Risks of contracting COVID-19 and dying

As the death toll from coronavirus in America exceeds 100, medical experts say more will follow and things will get worse, much worse.
Healthcare workers transport a patient on a stretcher into an ambulance at Life Care Center of Kirkland on February 29, 2020. (David Ryder/Getty Images)

Many of us in this county, Virginia and around America, are over age 70, have some underlying ailments that bother us, and are what the medical communities call “high risks” for contracting and dying from the COVID-19 coronavirus that has now killed more than 100 in the United States and more than 8,000 around the world.

Of the first 100 fatalities — including two in Virginia — about 85 percent were over 60 years old.

They had underlying health conditions, some with diabetes, kidney problems, hypertension or pulmonary ailments.

Forty-five percent were older than 80. Many were poor, obese and lacked proper medical insurance.

“We have a lot of patients with diabetes and hypertension down here in Louisiana and those patients tend to do worse, infectious disease specialest John Dwyer told The Washington Post this week. “We also have a large amount of uninsured people who don’t always have access to care, and we have a lot of people who don’t have access to transportation.”

In China, where the disease began, more than 3,000 have died, and a study of those who did found the odds of death rose with age and underlying problems like lower levels of organ function. A peer review of that study found two-thirds of those who died had serious pre-existing health conditions with hypertension and diabetes leading the list.

The Kaiser Family Foundation says 105 million adults in the United States are over 60 and have serious underlying conditions that make them high risks for contracting and dying from the coronavirus.

” I see that as a ‘canary in the coal mine’ situations,” says Fred Buckner, an attending physician at the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle, where the first deaths in the United States came from those older Americans identified as high risk.  “I suspect it’s going to be taking off in other locations, just like it is in the Seattle area. There no reason not to think that. Obviously, it means more deaths.”

While no confirmed cases of the virus have been found yet in Southwest Virginia, nearby West Virginia became the last of the 50 states to have infections when one surfaced in the Eastern Panhandle.

As this is written, Virginia has 67 confirmed cases with two deaths. Infectees in Harrisonburg and Charlottesville are the closest known cases to our area. But orders by Gov. Ralph Northam to limit any gatherings to 10 or fewer people apply to Southwestern Virginia as they do to other areas of the Commonwealth. Schools remain closed. Restaurants are cutting back and limited their service to takeout if they stay open at all.

Carilion Clinic announced Tuesday that it is delaying “non-critical” surgeries and/or treatments because of the fear that a sudden escalation of coronavirus cases could overwhelm the hospitals.

The first death from the virus in the United States came on Feb. 16 and began to increase at the rate of about one a day, then two or three until Friday of last week when the death count rose by a half dozen and then by 24 on Monday.

Early deaths involved some who had been out of the country recently but, increasingly, the fatalities now come to those who have not traveled and stayed where they lived, many of them in nursing homes or assisated-living facilities.

The Washington Post interviewed Matthew Gness, whose father, John Gness, 76, died from COVID-19 in Florida on Saturday.

“You can’t really see your friends and family with all the social distancing and stuff,” Gness said. “They are limited everywhere…so it interferes wit even planning a funeral.”

 

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