Young Adults Now Make Up Largest Number of COVID-19 Cases in State

Number of positive cases in people under 34 have spiked dramatically in the last month

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Young adults between the ages of 18 through 34 now make up 44% of positive COVID-19 cases in California. The figure is up from 29% compared to one month ago. The age group represents the largest share of COVID-19 cases in the state.

The new data is provided by Bay Area epidemiologist George Lemp, who crunched numbers provided by the California Department of Public Health.

There is no definitive reason as to why there is a marked increase in positive cases in the age group. But it coincides with the reopening of many businesses, including bars and restaurants in the state. There’s also been an increase in the availability of testing.

“In general, younger people feel like they’re invincible. They move away from the mitigation strategies, the masking, and social distancing,” says Dr. William Tseng, MD, with Kaiser Permanente in San Diego.

While the number of cases among young adults has skyrocketed in the last month, the exact opposite has happened in cases among people 50 years and older. The cases in that age group have dropped from 46% to 30.5% in the last month, according to the data.

In Pacific Beach, many young adults interviewed by NBC 7 were not concerned with the increase in positive cases.

“Personally, I think I’m going to try to find a balance, so I don’t want to completely ignore it,” said Cami Hardman.

“If we don’t have a vaccine, we’ve got to get over it one way or another, and that’s probably herd immunity. So, I think it might be the best route economically and health-wise,” said Brian Pennington.

But Tseng said herd immunity is a longshot with COVID-19 because, at this point, we're only at about 2% of the population being infected with the virus.

And while more young adults have tested positive for COVID-19, the rate of hospitalizations and deaths in that age group remains low.

As of Tuesday in San Diego County, people between the age of 20 to 39 represented 13% of people hospitalized. The age group accounts for 2% of deaths, according to the health department.

“If you're young and you're healthy, you may end up in the hospital but your risk of dying is really much lower. So, are we going to see more hospitalizations? Maybe. But are we going to see a drastic increase in deaths in the young population, I wouldn't say so yet,” said Tseng.

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