A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released on Wednesday (March 18), shows that, while older Americans are more likely than their younger counterparts to die from COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus, American adults of all ages are falling seriously ill. In fact, the data shows that nearly 40 percent of sick patients who were hospitalized in the United States were aged 20 to 54, although their risk of dying was significantly lower than older Americans.
According to the report, 20 percent of hospitalized patients and 12 percent of intensive care patients in the U.S. were between the ages of 20 and 44 — spanning the millennial generation and some of Generation Z. It’s one of the first studies in the U.S. on the virus, and it shows that the rate of fatality from COVID-19 in the U.S. is highest in people over 85 years old (ranging from 10-27 percent), followed by people between 65 and 84 years old (ranging from 3 to 11 percent), people between 55 and 64 years old (1 to 3 percent), and, finally, those aged 20-54 years old (less than 1 percent). There have not been any documented fatalities among people under the age of 19 years old in the U.S., according to the data.
“I think everyone should be paying attention to this,” Stephen S. Morse, a professor of epidemiology at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, told the New York Times. “It’s not just going to be the elderly. There will be people age 20 and up. They do have to be careful, even if they think that they’re young and healthy.”
These findings come at a time when there seem to be differing opinions among young people on what kind of precautions to take to slow the spread of COVID-19, from making TikToks to going to school at home to, dangerously, continuing to participate in spring break parties. But, according to a Yahoo! News/YouGov poll conducted between March 10 and 11, most young people are following the news about the coronavirus “very closely” or “somewhat closely,” and most of them said they were “somewhat worried” or “very worried” about the spread of the virus. A separate poll by The Economist/YouGov found that a combined 61 percent of people aged 18-29 were “somewhat concerned” or “very concerned” about the virus.
It’s crucial that young people take the threat of COVID-19 seriously, not only because of the new findings from this CDC report but also because they’re just as likely as anyone else to carry the coronavirus to vulnerable people in their communities — including older people and those of any age who are immunocompromised. Nearly 10 million young Americans have some kind of chronic illness, according to a 2013 report, and each year roughly 70,000 young people are diagnosed with cancer.
And young people are more likely than other age groups to lack health insurance, a fact which might be compounded by the rise in coronavirus-related layoffs. According to a Gallup poll released in 2019, 21.6 percent of respondents aged 18-34 reported not having health insurance in the fourth quarter of 2018, up 4.8 percent from the same time two years prior. There’s no telling how that number will be compounded by the rise in coronavirus-related layoffs, which are affecting people across industries; most Americans receive healthcare benefits through their jobs. Should those people fall ill, the healthcare costs could be devastating – millennials already accrue the most medical debt of any age group, per a 2018 Health Affairs study.
Deborah Birx, a physician and State Department official leading President Donald Trump administration’s COVID-19 task force, implored young people to stay home and social distance.
“You have the potential then to spread it to someone who does have a condition that none of us knew about, and cause them to have a disastrous outcome,” Birx said to young people.
You can help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Not everyone has the option to stay at home, but if you can, you should! Social distancing is the new normal, and we’re here to help.