Story at a glance

  • Between March 1 and May 3, 39 percent of confirmed cases across the state were among people aged 20 to 39.
  • People 19 and younger made up 11 percent.
  • That’s a significant shift from early in the outbreak, when more than two-thirds of cases in the state occurred in older age groups.

Half of new confirmed coronavirus cases in Washington state are being recorded in people under the age of 40, according to a new analysis

The analysis posted Thursday on the reprint server medRxiv used the state’s public health data to track the ages of cases between March 1 and May 3 and found 39 percent of confirmed cases across the state were among people aged 20 to 39, while people 19 and younger made up 11 percent. 


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That’s a significant shift from early in the outbreak, when more than two-thirds of cases in the state occurred in older age groups. 


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Public health officials have maintained that older adults and people of any age with serious underlying medical conditions are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19, but the author of the analysis, Seattle epidemiologist Judith Malmgren, noted they can still become seriously ill. 

While the analysis, which has not been peer-reviewed, doesn’t attempt to explain why cases are rising among younger adults, Malmgren noted younger adults tend to be more active and said anecdotally she’s witnessed more young people out in public without masks or face coverings. 

“Younger people are the most likely to be socially active, they are the most likely to work in essential professions and have more contact with the public,” Malmgren told the Seattle Times

Washington state health officials told the Seattle Times the shift in ages was the results of people’s behavior. 

“I believe this means that older individuals who are at higher risk of infection are doing a great job social distancing and protecting themselves,” Washington State Health Officer Kathy Lofy told the outlet. 

Lofy noted it’s also the result of efforts to curb the spread of the virus in long-term care facilities and an increase in outbreaks at work sites in the state, the Seattle Times reports. 


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Published on May 29, 2020