PA Issues Health Alert After Detecting Significant COVID Increase Among 19-24 Year Olds
HARRISBURG (JUL 10 2020) – The Pennsylvania Department of Health has issued an alert to healthcare providers about the changing COVID-19 case demographics, as there are now more new cases in younger age groups than in those 50-64 and 65+.
The department said it is seeing significant increases in the number of COVID-19 cases among younger age groups, particularly 19 to 24-year-olds. According to the department, most new cases involve patients who had eased their social distancing practices, visiting bars, restaurants, and other businesses, as well as going to in-person religious services, attending parties or group outings involving other than household members. A greater number of the newly reported cases are among younger adults—a striking change from the early outbreaks, which primarily hit older communities and nursing homes.
In the northeast region, 19-24 year olds accounted for six percent of the cases in April. In July, that rose greater than 2½ times, to 16% of all cases so far. The southwest portion of the state had the highest rate of increase, going from five percent in April, to almost 27% now.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that young Americans' overall risk of developing a severe case of Covid-19 still appears to be low when compared with older Americans. However, CDC Director Robert Redfield on Thursday emphasized that an increasing rates of infection in younger people remains alarming because they act as a mechanism to spread the disease to more vulnerable populations. Public health reports show that younger people often have very mild symptoms, and may not be aware they are spreading the virus.
While the coronavirus' effects in younger patients “may not be highly associated with hospitalization and death,” young people still “act as a transmission connector for individuals that could in fact be at a higher risk,” Redfield said. The proportion of 19-24 year olds hospitalized for COVID has also increased by one-third since April, when they accounted for 6% of hospitalizations. In July, they account for 8% of COVID in-patients.
The Pennsylvania health department alert advised health care providers to counsel young patients to wear a mask any time they leave their house, in accordance with the Secretary of Health’s Universal Face Covering Order, and to avoid being in close contact with others. Close contact is defined as being within 6 feet of another person for 15 minutes, or being directly exposed to respiratory secretions (e.g., cough or sneeze).