Health officials are asking Americans to socially distance this Independence Day, saying that they are "concerned" about the surge in coronavirus cases after the U.S. on Wednesday saw its highest daily number of new cases in months.
Those numbers only represent about 1 in every 10 cases, said Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in a press conference Thursday.
"We have a significant increase in cases. We need to understand that. We need to interrupt that," Redfield said. "We obviously are concerned."
While "we’re still in the first wave," Redfield said the pandemic today looks markedly different from the outbreak two or three months ago, when many deaths were among older people and those with underlying medical conditions.
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As COVID-19 has spread, the CDC is seeing a greater proportion of cases diagnosed in younger people, said Dr. Jay Butler, CDC's deputy director of infectious diseases and COVID-19 response incident manager.
"Today, we’re seeing more virus. It’s in younger individuals. Fewer of those individuals are requiring hospitalization ... but that is not to minimize it," Redfield said.
That shift could be due to older people being more cautious and following mitigation guidelines such as wearing masks, socially distancing and frequently washing hands.
"People understand the message that people who are at higher risk need to take more precautions," Butler said.
Meanwhile, some young people are seeing lingering effects of the disease, including persistent fatigue and shortness of breath, Butler said.
"How long that will last is hard to say," Butler said.
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Redfield said he was heartened by how Americans stepped up and followed guidelines to slow the spread of the virus in the spring. "I think it was remarkable that the American people really did embrace the mitigation strategies when the consequences were to protect the health of somebody else," Redfield said.
But as case numbers have begun to increase, "we’re asking that again," he said.
"For the Fourth of July, which is a family event, we want to emphasize that it’s really important that we get back to being vigilant as our collective commitment ... to protect vulnerable friends, family community."
Underlying medical conditions that increase risk of severe coronavirus
The CDC on Thursday also updated and expanded the list of who is at increased risk for getting severely ill from COVID-19. Among adults, risk increases steadily as you age, and it’s not just those over the age of 65 who are at increased risk for severe illness, the CDC said.
The agency updated the list of underlying medical conditions that increase risk of severe illness, increasing the number of people who fall into higher risk groups. The more underlying medical conditions people have, the higher their risk, CDC said. The conditions include:Chronic kidney diseaseChronic obstructive pulmonary diseaseObesityWeakened immune system from solid organ transplantSerious heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathiesSickle cell diseaseType 2 diabetes
Breaking from earlier guidance, the CDC also said pregnant women may be at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 compared with non-pregnant women. The good news is that pregnant women who are infected with COVID-19 aren't at any greater risk of death than women who aren't pregnant, according to the CDC.
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