SOUTHEASTERN NORTH CAROLINA (WECT) - Throughout a week where North Carolina saw record high numbers of new cases and hospitalizations, another trend solidified — younger people are making up the majority of novel coronavirus cases.
Not only that, but compared to their proportion of the population, those 18 to 24 and 25 to 49 are disproportionately testing positive.
“Recently, most of the cases have been in younger people,” said Dr. Paul Kamitsuka, chief epidemiologist at New Hanover Regional Medical Center. “That’s where we’ve seen most of the recent surging.”
On Friday, Brunswick County noted that 60% of its COVID-19 patients are under the age of 50.
In New Hanover County, just those 25 to 49 make up 46% of positive test results when that age group makes up just 32% of the county’s population.
Health experts at Southeastern North Carolina counties have said they believe the spread in these age groups is attributed to gatherings of people and employees at service industry jobs contracting it at work.
Unless they have pre-existing medical conditions or other underlying health concerns, Kamitsuka said, those under the age of 50 are typically better off when it comes to fighting the virus — not always, but in general.
However, he said increased spread among that population increases the risk to those who are more vulnerable, because there is simply more virus out in the environment.
“The problem is the older population, say 60 and older, they’ve all been doing a very good job of socially distancing,” he said. “But if the younger folks get infected and bring it back to the older folks, that’s when we’re going to start seeing the expected increase in mortality that we all are expecting to see.”
In the same week Brunswick County saw a surge of young COVID cases, it also reported new outbreaks and deaths at congregate care facilities.
Statewide, coronavirus deaths at nursing homes and other facilities still account for half of all deaths.
Kamitsuka continued to urge the public to wear a face mask and practice social distancing.
Limiting gatherings is also important, they said — many of the new cases reported in the last week are believed to be linked to gatherings in homes.
Lisa Brown from the New Hanover County health department said the younger population needs to focus on controlling the spread — and quickly.
“We need to do it now,” she said, “because as we move into the fall, if we have not gotten this under control, when we start adding flu season, and the common cold, the common coronavirus is circulating to that can mimic the symptoms. That’s just a situation that we don’t want.”