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Almost 50 percent of new Covid-19 cases are ages 18-40

by Steven Felschundneff | steven@claremont-courier.com

During a news conference on Wednesday county officials delivered a clear message: if you believe that you are too young or too healthy to be affected by the coronavirus, think again.

“I want to be very clear about this, COVID-19 affects everyone. It’s not limited to people over 65 or those who have medical conditions. Instead we continue to learn about young people having severe health impacts from COVID 19,” L.A. County Supervisor Hilda Solis said. “Our youth are our future and I want to speak directly to them. We need you well and healthy and we need you to protect not only the health of your families but that of yourself because our world depends on it. Please take this seriously.”

Early in the pandemic the common wisdom was that the disease primarily threatened older people. And while those over the age of 65, or with underlying health conditions, continue to be the most likely to die from COVID-19, both hospitalizations and infections are rising among the younger population.

Almost 50 percent of new cases are occurring in younger people, most significantly those between the ages of 18 and 40. Those young people are in turn taking the virus home and infecting older people they know, according to health officials.

“Ninety-three percent of the people who died form COVID-19 [in the county] did have underlying health conditions, but a full seven percent of the people who passed away did not. And with numbers as big as they are today, that seven percent represents dozens and dozens of people who may have thought they were at no risk for having serious illness or dying. But, unfortunately, this virus can affect many different people,” Director of Public Health Barbara Ferrer said.

In a series of charts presented at a different news conference held on Monday, Ms. Ferrer illustrated the fact that not only are more young people becoming infected, they are also more likely to be hospitalized than in the past.

Of the people currently hospitalized with COVID-19, about 26 percent are between 18 and 40 years of age, up from 11 percent a month ago. This is also the only sector experiencing a significant increase in the number of hospitalizations, although the 0 to 17 age group is up slightly. Over that same period of time, those over 65 have dropped from over 50 percent of hospitalizations to just under 30 percent. The sector with the greatest number of people currently in the hospital are those between the ages of 41 and 64, but that number has remained consistent for months. Another chart showed that over the past month cases are declining or flat for every group except those between the ages of 18 to 40, which had an increase of about ten percentage points.

Any hope that Los Angeles County’s recent surge of the coronavirus would subside were cast aside this week as public health officials reported another sharp increase in COVID-19 cases, including in the city of Claremont.

Claremont had 142 cumulative cases as of Wednesday afternoon, which is 20 percent more than a week ago. Additionally, there are now three cases reported in unincorporated Claremont, which includes the Padua Hills area and certain neighborhoods above Base Line Road. Fortunately, the confirmed number of deaths remains at two.

The one metric that has remained flat over the past few weeks, total deaths countywide, now appears on the rise. In its daily coronavirus update on Wednesday, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health reported 65 deaths over the previous 24-hour period, the highest number since June 2 when 62 deaths were recorded. The state also recported its highest daily death toll at 149, according to the Los Angeles Times’ California coronavirus tracker. 

Since its first report on March 4, Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has identified 123,004 cases of COVID-19 across all areas of LA County, and 3,642 deaths.

Over the past week the county has averaged 2,500 cases a day and recorded its highest number of cases in a single day—4,015—on July 6, and its second highest—3,187—last Friday. However, the county notes that spikes in daily confirmed cases are often a result of a single lab reporting all of its cases at once. The county reported 2,496 new cases on Wednesday.

There are more than 2,000 people currently hospitalized with 26 percent in the ICU and 17 percent on ventilators. This remains substantially higher than the 1,350 to 1,450 daily hospitalizations observed four weeks ago.

Ms. Ferrer said that the jump in new cases has been driven by a significant drop in the number people staying at home, an increase of people coming into close contact with others and workers returning to jobs as the economy reopens.

Public Health did report some encouraging news—in contrast to earlier inspections that showed lax observation of the safety protocols, over the Fourth of July weekend businesses and individual were largely in compliance. Of the 1,101 restaurants visited by inspectors, 99 percent were only offering outdoor dining, 98 percent were observing physical distancing, 99 percent of customers were wearing face coverings and 82 percent of employees were wearing face shields. Additionally, of the 82 bars and eight breweries visited, all were closed as the health order mandates. Of 74 hotels for which information was available, 94 percent were observing physical distancing and 97 percent were in compliance with the wearing of face coverings.

Ms. Ferrer also said that LA County residents have reported fewer symptoms of psychological distress related to the pandemic, indicating slightly less worry that the outbreak poses a serious threat to personal finances and significantly less food insecurity. She attributed all three of these positive outcomes to the reopening of the local economy.

Those accomplishments, however, are threatened by the rise in new cases, more hospitalizations and the evidence that community spread is growing. The county’s positivity rate in a seven day moving average stands at 10.4 percent, which is over twice what it was just a month ago. This in addition to the 1,921 people currently hospitalized are increasing fears that the medical system could be overrun if the trend continues.

“It is clear that after months of quarantine combined with the reopening of many sectors [of the economy] we have had a lot of people disregarding the practices that have allowed us to slow the spread. Unfortunately, this can not continue,” Ms Ferrer said. “Our inability to follow the most basic infection control and distancing protocols leads to serious illness, even the deaths of the people we love and the deaths of those loved by others.”

Of the 65 deaths reported by the county on Wednesday, 34 people were over the age of 65, while 23 were between the ages of 41 and 65, and five were between 18 and 40. Fifty people had underlying health conditions including 33 people over the age of 65.

Information about race and ethnicity is available for 3,389 of the county’s fatalities (99 percent of the cases reported by Public Health); 44 percent of deaths occurred among Latino residents, 27 percent white, 16 percent Asian, 11 percent among Black residents, less than 1 percent among Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders and 1 percent among residents identifying with other races.

“I know everyone is tired, and tired of this virus. But I also know this is not forever. The sooner we all can recommit to taking care of each other, the sooner we can get back to creating a new normal where we go back to work, go back to school, and we see our friends and extended family again. It’s not easy but it is straight forward. Avoid the three Cs: crowds, confined spaces and close contact,” Ms. Ferrer said.

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