SARASOTA, Fla. — "One of the myths is people think, I'm young I'm healthy, I can't get this disease,” said Dr. James Fiorica, chief medical officer at Sarasota Memorial Health.
Another myth: “I’m young so even if I get COVID, I’ll be fine.”
Fiorica, and many experts around Florida and the country, say younger people can contract the virus, become quite ill from it and also spread it to others.
There's been a shift in the age group testing positive for the coronavirus, especially in Florida.
"Now we see patients in their 20s, 30s and 40s that we weren't seeing back in March and April,” Fiorica said.
Statistically speaking you have a better chance of surviving this virus or even showing mild to no symptoms if you're younger. But, that doesn't mean 20- or 30-years-olds are immune to it.
"We cannot play the game of statistics,” Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Manuel Gordillo said. “We do see young people getting extremely sick, young people ending up in the ICU or sick enough to go to the hospital and have a hospitalization that could be very costly.”
Last month Sarasota Memorial reported the majority of their patients were between the ages of 25 and 45. Eleven of their patients were even under the age of 25.Doctors say this trend is continuing in July.
“From the intensive care unit we are seeing a decrease in the mean age," said Critical Care Intensivist Dr. Kirk Voelker. "It used to be that patients were in their 70s and 80s, now we have two patients in their 30s and I had a 19-year-old."
Yes, Voelker had a 19-year-old in his COVID-19 ICU. He and other doctors are sending out a warning: this virus doesn't care how old or how healthy you are.
BayCare Health is also seeing more patients between the ages of 18 and 35.
"While the data shows more younger people (18-35 years old) are getting the virus, the same percentage of patients seem to require intensive care," a spokesperson for BayCare said.
As of the end of last week, here's a breakdown of the age demographics for positive cases at BayCare Health:
- Ages 0-25 (2%)
- Ages 25-45 (11.9%)
- Ages 45-65 (33.2%)
- Ages 65+ (51.6%)
Tampa General Hospital says the average age of COVID patients at its facility is 58 years old. The hospital too has 20-, 30- and 40-year-olds admitted.
"The majority of younger patients have co-morbidities," a spokesperson said.
And, experts don't yet know what long term effects coincide with this virus even after a person is released from the hospital.
“What are the long-term effects of the disease in your lungs, and your kidneys? We do not know,” Gordillo said. “We are just learning about this disease.”
Doctors say it's not just because younger people are the ones congregating at bars and parties, but also because those 20-, 30- and 40-year-olds are the ones going back to work at restaurants and shops.
“This is the population that is most at risk,” Gordillo said. “They’re working in the grocery stores, and all these other places, and if people are not wearing masks then obviously, they are going to be exposed to folks that are coming in not wearing a mask.”
Gordillo says that creates a more dangerous environment for them. He says doctors aren’t recommending the use of face masks for nothing.
Just take this graphic for example. Look how far a cough can spread when wearing a mask versus not wearing one.
Those particles in the air are what’s spreading COVID-19.
“COVID is increasing significantly and everybody has the responsibility to do the appropriate thing which, right now, is wear your mask, wash your hands and limit your group interactions,” Voelker said.
Many people fear another quarantine stay-at-home lockdown is coming. But Fiorica says that won’t be necessary if people just wear face masks.
“If 80 percent of the people in the community wore a mask, that would be more effective than a lockdown,” Fiorica said. “You would be able to control the disease much more effectively if the vast majority of people wore masks. It’s just a better way to do it. It allows us to stay active and still be able to control the disease.”
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