Health experts warn that factors including President Donald Trump’s age and weight could put him at a higher risk of contracting serious complications of Covid-19, after he announced early Friday that he had contracted the virus.
Trump is 74 years old, and older adults over age 65 are considered to be at a significantly higher risk of Covid-19 complications, with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reporting that adults 65-74 have five times the risk of hospitalization as 18-29 year olds, at 361.5 hospitalizations per 100,000 cases (65-74) versus 78.5 per 100,000 (18-29) and eight out of 10 deaths have been in adults age 65 and older.
According to his reported weight at his last physical, which resulted in a body mass index of 30.5, Trump is clinically obese, which studies suggest is the biggest risk factor for Covid-19 hospitalization beyond old age.
Trump has not been forthcoming about his health throughout his presidency, but there are no indications that he has conditions like diabetes, cancer, or kidney disease that could exacerbate Covid-19—though his latest physical indicated slightly elevated blood pressure and a coronary calcium CT scan score showing “moderate heart disease,” CNN notes, which could have a potential impact on Covid-19 complications.
Multiple studies and data out of hard-hit areas have shown that men are at a higher risk than women of serious Covid-19 complications, with a Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention study finding a 2.8% death rate among men and a 1.7% rate among women.
“The president’s profile would classify him as vulnerable,” University of Southampton global health professor Michael Head told Reuters, while University of Otago global health professor Michael Baker, an advisor to the New Zealand government, told the New York Times that just knowing Trump is an overweight male over 70 years old means “right away, you can say he’s in the high-risk group.”
Trump benefits from access to quality health care, which could lower his risk of serious Covid-19 complications, and public health experts noted to the Times and BBC that while the president does have elevated risk factors, serious complications occur in only a minority of patients even if they are higher risk.
“The data is clear that both the president’s older age and heavier weight represent serious risk factors for COVID-19. The virus is still very new, and we are still understanding how it impacts individuals with various risk factors,” Dr. Howard K. Koh, who served as assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services under President Barack Obama, said in a statement to Forbes. Koh noted that studies have shown those who are obese are 113% more likely to be hospitalized.
The lack of transparency on Trump’s health has been a source of concern throughout his presidency, particularly in recent months as Trump’s unsteady walk down a ramp, struggle to drink a glass of water during a rally and unscheduled November 2019 visit to Walter Reed hospital have prompted public speculation about his health. A new paper in the Journal on Active Aging that came out before Trump’s Covid-19 diagnosis noted that based on the publicly available data about his health and family history, the president had a “higher than average probability” of surviving another presidential term as compared to other men his age, however—even despite his “obesity and sedentary lifestyle”—and estimated his lifespan at 88.6 years.
What To Watch For
White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said Friday that the president is currently experiencing only “mild symptoms” of Covid-19, and would not specify what treatments he’s receiving. Dr. Ashish Jha, Dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, noted on MSNBC on Friday that while the president’s case is currently mild, it’s too soon to determine whether Trump will develop serious complications, and it will be important to monitor Trump’s health over approximately the next 5-8 days to see if his symptoms worsen. “I think we all pray that he recovers quickly but worry that he may be at risk,” Jha said earlier Friday on Good Morning America.
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