As outbreak booms, younger Ohioans comprise most COVID-19 cases

By: - June 25, 2020 1:00 am

Case counts by age group and date of illness onset. Image by Jake Zuckerman. Source: Ohio Department of Health

More than half of the Ohioans who contracted COVID-19 in June are less than 40 years-old, a sign that new cases are skewing younger in the newly reopened economy.

In May, people in the age group comprised about 41% of the month’s new cases, according to a spreadsheet analysis of state data released Wednesday.

The Ohio trend mirrors similar patterns in Texas and Florida, where officials have connected the younger cases to parties and bar outings.

Restaurants in Ohio opened for outdoor dining May 15 and dine-in service May 21. Personal care services like barbershops and nail salons opened May 15. Gyms, swimming pools and sports leagues re-opened May 26. Amusement parks and water parks open June 19.

The likelihood of death and hospitalization from COVID-19 is low among young people and generally increases with age, according to CDC research. For instance, among about 1,500 patients hospitalized for COVID-19 in March, about 25% were younger than 50.

Of about 31,000 COVID-19 hospitalizations captured in CDC surveillance data accessed Wednesday, about 8,100 of the patients are between 18 and 49. Nearly 2.4 million Americans have been infected with the disease, per a count Wednesday from Johns Hopkins University. 

In an email, ODH spokeswoman Melanie Amato offered several explanations for why cases are trending younger:

  • More people are going out
  • Younger people are going back to work, and authorities are conducting testing in workplace settings
  • Families and students are travelling around the U.S. for summer vacation. (The Cincinnati Enquirer reported Tuesday that more than 12 Ohio high school students tested positive for COVID-19 after a Myrtle Beach trip.)
  • Broader testing guidelines, enabled by increased testing capacity, are allowing young people to get tested.

The shift toward younger cases comes alongside a surge in new cases in Ohio — the state’s 10-day average for new cases has jumped for nine days in a row.

However, little data is available to know where people are believed to be exposed to the new coronavirus that causes the respiratory disease. 

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, addressed the increased prevalence of cases among young people while testifying before a congressional committee Tuesday.

“If you get infected and spread the infection, even though you do not get sick, you are part of the process of the dynamics of an outbreak in what you might be propagating, inadvertently infecting someone who then infects someone who then is someone who is vulnerable,” he said, per a CNBC report.

“That could be your grandmother, your father, your sick uncle, who winds up dying.”

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Jake Zuckerman
Jake Zuckerman

Jake Zuckerman is a statehouse reporter. He spent three years chronicling the West Virginia Legislature for The Charleston Gazette-Mail after covering cops and courts for The Northern Virginia Daily.