Story at a glance
- As coronavirus cases rise across the United States, the median age of patients is dropping.
- Young people have been more likely to take advantage of relaxed social distancing measures as some states reopened.
- Some of these cases are asymptomatic, which means younger people may be carrying it to vulnerable populations without knowing.
Within days of Florida’s reopening, hundreds of young people flooded the beaches and bars. It wasn’t until a few weeks later that symptoms began to emerge and hospitals began seeing more and more young people with COVID-19.
In some cases, Carlos A. Migoya, president and CEO of Jackson Health System, told WPLG these younger patients are coming in for other reasons, only to discover they are carrying SARS-COV-2.
“A lot of these people are younger and about 40 percent of them are coming into Jackson for other reasons,” Migoya told WPLG. “They’ve ended up in a car accident or other things, and as we test every patient that comes in, we have found them to be (COVID-19) positive. So they are not necessarily as sick as some of the other ones and many of them are asymptomatic.”
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The median age of positive COVID-19 cases in March was 65 years old, according to data from state officials, but in recent weeks it has dropped to 35 years old. As new coronavirus cases spike in the Sunshine State, 20 percent of patients are between the ages of 25 and 34.
“This is an age group where individuals tend to be focused on immediate rewards and not thinking as much about long-term consequences and costs,” Laurence Steinberg, a psychology professor at Temple University who studies adolescence, told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “At this age, individuals are especially responsive to social rewards, and their ability to control their impulses is not as good as it will be when they’re older.”
The youth of Florida aren’t alone in exhibiting risky behavior, both in reopened states where gatherings are now permitted and others, where social distancing mandates remain in place.
Earlier this month, Louisiana’s health department told local news outlets that officials have linked at least 100 cases of COVID-19 to bars near the campus of Louisiana State University (LSU). Similar surges have followed the reopening of bars in Iowa college towns and Oklahoma City and elsewhere, including East Lansing, Mich., where more than 100 cases are linked to a local bar.
On Tuesday, Mississippi’s state health officer called out students at the University of Mississippi after reports of social events related to Greek Life at the school. The university told WREG it was aware of the event and that all social and recruiting events have been suspended for the summer in all cities for all fraternities and sororities.
In Alabama, Tuscaloosa Fire Chief Randy Smith told a local news outlet that several college students who knew they were COVID-19 positive had attended parties around the city and county over the past few weeks. Later that day the city mandated masks in public for everyone over the age of 2, ABC 33 reported, with a fine of $25 for those who violate the ordinance.
At the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, seniors were quickly labelled a vulnerable population due to lowered immune defenses, and young people were thought to be much less susceptible. But that’s changed since then, especially as public health officials warn that younger people are much more likely to be asymptomatic carriers of the disease.
“By driving home this message of, ‘If you’re younger, you’re not going to die from it,’ it’s making people forget that there are other consequences,” Steinberg told the Inquirer. “Even if young people are unlikely to die from this, they’re still placing themselves at great risk for damaging their lungs and contracting illnesses that are going to be very troublesome, if not fatal.”
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