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Who Is At High Risk for Coronavirus (COVID-19)?

Medically reviewed by Susan Kerrigan, MD and Marianne Madsen

You may be wondering how COVID-19 (the disease caused by the novel coronavirus) will affect you. Luckily, most people who are healthy with strong immune systems will be able to fight off COVID-19 without complications. In fact, according to the WHO, 80% of COVID-19 cases are mild or even asymptomatic. In 15% of cases, however, the symptoms are severe, and a further 5% are critical, requiring external ventilation to help those who are infected breathe. The total mortality rate of the virus is currently estimated to be 2 to 4 percent–a number which, thankfully, can be brought down with access to proper healthcare.

The good news for healthy people is that the majority of severe cases are in people who belong to a high-risk category. This includes:


  • Elderly people
  • Children (this is debated — the WHO says children are at higher risk, but the CDC claims “children do not appear to be at higher risk for COVID-19 than adults.” Most children who get COVID-19 seem to have mild symptoms.)
  • Pregnant women
  • Those with uncontrolled chronic medical conditions
  • Those who are immunosuppressed 

Other people who are at high risk of getting the virus include:


  • People who recently visited a high-risk country like mainland China, Iran, Italy, or Korea
  • People who have recently been in contact with someone who has COVID-19 
  • People in detention centers
  • People in group homes

Even if you fall into a high-risk category, there are preventive measures you can take to avoid getting infected with COVID-19. If you do get infected, access to proper medical care can get you back on your feet again in no time.


Steps to take to prevent getting COVID-19


  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, covering all surfaces of your hands (backs, too), for about 20 seconds. Use hand sanitizer if soap isn’t available.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Discard the tissue afterwards, and wash your hands.
  • Avoid touching your face with unwashed hands.
  • If you feel sick, even if you think it’s not COVID-19, stay at home.
  • Clean surfaces and objects that have been touched by other people.
  • Stay away from others. You don’t have to stay completely inside; you can sit outside or take a walk if the weather is nice. Just avoid other people or stay at least 6 feet away from them. 
  • Quarantine yourself. This is not necessary for the majority of people, but if you fall into an at-risk category, you may want to completely quarantine yourself.  
  • Avoid public transportation if possible. That includes taxis and ride-sharing services.
  • Avoid public settings or areas with a lot of people in general. If you do go out, stay at least 6 feet away from others. 

I’m at higher risk for COVID-19. What should I do?


Take the same steps listed above, with the addition of a few others:


  • Stock up on supplies.
  • Stay home as much as possible.
  • Ask your doctor about obtaining an extra supply of medications you might need, in case you need to stay at home for a long period of time.
  • Have a stock of over-the-counter medications and other medical supplies at home for treating fever and other symptoms should you get sick.
  • Have enough household items and groceries at home, in case you are unable to leave the house due to a quarantine.

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