Coronavirus Roundup: New CDC Data on Underlying Health Issues; Social Distancing Slowing Spread in West Coast; and Travel Advisory for Northeast

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April 17, 2020


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New CDC Study: 71% of COVID-19 Patients Hospitalized had Underlying Health Issues

Preliminary findings from a study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirms reports from Italy and China that persons with underlying health conditions, particularly chronic lung disease, heart disease and diabetes, are at a higher risk for “severe COVID-19–associated disease than persons without these conditions.”

In its first report focusing on underlying health conditions in the coronavirus pandemic, the CDC analyzed data from 7,162 confirmed cases in all 50 states and four U.S. territories, between Feb. 12 and March 28. Confirmed cases did not include people repatriated to the United States from Wuhan, China, where the virus emerged, and the Diamond Princess cruise ship.

The most commonly reported underlying conditions were diabetes, chronic lung disease and cardiovascular disease.

The CDC found that of the 7,162 patients that were hospitalized, 71 percent had at least one underlying health condition. About 78 percent of patients admitted into ICU (intensive care units) were also patients with at least one pre-existing health issue. In sharp contrast, 27 percent of the patients who were not hospitalized had at least one underlying health condition, the CDC said.

“Persons in the United States with underlying health conditions appear to be at higher risk for more severe COVID-19, consistent with findings from other countries,” states the CDC in its study. “Persons with underlying health conditions who have symptoms of COVID-19, including fever, cough, or shortness of breath, should immediately contact their health care provider.”

The pre-existing conditions cited in the CDC study group of 7,162 patients also included chronic renal disease, chronic liver disease, immunocompromised conditions, neurological disorders, neurodevelopmental or intellectual disability, pregnancy, current or former smoker status, and “other chronic disease.”

“Maintaining at least a 30-day supply of medication, a two-week supply of food and other necessities, and knowledge of COVID-19 symptoms are recommended for those with underlying health conditions,” the CDC says.

Early, Aggressive ‘Shelter-in-Place’ Orders Have Helped Slow COVID-19, Experts Say

Infectious disease experts are looking to Northern California and Washington state and concluding — for now — that social distancing is helping to slow the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) in those states.

The coronavirus continues to spread in both states but at a rate considerably slower than in the country’s other hard-hit areas, such as New York, New Jersey, Michigan and Louisiana. The nation’s social distancing experiment launched March 16 in the San Francisco Bay Area — and much of Silicon Valley — where health officials imposed the first shelter-in-place orders covering more than one county in an attempt to slow the spread of coronavirus.

The results have been encouraging, and a potential model for the rest of the nation, experts say. The shelter-in-place orders in the Bay Area “happened closer to the introduction of the virus, so you haven’t had as many generations of transmission. So there are fewer cases per capita in the population,” George Rutherford, M.D., an epidemiologist and infectious disease expert at the University of California at San Francisco, told the Los Angeles Times.

“You don’t want to get overconfident, you just want to keep pushing in what you’re doing (social distancing and shelter-in-place orders),” Anthony Fauci, M.D., director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN. “You’re starting to see that the daily increases are not in that steep incline, they’re starting to be able to possibly flatten out.”

California’s early, state-wide stay-at-home orders is a primary factor behind a projection published by the University of Washington’s Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation. The Institute’s model indicates that New York state will see its worst day of the COVID-19 pandemic in early April, and that it will be significantly worse than California’s worst day.

CDC Urges People in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut Not to Travel for 14 Days

People in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut should “refrain from non-essential domestic travel” for at least 14 days, according to guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on March 28. The tri-state area in the Northeast represents about half of all COVID-19 cases in the U.S.

The CDC travel advisory was issued after the federal government decided against calling for a quarantine in the tri-state area. “Due to extensive community transmission of COVID -19 in the area, CDC urges residents of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut to refrain from non-essential domestic travel …” the CDC states.

The Domestic Travel Advisory does not apply to employees of “critical infrastructure industries, including but not limited to trucking, public health professionals, financial services, and food supply,” the agency added.

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