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Saturday December 04, 2021

Why more young people are getting sick in the latest COVID-19 outbreaks

July 19, 2020

NEW YORK: At the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak in the US, most Covid-19 cases seemed to be in older folks, who were getting very sick — an artifact of who was getting tested at the time, foreign media reported.

But now, especially in states where Covid-19 cases have been rising in June and July, the median age has been dropping.

“We are seeing it in a much younger group, of 20- to 40-year-olds,” compared to the earlier stage of the pandemic, says Thomas Tsai, a health policy expert and surgeon at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

In Florida, where the coronavirus has infected more than 311,000 residents, the median age of positive cases in March was 65. As of July 17, the median age of new cases from the previous 14 days was 39.5

In Arizona, 61 percent of Covid-19 cases are in people under the age of 45. In Texas’s two largest counties, Harris (home to Houston) and Dallas, about half of the new cases have been in people under 40.

Other states with worrying rises in case numbers are seeing a similar trend. In California, which just reclosed bars and indoor dining, as of July 15, people ages 18 to 34 made up the largest proportion of new cases (24.3 percent), with 35-to-49-year-olds as the second-largest group (19.3 percent of new cases). Even Virginia, where cases have been relatively stable, has seen an increase in new cases among people in their 20s.

Nationwide, “the average age of people getting infected is now a decade and a half younger than it was a few months ago,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in a July 6 press briefing.

Younger people, on average, are less likely to become severely ill and die of Covid-19 — although many do. They can also spread it to older people who are much more vulnerable to severe infection and death.

This seems to already be happening, with assisted living facility cases climbing in Houston and Phoenix, as well as in Florida now. “We first see it in the community, and then we see it in the residents and staff, and then you see the deaths,” David Grabowski, a health care policy expert at Harvard Medical School, told the Wall Street Journal.