Everyone is at risk for contracting COVID-19 if exposed to the virus. However, some people are at higher risk than others and more likely to become severely ill. Those at higher risks may require hospitalization, intensive care, a ventilator, or the virus could kill them. Based on a detailed review of available evidence to date, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has updated and expanded the list of who is at an increased risk for becoming severely ill from COVID-19.
While older adults (ages 65+) and people with underlying medical conditions remain at an increased risk for severe illness, the CDC has now further defined age and condition related risks. The CDC has removed the specific age threshold from the older adult classification and now warns that among adults, risk increases steadily as you age, and it’s not just those over the age of 65 who are at increased risk for severe illness. The CDC also updated the list of underlying medical conditions that increase risk of severe illness after reviewing published reports, pre-print studies, and various other data sources.
People of any age with the following conditions are at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19:
- Chronic kidney disease
- COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
- Obesity (BMI of 30 or higher)
- Immunocompromised state from solid organ transplant
- Serious heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies
- Sickle cell disease
- Type 2 diabetes
The CDC also clarified the list of other conditions that might increase a person’s risk of severe illness:
- Asthma (moderate-to-severe)
- Cerebrovascular disease
- Cystic fibrosis
- Immunocompromised state from blood or bone marrow transplant, immune deficiencies, HIV, use of corticosteroids, or use of other immune weakening medicines
- Neurologic conditions, such as dementia
- Liver disease
- Pulmonary fibrosis
- Type 1 diabetes mellitus
These changes increase the number of people who fall into higher risk groups. An estimated 60 percent of American adults have at least one chronic medical condition. Obesity is one of the most common underlying conditions that increases one’s risk for severe illness, with about 40 percent of U.S. adults having obesity. The more underlying medical conditions people have, the higher their risk.
Protecting yourself, your family, and your community
Unfortunately, every activity that involves contact with others has some degree of risk. It is important to know if you are at an increased risk for severe illness and understand the risks associated with different activities. This information is especially critical as communities across the state continue to reopen.
As always, everyone should continue to do their part to implement prevention strategies, such as participating in activities where social distancing can be maintained, washing hands frequently, limiting contact with and disinfecting commonly touched surfaces or shared items and wearing a cloth face covering when around non-household members, especially when it is difficult to stay 6 feet apart or when indoors. By taking these steps, you can help protect yourself, your loved ones, and others around you, including those most vulnerable to severe illness.
After more than a year spent in pandemic lockdown, life seems to be getting back to a pre-COVID-19 activity level. However, the SARS-CoV-2 delta variant is causing growing concern about a resurgence of the virus.
First identified in India in December of 2020, the delta variant (also known as B. 1.617.2) swept rapidly through that country and Great Britain. In March of 2021, the first delta variant related case was reported in the United States. It is now present in all 50 states and considered the dominant strain across the country.
“The delta variant is attributed with increased transmissibility meaning it is more likely to spread from one susceptible person to another,” said Dr. Vandana Shrikanth, Infection Control Specialist at Legacy Community Health. “In an environment where no one is vaccinated or wearing masks the delta variant can spread quickly.”
The delta variant may cause more severe disease needing hospitalization. Unvaccinated people are most at risk for contracting the delta variant. That includes the elderly, those with underlying health conditions and children under the age of 12, who are not currently eligible for vaccination.
“The best protection against the delta variant is being fully vaccinated. Get your first dose now, if you are not already vaccinated. If you have received your first dose, you are strongly urged to get the second dose,” said Shrikanth.
Doctors across the US have reported that COVID-19 patients infected with the delta variant have been experiencing different symptoms than those found in earlier coronavirus patients. Instead of the symptoms of loss of taste and smell reported with the first COVID-19 symptoms, patients infected with the delta variant are more likely to experience nasal congestion, sore throat and headache during the initial stages of the virus.
“The current COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective in protecting against severe disease which in turn reduces the need for hospitalization,” said Shrinkanth. “If you think you may have been exposed to someone with SARS-CoV-2 delta variant and develop symptoms after being fully vaccinated, you should get tested and isolate until test results.”
Legacy provides COVID-19 vaccines at many of its clinic locations. To get a COVID-19 vaccine, you must be 12 or older. Walk-in vaccinations are available at some locations but you are encouraged to schedule an appointment. Visit our website or call 832-548-5000 for more information.
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So far, the Novel Coronavirus, which was first seen in Wuhan, China in December 2019, appears to be milder than SARS or MERS. MERS killed about a third (33%) of those infected, while SARS resulted in the deaths of about one-tenth (10%) of those infected. The mortality rate from the Novel Coronavirus is hanging steady at roughly 3% of those infected, however – patients who have died were over 60 years old, had other comorbidities, and weren’t admitted to a hospital until their illness was already at an advanced stage. For comparison, the CDC estimates that the current percentage of deaths attributed to pneumonia and influenza is 6.9%. The situation is not dire or cause for a panic. There is no vaccine for this new strain of virus, but the symptoms are not thought to be deadly if treated early.
The virus is thought to spread mainly between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet) through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It is believed people are most contagious when they are the sickest.
Some spread may be possible before people have symptoms and by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes, but these are not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.
Should I be worried about my family or me contracting COVID-19?
While the situation is evolving, if you are not in an area where the coronavirus is spreading, have not traveled to or from one of those areas or been on a cruise, or have not been in close contact with someone who has or may have the virus, you are currently at low risk for contracting the virus. Older people and people with severe underlying health conditions (e.g., heart disease, lung disease and diabetes), seem to be at higher risk of developing serious COVID-19 illness.
