Younger Americans are increasingly failing to social distance even as coronavirus cases steeply rise in multiple US states. Americans in their 20’s and 30’s appear to believe that the deadly virus can not cause them harm.
Infection rates in this age group have skyrocketed. The group now accounts for the fast-growing proportion of Covid-19 cases.
Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said younger people are often asymptomatic or have mild symptoms but can easily spread the virus to older or immune-compromised patients
Surges among young people are linked to crowded parks, beaches, restaurants, bars, fitness classes, fraternity parties and even covid parties where they try to catch the coronavirus from someone that has tested positive.
According to some experts, these sometimes selfish and misguided actions directly help to spread the virus. Some say they might also be responsible for killing vulnerable Americans.
"I'm not too scared of getting sick," said Chris Clarici in San Francisco.
"I just personally don't care," said a young person in Boston. "I haven't got sick yet."
Experts have warned that attitude is dangerous. As many young Americans get infected and come home to visit parents, there is undoubtedly a spillover effect to the older and more vulnerable groups.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, puts it this way, "They may be indirectly hurting people by infecting someone who then infects someone, who then infects someone who's vulnerable".
In Florida, a coronavirus hotspot, the highest number of cases are among people between the ages of 25 and 34 years old. 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 dropped to 39.5.
"If I get it, then, you live with your consequences," said Bojan Atanasovski, a 25-year-old West Palm Beach resident.
Atanasovski, who works as a salesman, said he wears a mask in places where it's required but he doesn't want coronavirus to stop him from living life.
"I need something to unwind," he told "CBS This Morning" lead national correspondent David Begnaud. "Some people like reading. Some people like working out. ... I like, you know, going and seeing other people as well. Now, if I had to go out and do that with a face mask, right, if they required it to wear a face mask, sure, I'll do that. But if they don't require it, I would choose not to."
In early June, just 10 percent of those who tested positive in Rhode Island were in their 20s. By the end of the month, that share had doubled. The average age of a Rhode Islander who tests positive went from 47.5 years old to 39.2 years old in a week.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) said the percentage of those under 35 testing positive for the virus is now 84 percent higher than it is for those over 35.
New Mexico’s health data shows 44 percent of those testing positive for the virus are under 30 years old. In Illinois, there are more infections among people aged 20-29 than among any other age group.
61 percent of Covid-19 cases in Arizona 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. In Hays County, Texas, just 30 miles outside of Austin, young adults make up more than half of all cases.
Other states with surges 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). Although cases have been relatively stable in Virginia, there is an uptick 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 press briefing.
There are signs, too, contrary to previously held opinion, that even children are vulnerable to the disease. More than 10 percent of confirmed cases in Arizona, Washington and Tennessee are among those under the age of 20, an analysis by Bloomberg found.
As the number of young adults infected with the coronavirus surges throughout the nation, a new study by researchers at UC San Francisco Benioff Children’s Hospitals indicates that youth may not shield people from serious disease.
The study looked at data drawn from a nationally representative sample of approximately 8,400 men and women ages 18 to 25 and concluded that overall “medical vulnerability” was 33 percent for males and 30 percent for females. The impact of smoking surpassed other less common risks, the UCSF researchers reported in a study published on July 13, 2020 in the Journal of Adolescent Health.
As the US hit a sobering 4 million cases of Covid-19 and 144,000 deaths, a group of more than 150 prominent US medical experts, scientists, teachers and nurses have penned a letter to political leaders urging them to shut down the country and start over to contain the rising coronavirus infections.
These experts say the US is on track to lose more than 200,000 Americans to Covid-19 by the end of October. They stress that the best thing for the nation is not to reopen as quickly as possible, but to save as many lives as possible.
Desemond Mbantoh contributed to this piece.