Story at a glance

  • Across multiple age brackets, a total of 11 million Americans are at risk for a “severe illness” if infected with COVID-19.
  • Elderly individuals remain the highest-risk age group.
  • Different states have different risk levels, with West Virginia leading the way.

Up to 11 million Americans are at “serious risk” if infected with COVID-19, according to a new Gallup data report

This staggering figure is largely due to the high amount of preexisting and chronic conditions many American suffer from, which are considered key risk factors amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

The report also identifies key states that have an especially vulnerable population as well. 

Data collected and analyzed by the Gallup National Health and Well-Being Index looks at rates of chronic conditions among the U.S. population. It finds that there is a positive correlation between Americans in higher age groups and Americans with at least one preexisting health condition and having a “severe risk” of coronavirus infection.


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In concordance with other data, it shows that older and elderly Americans are the highest-risk age group, with the report noting that a greater percentage of older populations is classified as being high-risk for a severe COVID-19 infection.

The approximate sum of all U.S. citizens who pose a severe risk based on having a preexisting condition amounts to 11.1 million people. 

The report notes that this analysis doesn’t represent the number of Americans at risk for infections, but the number of Americans who have a high chance of becoming critically ill “if 100 percent of the U.S. population were to become infected with COVID-19.”

When analyzing individual states for a high-risk population, researchers found that West Virginia contains the population with the highest risk for a severe infection.

Although West Virginia has a relatively low case number, 48 percent of its adult residents have at least one chronic condition described as a COVID-19 risk factor, and also has the third-highest percentage of residents in the U.S who are 55 or older, two vulnerable populations that make the overall state a high-risk region.

Other states with similar demographics include Arkansas, Kentucky, Florida, Alabama, South Carolina, Tennessee, Mississippi, Vermont and Maine. All are classified as high-risk states. 

Conversely, Utah, Alaska, Colorado, California and North Dakota are among the states with populations at a low risk for severe coronavirus cases. 

The report notes that even in these states with low-risk populations, hospitalizations and mortality rates will rise with increased spread of the virus. 

Major implications of this analysis suggest that increased age alone is a major risk factor for a severe COVID-19 infection. 

The data for the Gallup National Health and Well-Being Index was conducted with a random sample of 125,574 U.S. adults across all 50 states, with a sampling error for chronic conditions +/-0.3 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level. 

Expected mortality rates across age groups were calculated using data from other highly affected countries, specifically China and Italy. 


Published on Mar 30, 2020