It’s not just older adults who are at risk of suffering “severe outcomes” from the novel coronavirus, but younger people too, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned in a new report.
Citing an early analysis of about 2,500 of the first confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S., the CDC said adults aged 20 to 54 accounted for 38% of the 508 known hospitalizations. Among the 121 patients known to have been admitted to the intensive care unit, 48% were under the age of 65.
These numbers are likely an overestimation of the actual percentage of younger adults with coronavirus who required hospitalization or intensive care since some people with the disease are asymptomatic. Still, medical experts said the CDC data should serve as a warning to younger adults to not be complacent about the virus.
“I think everyone should be paying attention to this,” Stephen Morse, a professor of epidemiology at Columbia University, 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.”
At a White House briefing on Wednesday, Dr. Deborah Birx, one of the top experts on the Trump administration’s coronavirus task force, echoed this advice.
“There are concerning reports coming out of France and Italy about some young people getting seriously ill and very seriously ill in the ICUs,” Birx said.
“I’m going to call on that generation … not only calling on you to heed what’s in the guidance, but to really ensure that each and every one of you are protecting each other,” she added, The Hill reported.
According to the CDC analysis, older adults are still at the highest risk of medical complications and death because of the coronavirus, known as COVID-19. Of the 44 U.S. fatalities analyzed in the report, 80% were people over the age of 65.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, noted on Wednesday, that younger people shouldn’t just be wary of the risks that COVID-19 could pose to their own health ― but should also be acutely aware of the “societal responsibility” they have to protect older Americans.
“You have a responsibility ― a societal responsibility ― to protect the vulnerable,” Fauci said. “You do that, interestingly, by not letting yourself get infected because you need to make sure that you don’t inadvertently pass on the infection to someone who would not fare as well as you fared because you’re young and healthy.”