Photo: Chandan Khanna, AFP Via Getty Images
Health officials are pleading with young people to wear masks and practice social distancing, as the transmission of the coronavirus among younger Americans continued to generate record outbreaks in several states.
The pleas come as the governors of Texas and Florida instituted new limits on the consumption of bars and alcohol to stop the spread of the new coronavirus, citing the dizzying number of young people who are contracting it. At the White House on Friday, Vice President Mike Pence and other members of the Trump administration’s coronavirus task force, in their first briefing in weeks, urged young people to take the virus more seriously.
“Younger Americans have a particular responsibility to ensure that they do not take the coronavirus to settings where they expose the most vulnerable,” said Pence.
Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said younger people are often asymptomatic or have mild symptoms, but can easily transmit the virus to older or immunocompromised patients.
While the virus is more dangerous for the elderly, it can also be devastating for younger victims, health professionals said. Younger coronavirus patients are an increasing percentage of total coronavirus hospitalizations, and those in the 18-49 age group grow from approximately 27% of hospitalizations the week ending March 7 to 35% the Last week, the CDC figures show.
Officials across the country, from Ohio to Arizona, said cases of coronavirus among youth increased as many red states that closed slowly in the early days of the pandemic reopened.
In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, closed bars on Friday except for delivery and takeaways, the restaurant’s limited capacity at 50% and closed popular rafting and tubing businesses that brought hundreds of youth to meet at locations near New Braunfels and the Comal River More than half of the new cases in counties spanning Austin, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio occurred among the youth, authorities said.
Mark Escott, Austin’s medical director, said case investigation and contact tracing are challenging because people have been interacting with more people in the past few weeks. His team recently learned of a huge party in the city’s western suburbs that drew 300-400 high school students to one location. The students were together for hours.
“There is concern about substantial transmission, and there is now an effort to identify those people,” said Escott, who contacted to locate another group of youth who went to Cabo San Lucas for spring break and brought the virus home.
Escott said an increasing number of young people are ending up in the ICU and on ventilators because many are infected with the virus. Escott said the virus will forever change young people, who will not be able to return to a normal life or job.
“This is a devastating disease, and it is not something you want to risk because the impact is so variable that it is very difficult to predict who will do well and who will not,” he said.
In Oklahoma, Gov. Kevin Stitt, Republican, said that nearly half of all coronavirus cases diagnosed after the state reopened in late April occurred among people under the age of 35. The vast majority (70%) of the cases since the reopening were diagnosed in people under the age of 50. Stitt said the state will not order the closure of any businesses. More than 12,000 Oklahomans have been diagnosed with coronavirus.
Tulsa Health Director Bruce Dart said new cases and hospitalizations are at record levels; 40% of cases and a quarter of hospitalizations for the virus correspond to people between 18 and 35 years old. Last weekend, 6,200 people attended an indoor rally with President Donald Trump.
“They are behaving like they are pre-covid, and that is not going to work anymore,” Dart said. The younger cohort “is not social distancing, wearing masks or paying attention to handwashing. These are the only tools we have to break the chain of transmission now.”
Dart said it was too early to know if any new cases would emerge from the Trump rally, where several members of his Secret Service and his staff tested positive for the virus, and that any impact would not manifest until later next week.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a Republican, said earlier this week that the state had a “real explosion” of cases among young people, including a drop in the average age of new cases that plummeted from 65 to 35 years. DeSantis’ decision to close bars is an attempt to stifle risky socialization; In recent days, officials have withdrawn alcoholic beverage licenses from bars that did not adhere to the guidelines for social distancing and capacity.
Geoff Beere, a student at the University of Miami and a club promoter, said that when Florida bars reopened in June, they quickly filled up, even those who tried to force social alienation. He said the students were tired of being locked up during the state order to stay home.
“College kids are going to be a little bit more stupid about things than older people, maybe a little bit more reckless,” he said.
Now that bars and clubs have effectively closed again as the state bans companies from selling alcohol indoors, it predicts that pool parties and parties that flourished at the start of the pandemic will do so again.
Beere said he knows of the spread of the coronavirus among his age group, but is not overly concerned.
“I don’t feel invincible, and the virus is obviously serious,” he said. “But in the same vein, I’m young, I’m healthy, and I’m not likely to kill someone like me. But I know it can affect someone else.”
Beere wears a mask during her daily life when she goes to the gym or supermarket, but not when she is at a club or party.
“I am not anti-mask,” said Beere. “But you really can’t drink with it.”
In Oklahoma, several large-scale events have been canceled as state cases have skyrocketed, including a popular Tulsa Oktoberfest and state fair. But high school graduations in person have continued, and several communities are celebrating July 4th. The party has not stopped at Dripping Springs, the party cove in Grand Lake O ‘the Cherokees, in Northeast Oklahoma, where boat revelers tie up, drink, mingle in the water, and play country music.
“You risk going there, but it’s slimmer than going to a nightclub or bar surrounded by people you don’t know,” said Kaden Clites, a student at Butler Community College in Wichita who spent a day on a boat at the party with some friends earlier this month.
Restaurants and bars in Oklahoma operate without restrictions, and Stitt said at a press conference Thursday that it would continue.
“Closing the economy is not part of the discussions right now,” said Stitt.
Matthew Broberg-Moffitt, 38, an immunocompromised writer living in Oklahoma City, said few of the youth in his city embraced wearing masks.
Soon after the state eased its restrictions on reopening, he passed a fancy pizzeria in the city’s Plaza District and saw dozens of young people huddling outside, not socially estranged.
“It is very distressing,” said Broberg-Moffitt. “It is definitely making me lose sleep, and I feel a lot of anger. I am not an angry person. I was a Buddhist monk for a while. But I am having a lot of accumulated anger and moments that are almost like rage because of how badly this is being handled.”
He continued, “I’m like, ‘how is this possible?’ “