WHO and CDC have defined very clear categories of people who are at risk based on their age, and pre-existing upper-respiratory health issues, chronic health issues. They’ve also specified those with immunocompromised systems to be more wary. Below is a discussion on each category and some forgotten populations/categories.
- Age and Gender
- People over the age of 30 to 69 comprise 78 % of the cases with COVID-19 (Per WHO cases in China). People over 55 are in the highest risk category for developing serious symptoms and mortality. Current death rate per WHO is 3.4 %. This means, 3.4 % of the people who are infected and develop the COVID-19 disease, die.
- There is also a slight bias towards men getting the disease more than women.
- Chronic Illnesses & People with compromised Immune systems
- The CDC and WHO has outlined people with certain chronic illnesses to be in the higher risk category. The chronic illnesses specified are upper-respiratory illnesses, heart disease, blood pressure, diabetes.
- What does ‘compromised immune system’ mean?
- If your body is fighting one disease, it has a slightly lowered ability to fight another at the same time.
- Cancer & other significant ‘assaults’ on the body: When undergoing chemotherapy while fighting cancer, the body is compromised and cannot adequately protect against a flu or anything that is seemingly benign. So instead of remaining a flu, it becomes more complicated and causes infections such as pneumonia.
- Post-surgery (for anything major or minor): Infections are common because the body’s immune system is compromised during the ‘recuperation’ period.
- Pregnancies: Pregnant people need to be cautious in not exposing themselves due to a particularly stressful time for their immune system.
- Various professionals that have a higher risk
- Healthcare workers: Doctors, nurses, and healthcare personnel must be provided all the necessary personal protection equipment (PPE). They are the life-line of the country and without them being sufficiently helped, they cannot help us and will spread the disease.
- Sanitation workers, housekeepers, janitorial and custodian services: Doctors and nurses might understand the complete risk and are possibly on the priority list for getting PPE. However, sanitation workers in public buildings and areas do not have the same priority. Workers have to work with dirty bathrooms, rooms, body fluids, and dirty laundry, are not necessarily given adequate information and protection. They are at risk. If you need information on laundry cleaning solutions that are needed to protect from coronavirus, please click here.
- Teachers: Though children are not at risk, they are carriers of many diseases and can carry the coronavirus. They are hotbeds for communal spread due to a lack of understanding of hygiene. This affects the teachers and school workers who cannot possibly be isolated from random children hugging and touching them.
- Travel personnel: Airport, cruise workers, and other security people are at a risk because of constantly being in close quarters with people.
People who will be affected indirectly, due to lack of information, testing, supplies, or circumstances.
- Disabilities and other chronic illnesses: This category of people and their risk has not been discussed as much.
- People with disabilities (sight, hearing, mental health issues) may not be getting the whole message due to decreased information access to them. Others who have to have significant reliance on surfaces to move their bodies (wheelchairs) etc. are in a very fragile state as one cannot constantly keep cleaning the streets. If inside places, many are forced to lean or prop themselves against railings, and other furniture as support. Many have to physically move themselves from their chairs to the toilet bowl by physically propping themselves on the public bathroom railings.
- Nursing homes and institutions: People with chronic illnesses either have an immune compromised system, or physical issue that forces them to have public support systems such as “Meals on Wheels” or “Store to Door” or are confined to nursing homes. They are at danger in not getting regular food, or groceries.
- Homeless populations: Due to limited or zero access to resources, the homeless population can be affected directly or indirectly. Lack of clean clothes, soap, water, sanitizers, will significantly affect communal spread.
- Army, Marines, Navy soldiers and officers: There is literally no information on what is happening with bases in other countries including the ones in countries worst hit.
- Prison populations: Newly jailed inmates and prisoners are not getting any testing completed. They live with other people in close quarters in unhygienic conditions, shared bathrooms, and rationed soap and water. This is a disaster waiting to happen. Recently, Iran released about 54,000 of its prisoners (who were jailed for small issues), back in the public, specifically due to an outbreak in their prisons.
Tackling a contagious disease outbreak isn’t as simple as ‘washing one’s hands’. Careful consideration must be given to who is at risk, and who can be impacted indirectly and thus contribute to communal spread.
UPDATES: March 9th 2020 9:40 AM PST
- Italian prisoners riot against coronavirus measures that don’t protect them.
- United States Prisons: Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that NYS (prisoners in NY) will be making 100,000 gallons of sanitizer. This will be used for public schools and prisons only.
- Children are getting affected in the United States. There were plenty of children affected in China, which is why they cancelled schools and implemented online training.
- Military Bases: Coronavirus affected cruise travelers are now being quarantined at military bases.
- Marine in Virginia tests positive