President Donald Trump has three risk factors that make him more likely to have a severe case of COVID-19, according to studies and government guidelines.
The biggest issue is his age. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that “people in their sixties or seventies are, in general, at higher risk for severe illness than people in their fifties,” although people over 85 have double the risk of someone Trump’s age.
Dr. Adrian Hyzler, the chief medical officer for Healix International, said that for a 74-year old with a confirmed case of COVID-19, the risk of being hospitalized is about five times higher than someone in their 20s, while the risk of dying from COVID-19 is at least 90 times higher.
A second factor is gender. Some studies have found that men are twice as likely as women to die from COVID-19, although scientists have not yet determined why that might be.
Another issue that puts Trump at greater risk is his weight. The White House physician said last summer that the president weighed 244 pounds at 6-foot-3, which—if accurate—would put his body-mass index over the threshold for clinical obesity.
The CDC lists obesity as one of the risk factors for severe illness and can triple the risk of being hospitalized for the virus.
“Obesity is certainly a risk factor for severe disease and for increased mortality due to a number of factors including impaired immunity, chronic inflammation, and blood that is more prone to clot—but also because obesity increases the likelihood of other health conditions such as heart disease, lung disease, and diabetes,” Hyzler said.
At the same time, only a fraction of people who contract the coronavirus, even in Trump’s age cohort, don’t recover—and death rates for all ages have been declining.
“There are plenty of people with such pre-existing conditions that don’t really get sick,” said Dr. Irwin Redlener, founding director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness and a senior research scholar at Columbia University’s Earth Institute.
“It’s not a definitive relationship between having the combination of obesity and older age and serious COVID infection,” he added. “We don't necessarily go from there to making a definitive prediction. It’s just a higher level of risk to pay attention to.”
Serious heart disease also raises risk in COVID-19 patients. Trump’s doctors have said his heart is healthy, but he also takes two medications that suggest there could be cardiac issues: Crestor for lowering cholesterol, and an aspirin to prevent heart attacks.
Trump’s medicine cabinet also includes Propecia, which is taken to ward off hair loss. Some researchers have suggested that anti-androgens like Propecia could be helpful in treating coronavirus.
This summer, Trump said he took the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine and zinc as a prophylactic against the coronavirus. Although the treatment was heavily flogged by the president as a miracle cure for COVID-19, studies have since found it is not effective.
Dr. Frederick Southwick, a University of Florida professor of medicine and infectious disease specialist, also noted that “the severity of illness will in part depend on the amount of virus he inhaled.”
So far, Trump is said to have mild symptoms of COVID-19. Redlener noted that there is “no medication, no treatment, or steps to take that would prevent the progression from infection to serious illness.”
“In contrast with the regular seasonal flu, there is no equivalent of Tamiflu when it comes to early treatment of COVID-19,” he explained. “We’re really stuck with close monitoring and early treatment if things do take a turn for the worse. That would mean hospitalization, monitoring, and if the person gets very sick there’s dexamethasone and Remdesivir, both of which can shorten the course and reduce fatality rates.”
As a slender, 50-year-old woman, first lady Melania Trump is not in the same at-risk categories as her husband. Two years ago, she did undergo a procedure for what was described as a benign kidney condition, though specific details about what was wrong weren’t released. However, chronic kidney disease is one of the underlying health conditions that can contribute to a poor outcome for COVID-19 patients.