Millennials Are Being Hospitalized For Coronavirus More Than You Think

Photo: Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images.
Social distancing recommendations and quarantine measures are mostly in place to protect at-risk people from contracting COVID-19, which has the potential to be deadly. There’s an assumption that that means protecting older adults, but new data shows that millennials are getting sick to the point of hospitalization more than previously thought. The report, released Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), showed that 20 percent of the patients hospitalized with coronavirus were between the ages of 20 and 44, while 12 percent of the intensive care patients were in that age range — essentially spanning the millennial generation, which is people between the ages of 22 and 38.
“Younger people may feel more confident about their ability to withstand a virus like this,” Dr. Christopher Carlsten, head of respiratory medicine at the University of British Columbia, told the New York Times. “[But] if that many younger people are being hospitalized, that means that there are a lot of young people in the community that are walking around with the infection.”
The infection rates noted in the report seem to dovetail with reports from other countries. A graph created by Belgian economist Andreas Backhaus compared infection rates by age among people in South Korea, where there is population-wide testing, and Italy, where only people with symptoms are being tested. What it showed was that, in South Korea, nearly 30 percent of the cases were among 20-29 year olds; that number was 3.7 percent in Italy — meaning a large number of young people, who tend to be more socially active, are walking around with the virus without knowing it. Asymptomatic people are still contagious, and can still infect older and more vulnerable people, like those who are immunocompromised.
So, why is it that millennials are populating the number of carriers in the U.S.? This recklessness was demonstrated on Wednesday, when a video of young people on Spring Break in Florida went viral. “If I get corona, I get corona,” Brady Sluder, a Spring Breaker from Ohio, told Reuters. “At the end of the day, I’m not going to let it stop me from partying.”
This actually happened, despite that fact that people are being encouraged to practice social distancing and not gather in groups of 10 or more. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said that, as of Wednesday, there were 192 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state (on Thursday, the day after the videos went viral, Gov. DeSantis said on Fox and Friends that he was shutting down the state to Spring Breakers, something many deemed too little, too late).
But while yes, millennials should be concerned about practicing social distancing so they don’t spread the virus to more vulnerable members of the population, they are also more susceptible to getting severely ill than they may realize. “Young people should take coronavirus seriously,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the federal government’s top infectious disease scientist, told CNN. The new CDC report says that nine people between ages 20 and 64 died in the U.S. from virus, though it doesn’t include information about whether patients had underlying risk factors, like chronic illness or compromised immune systems, so it’s impossible to know whether the younger people who were hospitalized with the virus were more susceptible than others. Even still, millennials should be taking every precaution they can right now.
That doesn’t mean becoming an isolated hermit; there are plenty of things people can do to stay connected to friends and even get out of the house, while also staying safe. In lieu of hitting a favorite brunch spot, plan a brunch date on Zoom or Google Hangouts with a bunch of your friends. Take a walk outside, being sure to keep at least six feet away from other people. Sit on your porch and talk to neighbors from a safe distance. Check out the digital events being offered, from Opera at the Met to virtual tours of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston.
And please, don’t forget to wash your hands.
COVID-19 has been declared a global pandemic. Go to the CDC website for the latest information on symptoms, prevention, and other resources.
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