You too may have an underlying condition

Gunce Arkan
4 min readJul 23, 2020


So wear a damn mask!

To date, the single biggest misconception we have about COVID-19 is that it somehow only seriously affects or kills only a select group of people. That you do not have to worry unless you are over 65 and/or have an “underlying health condition.” That the same wave that has now killed by the thousands, will gently lift and sway you since you are so young and healthy.

It’s not true. It was never true.

And it’s giving us — all of us — a false sense of security.

Here are the “underlying health conditions” as defined by the CDC that indicate that you can suffer severe illness if you catch COVID. The list is long — so hang tight. And keep in mind that the entire population of the United States is about 330 million. 46 million of these American are already at high risk just because they are over 65 years old. And then there are all the people with: (Btw, of course there is a overlap in these conditions. On the whole, older people are more likely to have cancer. Obese people are more likely to be diabetic and so on. But the overall numbers don’t change.)

  • Cancer. There are 1,806,590 people who are expected to be diagnosed with cancer in 2020 alone. There are an additional 17 million+ people already living with and fighting cancer all across the United States. Due to hospital avoidance, the American Cancer Association expects that we will have many more undiagnosed cancer cases this year.
  • Obesity. 39.8% of Americans over the age of 20 are obese, which means they have a BMI of over 30. So when you multiply it all out, approximately 98 million adults in this country are currently at risk for complications from COVID simply because of their weight.
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). There are two main forms of COPD, chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Smoking is the main cause of COPD. An estimated 34.2 million adults in the United States currently smoke cigarettes. Obviously, not all of them will get COPD. Nonetheless, approximately 16 million Americans are currently diagnosed with from COPD. Millions more are undiagnosed. In fact, the American Lung Association (ALA) thinks there may be as many as 24 million American adults living with COPD. That means 8 million undiagnosed cases.
  • Chronic kidney disease (CKD). Chronic kidney disease is when your kidneys are damaged and lose their ability to keep you healthy. In the early stages of the disease, most people do not have symptoms. An estimated 37 million American adults have CKD, but many don’t even know they have it. In fact, according to the CDC, about 1 in 2 people with very low kidney function (not on dialysis) don’t know they have CKD.
  • Sickle Cell Disease (SCD). SCD is a group of inherited red blood cell disorders. Healthy red blood cells are round, and they move through small blood vessels to carry oxygen to all parts of the body. In someone who has SCD, the red blood cells become hard and sticky and look like a C-shaped farm tool called a “sickle”. Thankfully SCD is rare and effects only about a 100,000 Americans. Unfortunately, it disproportionally effects minority Americans who may already be in danger for worse outcomes from COVID-19.
  • Type 2 Diabetes. Type 2 diabetes occurs when your body doesn’t use insulin properly. Approximately 34.2 million Americans are living with diabetes right now. (Nearly 1.6 million Americans have type 1 diabetes, including about 187,000 children and adolescents). Of the 34.2 million adults with diabetes, 26.8 million are diagnosed, and 7.3 million are undiagnosed. Additionally 88 million Americans age 18 and older had pre-diabetes. Pre-diabetes is when you have a higher than normal blood sugar level. It’s not high enough to be considered type 2 diabetes yet, but without significant lifestyle changes, adults with pre-diabetes are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes.
  • Heart disease. 121.5 million adults in the U.S. are estimated to have some form of cardiovascular disease. That’s right. Nearly half of all American adults. 48% to be exact. High blood pressure (which is the primary symptom) of heart disease is sometimes called the “silent killer” because you often have no idea that you have it.

According to the CDC, if you catch COVID-19 with any one of these underlying conditions you may be in deep trouble.

Did you notice something scary about the above?

I did.

The fact that millions upon millions of adults are currently living with one of these conditions…undiagnosed.

Because we don’t know what we don’t know. Because when was the last time you had a comprehensive cancer screening? Had your cholesterol checked? Your blood pleasure ? Your sugar levels? Your kidney function? So, are you sure that you do not currently have one or more of the above conditions? Because I sure as hell am not. And even as healthy as I feel, I am not willing to bet my life on not having an underlying condition.

(And I didn’t even touch on the dozen other conditions like asthma, dementia, liver disease and so on that CDC thinks may increase your chances of serious complications from COVID-19 but isn’t 100% sure yet.)

My point being: Don’t chance it. Please, wear a mask. Wash your hand. Isolate as much as possible. We don’t have a cure. We don’t have a vaccine and we sure as shit do not have the contagion under control.

Yes, you might be one of the lucky ones. But then again, what if you are not?

So please, please, please wear a mask.

My pretty sister demonstrating mask wearing. Do your part. Wear a mask.



Gunce Arkan

Unwilling infertility expert. Wife. Mother. Sister. Daughter.