April 8, 2020 / Anand Parekh, Contributor
Coronavirus Frontlines is a special series where we are sharing the perspective of experts at the forefront of combating the COVID-19 pandemic.
While the White House projects that 100,000 to 240,000 Americans may die from COVID-19, the true impact on mortality in the United States from the pandemic will likely be much higher. This is because the surge on our nation’s healthcare system will not only impact care for individuals with COVID-19 but also limit care for individuals suffering from chronic diseases.
Each year, nearly two million Americans die from the ten leading causes of death, most of which are chronic conditions such as heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory diseases, diabetes, dementia and kidney disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 6 in 10 adults have chronic conditions and 4 in 10 adults have multiple chronic conditions. In addition, approximately 34 million adults continue to smoke and 40% of adults are obese; these are risk factors that increase the burden of chronic conditions.
This population is suddenly under siege from a new threat. Preliminary data from the CDC estimates that Americans with underlying chronic conditions such as diabetes, chronic lung disease, and heart disease, are at higher risk for severe COVID-19-associated disease compared to the general population. It is thought that many of these conditions increase complications of COVID-19 by either impairing the immune system or increasing inflammation. Evidence also points to obesity and smoking status as being associated with poor health outcomes for people with COVID-19.