With U.S. coronavirus cases reaching record daily highs, the three states with the largest populations of retirement-age Americans are among those hardest hit by the surge.
California, Florida and Texas — collectively home to more than 13.6 million people age 65 and up, about a quarter of the country's senior population — have seen case numbers spike in recent days and are reinstituting some restrictions on public gatherings and business operations.
So has Arizona, which ranks 13th nationwide in total number of 65-plus residents and has a rapidly growing older population. Those four states accounted for almost half of the then-record 39,972 U.S. COVID-19 cases reported on June 25, according to Johns Hopkins University's Coronavirus Resource Center.
Georgia, which also ranks among the top 10 states for retirement-age residents, also saw coronavirus cases jump to record levels over the weekend, but several Northeastern and Midwestern states with large 65-plus populations that were hot spots in the early weeks of the pandemic — including New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois and Michigan — have seen their numbers drop sharply since peaking in April.
Patients skewing younger
Much of the surge involves rising case numbers among younger adults, and last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) dropped 65 as an age-specific threshold for higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus. But the agency continues to classify older adults generally as a vulnerable group, with the risk of hospitalization and death increasing with age.
Several health conditions, some more common among older people, are also listed as risk factors by the CDC, including chronic kidney disease; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD); weakened immune systems due to organ transplants; obesity (body mass index of 30 or higher); sickle cell disease; type 2 diabetes; and serious heart conditions such as heart failure, coronary artery disease or cardiomyopathies.
People in these at-risk groups should be especially vigilant about following CDC guidelines to help prevent contracting or spreading the coronavirus:
- Wash your hands frequently, for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are unavailable, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol content.
- Avoid touching your mouth, nose and eyes with unwashed hands.
- Wear a cloth face covering and keep at least 6 feet away from others while outside the home.
- Avoid crowds, especially in confined indoor spaces.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick, even at home.
Cases spike across Sun Belt
Here's how case counts have surged and health guidelines changed in five states in the South and West with high 65-and-up populations. Population figures are 2018 estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau; coronavirus case data is from Johns Hopkins; information on state social-distancing and public-health guidelines is from AARP, the Kaiser Family Foundation and media reports.
65+ population: 1.3 million (13th in U.S., 17.5 percent of state population)