The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has expanded its list of chronic conditions that put people at risk for severe COVID-19. In addition, the latest antibody testing evidence suggests that total U.S. cases are likely 10 times higher than the more than two million cases previously reported, the agency’s chief said in a Thursday call. 

While risk increases with age, people of any age are more likely to be hospitalized, admitted to an intensive care unit, or face health complications and death when they have the following conditions, the agency said:

  • Obesity with a body mass index of 30 or higher
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Serious heart conditions, such as heart failure and coronary artery disease
  • Sickle cell disease
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Immunocompromised state from solid organ transplant

Among conditions that aren’t directly linked but “might” contribute to adverse outcomes, dementia and hypertension play a part, the agency reported. In fact, the evidence now shows that hypertension by itself does not spike risk, but it is linked with conditions that do, experts on the call said.

Meanwhile, the results of increased antibody testing nationwide revealed high numbers of infections among younger adults, said CDC Director Robert Redfield, M.D. This is because testing in March, April, and May was done mainly in high-risk or symptomatic groups such as nursing home residents or hospitalized people, he said. 

“[O]ur best estimate right now is that for every case that was recorded, there actually are ten other infections. But in the past, we didn’t really aggressively pursue diagnostics in young, asymptomatic individuals,” Redfield said. An estimated 5% to 8% of the American public has probably been exposed to the virus, meaning that many more potentially remain susceptible, he added.

“I think it’s important to recognize, we’re not talking about a second wave right now.  We’re still in the first wave, and that first wave is taking different shapes,” he said.