COVID-19 Roundup: Hospitalizations Linked to Being Obese or Overweight; Results of Mask Mandates; and CDC Guidance for the Fully Vaccinated

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March 12, 2021


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CDC: Vast Majority of People Hospitalized for COVID-19 Were Obese or Overweight

A significant majority of people who have been hospitalized, required a ventilator or have died from COVID-19 have been overweight or obese, according to a new study published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Among 148,494 adults across 238 hospitals who were diagnosed with COVID-19 from March to December, 50 percent were obese and 28 percent were overweight, the CDC found.

The risk for hospitalizations, ICU admissions and deaths were lowest among individuals with BMIs under 25, the CDC said. Overweight is defined as having a body mass index, or BMI, of 25 or more, while obesity is defined as having a BMI of 30 or higher. About 42 percent of the U.S. population was considered obese in 2018, according to the CDC’s most recent data.

 The risk of severe illness from COVID-19 “increased sharply with higher BMIs, particularly among people 65 and older, the agency said.

“The findings in this report highlight a dose-response relationship between higher BMI and severe COVID-19–associated illness and underscore the need for progressively intensive illness management as obesity severity increases,” the CDC concluded.

More strategies are needed “to ensure community access to nutrition and physical activity opportunities that promote and support a healthy BMI,” the agency added.


Counties with Mask Mandates, Restaurant Restrictions Saw Fewer COVID-19 Cases, Deaths

A new study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that looked at counties where states require masks found that COVID-19 cases and deaths decreased. The study also found that counties where states allowed on-site restaurant dining experienced increases in illness and death rates.

Before this latest study, U.S public health officials have reiterated that mandating masks and avoiding “nonessential indoor spaces” are key to slowing the spread of COVID-19. But this study is the first to take a deep look at changes in the growth rates of COVID-19 cases and deaths in counties before and after state-issued mask mandates were established — and restaurant dining was allowed — from March through December of last year.

Mask mandates were associated with “statistically significant” decreases in county-level daily COVID-19 case and death growth rates within 20 days of implementation, the CDC said.

Allowing on-premises restaurant dining was linked to 0.9, 1.2 and 1.1 percentage point increases in COVID-19 diagnoses up to 60, 80 and 100 days, respectively, after restrictions were lifted, the study found. Allowing on-premises dining was associated with 2.2 and 3 percentage point increases in the coronavirus death growth rate 61 to 80 and 81 to 100 days, respectively, after restrictions were lifted.

“Mask mandates and restricting any on-premises dining at restaurants can help limit community transmission of COVID-19 and reduce case and death growth rates,” states the CDC as part of its study. “These findings can inform public policies to reduce community spread of COVID-19.”

The CDC said its study is at least three limitations. The CDC: “Although models controlled for mask mandates, restaurant and bar closures, stay-at-home orders, and gathering bans, the models did not control for other policies that might affect case and death rates, including other types of business closures, physical distancing recommendations, policies issued by localities.” Moreover, compliance with and enforcement of policies were not measured, the agency said.


CDC Issues Public Health Recommendations for Fully Vaccinated People

In new guidance, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says people who are fully vaccinated can visit indoors with other fully vaccinated people without wearing masks or social distancing.

The CDC says people are considered “fully vaccinated” two weeks after they have received the second shot of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines — or two weeks after receiving the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. They can also visit with unvaccinated people indoors from a single household who are at low risk for severe COVID-19 disease indoors without wearing masks or physical distancing.

However, fully vaccinated people should continue to take precautions in public such as wearing a well-fitted mask and physical distancing. They should also adhere to mask wearing, social distancing and other preventive measures when visiting with unvaccinated people who are at increased risk for severe COVID-19 disease, or who have an unvaccinated household member who is at increased risk for severe COVID-19 disease.

The CDC adds: “This guidance will be updated and expanded based on the level of community spread of COVID-19, the proportion of the population that is fully vaccinated, and the rapidly evolving science on COVID-19 vaccines.”

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