Younger Americans eager to get back to their social lives are increasingly responsible for the spread of the coronavirus, risking their own health and that of their family and friends under what health experts say is the misguided impression that the virus cannot cause them harm.
Health departments across the country are reporting that younger people are making up larger shares of the total number of those infected with the virus. The greater infection rates among young people are occurring both in states that are getting a handle on their outbreaks and those that are not.
“In these trends, we are seeing the impact of our collective decisions. We are jeopardizing the gains we made as a state,” Washington state Health Secretary John Wiesman said Friday, pointing to an increase in hospitalizations among people between the ages of 20 and 39. “[T]he actions each one of us takes now will determine what happens next.”
In early June, just 10 percent of those who tested positive in Rhode Island were in their 20s. By the end of the month, that share had doubled. The average age of a Rhode Islander who tests positive fell from 47.5 years old to 39.2 years old in a week.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) said this week the percentage of those under 35 testing positive for the virus is now 84 percent higher than it is for those over 35.
In New Mexico, 44 percent of those who are testing positive for the virus are under 30 years old, according to state health data. In Illinois, there are more infections among people aged 20-29 than among any other age group. In California, those in their 20s make up the largest cohort of cases, followed closely by people in their 30s.
“There is a sense that a lot of young people, you’re young, think you’re invincible,” California Gov. Gavin NewsomGavin NewsomCalifornia governor says Orange County can’t reopen schools days after vote to reopen Watch live: CA Gov Newsom gives coronavirus updates California churches sue governor over singing ban MORE (D) said at a June 24 press briefing. “That can be a selfish mindset.”
There are signs, too, that even children are vulnerable to the disease. More than 10 percent of confirmed cases in Arizona, Washington and Tennessee are among those under the age of 20, an analysis by Bloomberg found.
Public health experts think younger people may be under the impression that the coronavirus can do them no harm, after early signs showed that the virus was less likely to lead to severe outcomes among young adults. After months of disruptive lockdowns, they may be more interested in returning to some semblance of normalcy than in continuing to make the sacrifices necessary to bring the virus under control.
But while younger people are at less risk than those who are older, they are not immune. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that about 3,000 people in the United States under the age of 45 have died of COVID-19.
“One of the pieces of good news within this…