Nationwide, data repeatedly shows that most people who die from COVID-19 have contributory secondary causes of death. Here in Chicago, where Rising is headquartered, 94% of the city’s COVID-19 victims and 92% of all Cook County COVID-19 victims had preexisting medical conditions.
The Cook County Medical Examiner’s database shows COVID-19 as the primary cause of death for 2,303 people. Of those, more than 2,112 appear to have at least one underlying condition as a secondary cause of death. There were no secondary causes reported for 191 deaths.
Hypertension affected 1,070 victims or more than 46% of all deaths. Diabetes impacted 973 victims or 42% of the death total. Pulmonary disease was part of 397 deaths or 17%. And 215 of those deaths, about 9%, were accompanied by obesity or morbid obesity. Others had conditions including cancer, cardiovascular disease, or kidney disease. The numbers in the table above equal more than 100% because many victims had more than one preexisting condition.
The Cook County data aligns with City of Chicago data on comorbidity volume. Though the City’s data does not provide the same level of comorbidity detail, it does report that 1,090 of Chicago’s 1,160 COVID-19 victims had underlying conditions. That’s 94%.
As of May 8, the average age of all COVID-19 deaths in Illinois was 74, while the median age of the state’s population is 38-years old. Almost 50% of all Illinois deaths have been tied to long-term care facilities (less than 1% of population).
What’s remarkable about the Cook County comorbidity data is just how few young adults have died from COVID-19 in the absence of a preexisting condition. Nobody under 20 has died without one. Only three deaths in the 20-29 age bracket were without a documented comorbidity. And in the 30-39 and 40-49 age brackets, just 26 deaths had no defined underlying causes. Such statistics suggest the odds are slight of anyone young and healthy dying from this disease.
When those numbers are compared against each age bracket’s population percentage, those at risk (and who have very low risk) become more even more clearly defined.
Illinois residents over the age of 70 account for 8.5% of the state’s population and 63.8% of the deaths. Those under 40-years old account for 54.5% of the population and just 2.2% of the deaths. Put another way, a person over 80 is 706,740% more at risk of dying from COVID-19 than a person under 20.
Understanding who is most at risk (and who is not) is paramount to combating the virus. What Cook County and other comorbidity data across the country indicates is that the risk of death for young and healthy people is considerably lower than people may have originally thought or continue to believe. There are pockets of people (elderly, those with high risk comorbidities) and specific environments (nursing homes, hospitals, jails, congested workplaces like meat processing plants, etc.) warranting stringent infectious disease precautions and concentrated efforts to control the virus’s damage. The young and healthy should take precautions too (proper hand hygiene, immunity-boosting supplements), but there is lower risk to them going about their normal lives.
Stay safe, stay strong!