COVID-19 is now in every state in America, but citizens in Florida, Louisiana and Alabama are more likely - on average - to be considered at-risk of severe illness from the virus than those in California, Colorado and South Dakota. That’s according to maps created to illustrate the National Health Index, devised by Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) healthcare.
The National Health Index charts the average health of every state and county of America, in comparison to the national average, and takes into account data from more than 41 million BCBS commercially insured members.
While younger people with no pre-existing health conditions have been hospitalized due to COVID-19 – and some have died from the virus – it is understood that those most at risk are people aged 65 and over, and people of any age who have serious underlying medical conditions (see list below).
States with a higher population density have also seen a higher number of cases. At present, New York has experienced the brunt of COVID-19 deaths and the highest number of confirmed cases. At the time of writing, New York State has a total of 75,795 confirmed cases, with 40% of the total known cases across America. The actual, untested number of cases is likely to be far higher.
The overall findings of the National Health Index from BCBS, rated as one of the best health insurance companies in America, take into account various physical and mental health conditions, but not all of the conditions covered in the Index would make someone more at-risk of severe illness if they were to catch COVID-19. According to the CDC, the serious underlying medical conditions which would class a person as high-risk include:
- People aged 65 years and older
- People who live in a nursing home or long-term care facility
- People with diabetes
- People with chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma
- People who have serious heart conditions
- People with liver disease
- People who are immunocompromised
- People with chronic kidney disease undergoing dialysis
- People with severe obesity (BMI of 40 or higher)
The states with the highest concentration of at-risk people
Kentucky, Louisiana and Hawaii (not pictured) have significantly higher rates of diabetes Type II than the national average. According to diabetes experts, 'the risk of infection from coronavirus among those with diabetes is two-to-threefold, independent of other medical problems.' As with other chronic illnesses, diabetes exposes weakness in the body's ability to fight off illness, meaning that those with diabetes Type I and II are more at risk of COVID-19.
The American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists said in a statement that 'of those hospitalized for severe disease, 22.2% to 26.9% reported living with diabetes. Diabetes and high glucose levels are associated with increased complications, respiratory failure, and mortality in hospitalized patients with COVID-19.'
Diabetics should continue to take medication and use a glucose meter to stay on top of their illness, and speak to a health care professional immediately if they develop symptoms. If you need help choosing a glucometer, you can find in-depth guidance in our guide to the best glucose meters.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a type of lung disease, including emphysema and chronic bronchitis. According to the Respiratory Health Association, people with COPD, as well as asthma, are more likely to experience serious complications if they become infected with COVID-19. Mississippi has a 62.5% higher rate of COPD than the national average. Kentucky, Michigan and West Virginia also have significantly higher rates.
Coronary artery disease, which is a common type of heart disease, disproportionately affects Hawaii, New Mexico, Arizona and Florida. According to the American Heart Association, 'it appears elderly people with coronary heart disease or hypertension are more likely to be infected and to develop more severe symptoms. Stroke survivors may also face increased risk for complications if they get COVID-19.'
People aged 65 years and older
According to the 2017 US Census, Florida, West Virginia, Vermont and Maine have the highest median age of all the US states, meaning they may have on average more over-65s per head of population. According to the CDC, 17% of the U.S. population is 65 or older, but 31% of coronavirus cases have been in that age group. They also account for 45% of hospitalizations.
What to do if you're considered an at-risk person
Everyone, regardless of age or level of health, is at risk from COVID-19, but for those who are immunocompromised or part of high-risk groups, authorities have issued advice to keep on top of medication and take stock of food, beverage and hygiene supplies to avoid leaving home.
Even going to the grocery store can increase your risk of coming into contact with the virus substantially. Consider the best emergency food storage companies if you want long-term food supplies delivered to your door.
According to the AHA, you should also 'gather contact information for your health care providers and store in an easy-to-locate place. Get office phone numbers, emergency numbers and email addresses. And check to see whether electronic consulting or instant messaging options are available.'
The CDC's 'how to protect yourself' guidance is similar for all people, regardless of whether they are high-risk, and emphasizes that 'the best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus.' Here are some key take-aways on how to protect yourself from COVID-19, and what to do if you are sick:
- Stay home
- Wash your hands often
- Avoid close contact (6 feet, which is about two arm lengths)
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched services
- Avoid all cruise travel and non-essential air travel
- Call your healthcare professional if you have concerns about COVID-19 and your underlying medical condition, or if you are sick
The CDC also recommends taking extra care to disinfect your home. We've produced a guide to deep-cleaning your home if you'd like some further guidance and tips on how to clean affectively.