COVID-19 and people with underlying medical conditions

Certain people are at higher risk of getting very sick from COVID-19, particularly if they have not been vaccinated, including people who have underlying medical conditions like heart, lung, or kidney disease, cancer, Down syndrome, obesity, sickle cell disease, or diabetes. (CDC: People who are at higher risk for severe illness.) 

We have collected information from various research studies and the CDC, but it should not serve as a substitute for having a conversation with your medical provider.


Protecting yourself and your loved ones from COVID-19

The COVID-19 vaccine is the most effective way to protect yourself against COVID-19.

If you are not vaccinated, or if you have a condition or are taking medications that weaken your immune system, be sure to take extra precautions. Wear a mask in public, especially indoors, wash your hands, and keep six feet of distance from people who don’t live with you. 

Continue to manage your condition at home and in partnership with your health care providers. Taking care of your health is critical to reducing your need for in-person health care and possible exposure to COVID-19 in a health care setting and to addressing your disease. It’s never a bad time to take steps to improve your health. Eat well. Get plenty of rest and exercise. And follow your doctor’s instructions. 


How can I take care of myself and those I care about?

    By following public health guidelines, we help reduce everyone’s risks. But it is not easy for anyone, particularly for those who have lost their job, are caring for others, or who are experiencing other challenges. Remember to care for yourself as much as you are caring for others. Take care of yourself as best you can.

    1. Get vaccinated. Getting a COVID-19 vaccine is the most effective way to protect yourself from COVID-19. The vaccines are safe and work well to protect you against severe disease from the virus, including omicron variant. Get a booster dose when recommended.
    2. Reduce your risk for contracting the virus. Follow public health recommendations. Avoid crowded indoor areas, wear a mask when in indoor public spaces, keep at least six feet of distance from people who don’t live with you, and wash your hands frequently. For those who need assistance with daily activities outside the home - start with the helpful resources at the bottom of this page.
    3. Continue to manage your condition. If you have an underlying condition, focus on prevention and management. Staying healthy at home means staying out of the hospital or emergency room. 
      • Use telehealth or nurselines to manage your condition so that you don’t have to go into the clinic. 
      • Follow all treatment plans that you and your doctor created, to the extent possible. 
    4. Seek medical care if you need it. Watch for COVID-19 symptoms and seek medical care if you need it. Remember, you should call 911 if you are experiencing a medical emergency. This includes symptoms of heart attack or stroke; difficulty breathing or choking; difficulty speaking, walking, or seeing; an allergic reaction; confusion, dizziness, or disorientation; sudden, severe pain.  
    5. Wear a mask. In areas with significant COVID-19 community transmission, we strongly recommend everyone wear mask in public, especially indoors. Learn more about wearing masks in Colorado.

    How can I take care of myself …

    If I have diabetes or prediabetes:
    • If you have diabetes, keep it under control. Diabetes increases the risk of developing severe COVID-19. Follow your doctor’s orders for checking your blood sugar and maintaining a healthy diet. Ensure you have adequate supplies of testing equipment and medications on hand. To find a diabetes management program in your area, visit the American Diabetes Association or Association of Diabetes Care and Education Specialists.
    • If you have prediabetes or at risk of diabetes, keep elevated blood sugar from getting out of control. Find virtual diabetes prevention programs, which allow you to work with a trained coach to make realistic, lasting lifestyle changes. These programs also provide information on eating healthy and being active, managing stress, staying motivated and solving problems that can slow your progress, and they help enable you to get support from people with similar goals and challenges. Visit if you are in the metro Denver area or outside of the metro areas. 
    If I am managing heart and cardiovascular conditions:
    • Keep your blood pressure under control by eating well, maintaining a healthy weight, increasing physical activity, and managing stress. Continue to monitor and track your own blood pressure at home with a home blood pressure monitor, if you have one. 
    • Stay up-to-date on other vaccinations that can protect you from diseases that stress your heart, including pneumonia and the flu.
    • Limit alcohol and limit salt.
    • Continue to take your medications as prescribed. Talk with your doctor or pharmacist if you have questions.
    If I use tobacco:
    • Consider quitting smoking or vaping. Individuals who smoke or vape may be at higher risk for developing severe illness from COVID-19. Smoking can cause or worsen many chronic health conditions, including heart diseases linked to poorer COVID-19 outcomes. Smoking and vaping can also increase the possibility for the virus to be transmitted from hands to mouth. 
      • Quitting is hard, especially during times of stress. The Colorado QuitLine offers phone and web coaching, motivational text messages, and quit medications like patches and gum. Visit or call 1-800-QUIT-NOW for free support without judgment. 
    • Keep a smoke-free home to protect others. Secondhand smoke worsens lung health for nonsmokers, especially children.
    For everyone:
    • Continue to take your medications on time and as directed. Reach out to your health care provider to get an extra supply of medications in case you cannot get to the pharmacy or clinic or see if your prescriptions can be delivered to your home.  
    • Manage your stress and take care of your mental health. Recognize when you are experiencing fear and stress. Identify what you are afraid of and figure out if you can address that fear right now. 
    • Eat healthy foods to support your immune system. The healthiest food includes whole grains, lean proteins, vegetables, and fruits. Make half of your plate fruits and vegetables — focus on whole fruits and vary your veggies. Make half your grains whole grains. Use low-fat or fat-free milk or yogurt. Vary your protein routine. Drink and eat less salt, saturated fats, trans fats, and added sugars. For additional information or recipes, visit If you need help getting food during this time, visit or call the Food Resource Hotline (855-855-4626). 
    • Exercise, but be careful about COVID-19 exposure. Regular physical activity benefits both the body and mind. It can reduce high blood pressure, help manage weight and reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and various cancers. It improves bone and muscle strength and increases balance, flexibility and fitness. Regular physical activity also decreases stress and anxiety, improves mental health, and can reduce the risk of depression, cognitive decline and delay the onset of dementia. Exercise improves overall feelings of well-being. Find creative ways to exercise while maintaining social distancing and proper hygiene measures. Always check with your doctor before making changes to your exercise routine if you have a medical condition.
      • Stay active in and around the home:
        • Take short 3-5 minute breaks every 20-30 minutes to avoid too much sitting.
        • Set up a routine to be active every day by planning a physical activity or exercise break, by joining an online class, or by setting a time to be active online with your friends or colleagues. 
        • Plan time with your family and children for active games at home, walks in the parks, or cycling. 

    For more information, visit CDC’s page for People with Certain Medical Conditions

    Who is impacted by COVID-19?

    The risk of COVID-19 is not connected with race, ethnicity, nationality, sexuality, or gender. Viruses do not discriminate. However, data show that COVID-19 is impacting lower-income communities, and in particular, communities of color, more than others. 

    These communities have experienced racism, economic hardship and ongoing stress for generations. As a result, these communities often have higher rates of chronic diseases. Even now, those working in lower paying jobs often have less flexibility to stay home or to socially/physically distance. These communities may not have sick leave or other benefits and may need to keep working to afford necessities including food and rent. The State remains committed to decreasing health inequities across Colorado.

    Additional resources

    For additional resources on accessing emergency services, here are some places to start: