The decision by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to expand the list of people at greatest risk for COVID-19 is both overdue and greatly welcome, according to some local experts.

The CDC announced last week it had made changes such as removing a specific age threshold for those most at risk. The CDC previously stated that those at risk included people 65 and older. Now the guidelines state “the risk for severe illness from COVID-19 increases with age, with older adults at highest risk.”

Other changes included adding pregnancy, asthma, high blood pressure, and other conditions to the list of factors that increase a person’s risk of severe illness. The CDC also changed its standards for risk due to obesity. Previously, those with a body mass index of 40 or higher were thought to be at higher risk, but now the BMI threshold has been lowered to 30.

“The broadening of the CDC guidelines should have happened sooner, but are extremely important for people with various conditions to be aware of,” said Michael Urban, director of occupational therapy at the University of New Haven.

In particular, he agreed with expanding the conditions “to younger populations with various medical conditions, and not just those over 65.”

Dr. Gregory Buller, chairman of medicine and associate chief medical officer at Bridgeport Hospital, also cheered the removal of the age threshold. Buller said he hopes the changes raise awareness about how younger people with underlying medical conditions are vulnerable to serious illness from COVID-19.

“It’s something we’ve experienced anecdotally at the hospital,” he said.

However, Buller and Urban disagree on lowering the BMI threshold for obesity from 40 to 30. Buller said it is “a real significant change,” which should ring a lot of alarm bells, as many Americans fall into that category.

But Urban said he’s long taken issue with using BMI as the standard for determining obesity. BMI is a measure of body fat, based on a person’s height and weight. Over the years, some experts have criticized the BMI as an inaccurate measure, as sometimes people with high muscle mass can have a higher BMI, but aren’t necessarily obese.

“BMI in my opinion is not helpful as, per the government standards, I am considered overweight,” Urban said. “However, since I have more muscle mass, which weighs more than body fat, even my own doctors do not consider that a useful guideline.”

Urban said he believes measuring waist circumference is a more accurate indicator of whether someone is overweight or obese.

Meanwhile, the expansion of the guidelines means more people need to protect themselves from potential infection. Urban said people should continue with precautions such as physical distancing, mask wearing and frequent hand-washing.

“Ultimately, I wish these would have come out sooner and only hope that the youth of America will note their social responsibility as we all have to play a role in controlling the spread of the virus,” Urban said.