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Virus cases surging among the young, endangering the elderly

Coronavirus infections are climbing rapidly among young Americans in a number of states where bars, stores and restaurants have reopened.

Posted: Jun 24, 2020 4:41 PM

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Coronavirus cases are climbing rapidly among young adults in a number of states where bars, stores and restaurants have reopened — a disturbing generational shift that not only puts them in greater peril than many realize but poses an even bigger danger to older people who cross their paths.

In Oxford, Mississippi, summer fraternity parties sparked outbreaks. In Oklahoma City, church activities, fitness classes, weddings and funerals seeded infections among people in their 20s, 30s and 40s. In Iowa college towns, surges followed the reopening of bars. A cluster of hangouts near Louisiana State University led to at least 100 customers and employees testing positive. In East Lansing, Michigan, an outbreak tied to a brew pub spread to 25 people ages 18 to 23.

There and in states like Florida, Texas and Arizona, young people have started going out again, many without masks, in what health experts see as irresponsible behavior.

“The virus hasn’t changed. We have changed our behaviors," said Ali Mokdad, professor of health metrics sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle. "Younger people are more likely to be out and taking a risk.”

In Florida, young people ages 15 to 34 now make up 31% of all cases, up from 25% in early June. Last week, more than 8,000 new cases were reported in that age group, compared with about 2,000 among people 55 to 64 years old. And experts say the phenomenon cannot be explained away as simply the result of more testing.

Elected officials such as Florida's governor have argued against reimposing restrictions, saying many of the newly infected are young and otherwise healthy. But younger people, too, face the possibility of severe infection and death. In the past week, two 17-year-olds in Florida died of the virus.

And authorities worry that older, more vulnerable people are next.

“People between the ages 18 and 50 don’t live in some sort of a bubble,” said Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt. “They are the children and grandchildren of vulnerable people. They may be standing next to you at a wedding. They might be serving you a meal in a restaurant.”

The virus has taken a frightful toll on the elderly in the U.S., which leads the world in total deaths, at over 120,000, and confirmed infections, at more than 2.3 million. Eight out of 10 deaths in the U.S. have been in people 65 and older. In contrast, confirmed coronavirus deaths among 18-to-34-year-olds number in the hundreds, though disease trackers are clamoring for more accurate data.

For months, elderly people were more likely to be diagnosed with the virus, too. But figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that almost as soon as states began reopening, the picture flipped, with people 18 to 49 years old quickly becoming the age bracket most likely to be diagnosed with new cases.

And although every age group saw an increase in cases during the first week in June, the numbers shot up fastest among 18-to-49-year-olds. For the week ending June 7, there were 43 new cases per 100,000 people in that age bracket, compared with 28 cases per 100,000 people over 65.

With the shift toward younger people, some hospitals are seeing a smaller share of their COVID-19 patients needing intensive care treatment such as breathing machines.

“They are sick enough to be hospitalized, but they’re not quite as sick,” said Dr. Rob Phillips, chief physician executive of Houston Methodist Hospital. He said he still finds the trend disturbing because young people “definitely interact with their parents and grandparents,” who could be next.

In one Florida hospital system, nearly half the COVID-19 patients were on ventilators during April compared with less than 3 percent now, said Dr. Sunil Desai, president of the Orlando Health hospital system.

Some of the young people who have fallen ill describe stretches of extreme pain and fatigue.

“My chest and my body hurt. Almost like I’d gotten in a car accident,” said Emily Ellington, 25, of suburban Austin, Texas, who tested positive about six weeks after the state began reopening.

In Florida, where many restaurants and bars reopened in early May, 32-year-old Kristen Kowall of Clearwater dined out with her fiancé in early June. Like others in the restaurant, she didn’t wear a mask. She tested positive over the weekend.

“I just feel really groggy and tired. It hurts to walk. Especially my ankles and knees, it feels like my bones are going to fall apart,” she said. “I definitely would advise people from going out. It’s not worth it.”

The increase among young adults may not all be due to reopenings and could also reflect wider testing that has reached younger, less sick people. Yet since May, younger adults have had a higher share of tests come back positive than their older counterparts.

In late March and April, that wasn’t the case — the highest positive rates were in people over 65. For the past month, roughly 7 percent of tests done on 18-to-49-year-olds nationwide have come back positive. That is about 2 percentage points above older groups of adults.

Amid the surge, some Florida cities and counties are requiring people to wear masks before entering businesses. An Orlando bar popular with University of Central Florida students had its liquor license suspended after more than 40 people who went there upon its reopening tested positive.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis warned other bars they could lose their licenses if they don't follow social distancing guidelines.

“If you go in, and it’s Dance Party USA, dancing up to the rafters ... there’s no tolerance for that,” he said.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 259117

Reported Deaths: 5668
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto17436187
Hinds16524328
Harrison13876199
Rankin11000217
Jackson10652187
Lee8981141
Madison8413168
Jones6552112
Forrest6101121
Lauderdale6034189
Lowndes5463119
Lafayette507393
Lamar496465
Washington4877124
Bolivar4068109
Oktibbeha401681
Panola378380
Pontotoc372155
Monroe3628105
Warren3619101
Union350563
Marshall349569
Neshoba3433152
Pearl River3380104
Leflore3079108
Lincoln300687
Sunflower289272
Hancock285360
Tate276762
Alcorn268854
Pike266580
Itawamba266261
Scott253448
Yazoo250156
Prentiss249552
Tippah245850
Copiah244549
Coahoma243654
Simpson240069
Leake234367
Grenada221171
Marion218473
Covington216972
Adams210170
Wayne206432
Winston205267
George202739
Attala195761
Newton195745
Tishomingo192461
Chickasaw186144
Jasper176038
Holmes169868
Clay162735
Tallahatchie154935
Stone148424
Clarke143562
Calhoun138021
Smith125825
Yalobusha120234
Walthall113437
Greene112129
Noxubee111425
Montgomery110936
Carroll105922
Lawrence104317
Perry103231
Amite99926
Webster94324
Tunica87621
Jefferson Davis87327
Claiborne86825
Benton84023
Humphreys83624
Kemper79120
Quitman7029
Franklin68716
Choctaw62313
Wilkinson58825
Jefferson55920
Sharkey44217
Issaquena1606
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 432536

Reported Deaths: 6379
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson63523957
Mobile30967562
Madison27627201
Tuscaloosa21122268
Montgomery19495326
Shelby18941126
Baldwin16798188
Lee12901102
Morgan12447129
Etowah11911178
Calhoun11365205
Marshall10322119
Houston8813156
Limestone823176
Cullman8159106
Elmore8056104
DeKalb7796102
Lauderdale773399
St. Clair7705122
Talladega6347109
Walker5993174
Jackson590341
Colbert543274
Blount541186
Autauga527061
Coffee454160
Dale405482
Franklin371948
Russell345712
Chilton340972
Covington334168
Escambia328344
Dallas310196
Chambers297370
Clarke290536
Tallapoosa2665107
Pike258830
Marion250155
Lawrence249150
Winston231442
Bibb219848
Geneva206946
Marengo205229
Pickens198631
Hale180842
Barbour177836
Fayette174528
Butler171358
Cherokee162530
Henry157523
Monroe150718
Randolph143236
Washington139527
Clay128546
Crenshaw121644
Cleburne119724
Lamar119621
Macon119637
Lowndes112536
Wilcox105822
Bullock101428
Perry99118
Conecuh96320
Sumter89726
Greene76723
Coosa62215
Choctaw51624
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