There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19. The best way to lower the chance of spreading and contracting the virus are:
- Wash your hands frequently with warm, soapy water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with 60%-95% alcohol.
- Cover your mouth with tissues when you cough and sneeze, then throw used tissues in the trash.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
- If possible, stay home when you are sick with respiratory disease symptoms (symptoms listed below).
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick, especially with respiratory disease symptoms.
- Avoid travel to areas of high risk. You can view the CDC’s latest advisory list map here.
If you have questions about coronavirus, visit the CDC’s Novel Coronavirus 2020 website or contact your health care provider. You may also visit Harris Health.
People who have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19—excluding people who have had COVID-19 within the past 3 months.
People who have tested positive for COVID-19 do not need to quarantine or get tested again for up to 3 months as long as they do not develop symptoms again. People who develop symptoms again within 3 months of their first bout of COVID-19 may need to be tested again if there is no other cause identified for their symptoms.
What counts as close contact?
- You were within 6 feet of someone who has COVID-19 for a total of 15 minutes or more
- You provided care at home to someone who is sick with COVID-19
- You had direct physical contact with the person (hugged or kissed them)
- You shared eating or drinking utensils
- They sneezed, coughed, or somehow got respiratory droplets on you
Steps to Take: Stay home and monitor your health
- Stay home for 14 days after your last contact with a person who has COVID-19
- Watch for fever (100.4°F), cough, shortness of breath, or other symptoms of COVID-19
- If possible, stay away from others, especially people who are at higher risk for getting very sick from COVID-19
The CDC recommends the following if you are sick with COVID-19 or suspect you are infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 to help prevent the disease from spreading to people in your home and community:
- Stay home: People who are mildly ill with COVID-19 should stay home, except for getting medical care.
- Avoid public areas.
- Avoid public transportation and ride sharing.
- Separate yourself from other people and animals in your home.
- Call ahead before visiting your doctor and tell them that you have or may have COVID-19. This will help them take steps to keep other people from getting infected or exposed.
- Follow the steps above (What can you do to lower the chances of getting COVID-19) to prevent the spread.
A test kit has been developed for COVID-19. Legacy Community Health is following public health guidelines include looking at a patient’s symptoms, travel history and potential exposure, to determine which patients should be tested.
Who should be tested for COVID-19?
Diagnostic testing is being provided to patients based on guidance provided by the CDC, which includes the evaluation of the presence of symptoms (fever, cough, shortness of breath), travel history, contact with a confirmed COVID-19 patient, local risk of the disease, and should rule out other potential causes of illness. Legacy is closely following guidance from the CDC and will update this criteria as needed. For details on the CDC’s testing criteria, click here.
Legacy accepts most HMOs/PPOs, Medicaid, CHIP and Medicare. The cash price of a COVID-19 diagnostic test is $80 for self-pay patients (without HMO/PPO, Medicare, Medicaid and/or CHIP coverage). Some patients may be eligible for a sliding scale fee that would reduce the $80 cash price.
If a patient is confirmed to have COVID-19, their symptoms and health are evaluated to determine if they should be hospitalized or self-quarantined at home.
As the Houston economy begins to reopen and more and more of our favorite businesses and public spaces welcome us back, there are ways that we can support them without putting ourselves or our friends and neighbors at risk.We understand that this time of social distancing, mask wearing, and abundant caution has many people stressed and anxious.
However, the world will not go back to normal without the cooperation of our communities to control the COVID-19 pandemic. The better we are all able to continue abiding by CDC guidelines, the quicker and more efficiently we can return to a safe way to go about our daily lives.
Masks and Facial Coverings: It is still suggested that you wear a mask and/or facial covering if you are in public, with certain exemptions (such as if you are exercising, eating or drinking, or if you are socially distanced from others while outdoors).
Masks remain important for public health because some people may be carrying the virus and not know it. This is called being asymptomatic. It means that you have the virus, but you do not have any symptoms. If you are asymptomatic, you are still contagious.
Masks are not necessarily meant to protect you from other people (unless you are wearing an N95 mask), but to protect other people from you. Again – you could be asymptomatic and not know it. The way that masks work is that they catch the tiny droplets that come from your nose and mouth while you breathe, talk, cough, and sneeze. Those droplets can carry the virus and spread it to others. If everyone wears a mask, the virus can remain contained.
With the economy reopening, there are ways to safely attend your appointments, run your errands, and even enjoy a night out while also maintaining social distance and awareness of your health. If you are planning to visit the doctor’s office, get a haircut, go grocery shopping, or any number of other public activities that we have all so sorely missed these last few months, please remember the following:
- Wear a mask or facial covering.
- Keep your distance from others, especially if you are indoors.
- If you are using communal equipment, like at the gym for example, sanitize your hands and the equipment before and after use.
- Always be sure to wash your produce before consumption.
- On a bus or metro train, use your elbow rather than your hand to grip the bar if you are standing.
Look for emergency warning signs* for COVID-19. If someone is showing any of these signs, seek emergency medical care immediately:
- Trouble breathing
- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
- New confusion
- Inability to wake or stay awake
- Bluish lips or face
*This list is not all possible symptoms. Please call your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning to you.
Call 911 or call ahead to your local emergency facility: Notify the operator that you are seeking care for someone who has or may have COVID-19.