19 illness:”

  • “Chronic kidney disease.” The CDC no longer limits this category to those undergoing dialysis.
  • “[C]hronic obstructive pulmonary disease.” The CDC now distinguishes moderate from severe asthma.
  • “Obesity (BMI of 30 or higher).”
  • “Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from solid organ transplant,” which is now distinguished from other reasons a person might be immunocompromised.
  • “Serious heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies.”
  • “Sick cell disease,” which is new to the list.
  • “Type 2 diabetes,” which the CDC now distinguishes from Type 1 diabetes.
  • Neurologic, genetic, metabolic conditions or congenital heart disease in children (in addition to children with medical complexities). This is a new addition to the CDC’s list.

The CDC also identifies certain conditions as potentially increasing a person’s risk for a severe illness form COVID-19:

  • “Asthma (moderate-to-severe),” which was previously identified as high risk.
  • “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).” This was previously identified as high risk.
  • “Neurologic conditions, such as dementia.”
  • “Liver disease,” which was previously identified as high risk.
  • “Pregnancy.”
  • “Pulmonary fibrosis (having damaged or scarred lung tissues)”
  • “Smoking.”
  • “Thalassemia (a type of blood disorder).”
  • “Type 1 diabetes mellitus,” which was previously identified as high risk.

Cerebrovascular disease, cystic fibrosis, hypertension, pregnancy, pulmonary fibrosis, smoking, and Thalassemia are all new to the list.

Ogletree Deakins will continue to monitor and report on developments with respect to COVID-19 pandemic and will post updates in the firm’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) Resource Center as additional information becomes available. Important information for employers is also available via the firm’s webinar programs.


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