Young People Are at Risk for COVID-19

During the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, older people represented the majority of hospitalizations and deaths—leading some young adults to feel the virus couldn’t affect them.

But that’s a dangerous attitude, says Memorial Health System chief medical officer Raj Govindaiah, MD. “In the latest outbreaks across the south and west, young people are being hospitalized in increasing numbers,” he says. “One factor driving this trend may be that younger people are more likely to socialize in large groups or crowded public places.”

Data from states like Texas and Florida, where cases are surging, shows a rapidly dropping median age for COVID-19 patients. At one large hospital in Houston, 60 percent of hospitalized patients with COVID-19 are under the age of 50.

“Young people are not immune,” Dr. Govindaiah says. “Not only can they get the virus, they can also suffer devastating effects. While many people experience mild cases, there is a growing awareness that younger people can become very ill and even die from COVID-19.”

Doctors and researchers are working to understand why some young adults in seemingly good health experience severe cases of COVID-19. In the meantime, Dr. Govindaiah advises younger people to take action to protect their health and the health of everyone around them. Even young adults who have mild or asymptomatic cases of COVID-19 can spread the virus to others who may not be as lucky.

“As Illinois progresses through Phase 4 of the governor’s reopening plan, it’s important for everyone to remember that COVID-19 is still a serious threat to people of all ages,” he says. “While crowded public places like restaurants and bars pose a high risk, we should also be mindful of our safety in other places where people gather in close proximity: at family parties, sporting events or even at the pool.

“Your actions are the best way to minimize your risk,” he adds. “Wear a mask.  Wash your hands.  Practice social distancing.  Avoid large groups and crowds. Most of all, exercise good judgment.”