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HHS's Azar: 'Unhealthy Comorbidities' Makes US More Vulnerable to COVID-19

HHS's Azar: 'Unhealthy Comorbidities' Makes US More Vulnerable to COVID-19
White House Coronavirus Task Force Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx (L) and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar attend a proclamation signing for National Nurses Day in the Oval Office at the White House May 06, 2020 in Washington, DC.  . (Photo by Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images)

By    |   Sunday, 17 May 2020 10:24 AM EDT

Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar on Sunday said America’s diversity and its “significant unhealthy comorbidities” like diabetes and hypertension — particularly in communities of color — make the United States at particular risk for COVID-19.

In an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Azar said, however, the 90,000 deaths so far  “could have been vastly, vastly worse.”

“Unfortunately the American population is a very diverse,” he said. “It is a population with significant unhealthy comorbidities that do make many individuals in our communities, in particular African-American, minority communities, particularly at risk here because of significant underlying disease health disparities and disease comorbidities and that is an unfortunate legacy in our health care system that we need to address.”

But he pushed back when pressed on his analysis pointing to the staggering deaths as the result of unhealthier Americans than populations around the rest of the globe.

“Please don't distort — this is about simple epidemiology and stating that if we have hypertension, if we have diabetes, we present with greater risk of severe complications from this coronavirus,” he said.

“One doesn't blame an individual for their health conditions. That would be absurd. It's simply a statement that we do have greater risk profiles here in the United States,” he said.

Azar said he was heartened by states like Georgia and Colorado that have reopened after lockdowns and have not had spikes in infection.

“We are seeing that in areas that are opening, we're not seeing the spike in cases,” he said. “We still see spikes in some areas that are in fact closed, very localized situations… We have a great surveillance system for that. We look for spikes and early indicators. We have adequate testing capacity. 

“We need to make sure anybody who is symptomatic is tested and that we have adequate asymptomatic surveillance in areas of greatest burden — senior living, congregate living situations like prisons or meat packing facilities where people are close together,” he continued. “So we look for early indicators. Then we use the traditional public health tools to surge in there. We would test everybody there. We would do contact tracing and isolation.”

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Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services Alex Azar on Sunday said America's diversity and its "significant unhealthy comorbidities" like diabetes and hypertension - particularly in communities of color...
azar, HHS, coronavirus, comorbity
376
2020-24-17
Sunday, 17 May 2020 10:24 AM
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