Young adults driving spike in West Virginia coronavirus cases

CHARLESTON — Much like other states across the nation, West Virginia is seeing a spike in coronavirus cases partly driven by young adults in their 20s.

According to data from the Department of Health and Human Resources’ coronavirus dashboard, 17 percent of the state’s positive COVID-19 cases are residents between the ages of 20 and 29.

“This level of outbreak is affecting now those a couple of decades under the outbreak levels we were witnessing before,” Gov. Jim Justice said Monday after being briefed by Vice President Mike Pence during a conference call with other governors. “This outbreak now is attacking our younger people as well.”

Cases in West Virginia have increased by 100.9 percent over the last 14 days compared to the previous 14 days – the maximum incubation time for the virus.

Cases during the first 14 days of June were 282 and increased to 566 over the last 14 days.

Testing is also up by 9.6 percent over the same 14-day period though testing over the last seven days was lower than the previous two weeks.

Dr. Clay Marsh, the state’s coronavirus czar, said that more than 71 percent of the state’s residents who have tested positive for the coronavirus are under the age of 60, with people in their 20s making up the largest chunk of that percentage. While the average of people in the U.S. with COVID-19 is 48, Marsh said the average age of the infected in Florida, Texas and South Carolina in 40.

“Young people are not immune from this disease,” Marsh said.

“A percentage of younger people who didn’t seem to have a whole lot of problems with this before are now having a problem with it,” Justice said.

Out of West Virginia’s 93 deaths attributed to COVID-19, two people in their 20s have died from the virus since the first coronavirus-related death was confirmed March 29, accounting for 2 percent of all deaths. The average age of the 93 people who died from COVID-19 is 76 with 65 percent of deaths being people between the ages of 70 and 89 and 46 percent of all deaths attributed to nursing home residents.

“This doesn’t mean that a giant high percentage of the young people are dying or are terribly sick with this, but we thought if you were under the age of 50 and got this, no big problem,” Justice said. “That’s not the case. In situations that are cropping up now, young people are getting really sick.”

Justice and Marsh encouraged youth to take the coronavirus pandemic more seriously, warning that even asymptomatic carriers can bring COVID-19 home to adults and grandparents who are more at risk of serious symptoms. They further encouraged all West Virginians to wear masks and practice social distancing.

“Absolutely protect yourself,” Justice said. “If you’re the parents and grandparents of those people tell them just because they get it and they may not have a problem with it, it doesn’t mean they can’t bring it home.”

“States that see much less mask wearing are seeing increases in COVID-positive individuals,” Marsh said. “For West Virginia, we’ve done really well, but it is absolutely crucial we double-down and wear our masks and protect ourselves when we go put.”

(Adams can be contacted at sadams@newsandsentinel.com)


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