With growing evidence that young people are some of the primary spreaders of COVID-19, the country’s top public health experts pleaded with them to adhere to safety protocols.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the infectious disease expert advising the Trump administration on its coronavirus response, and Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, both issued similar warnings at Friday’s coronavirus task force briefing.
“The overwhelming majority now of people getting infected are young people, likely the people that you see in the clips in the paper or out in crowds enjoying themselves,” Fauci said, noting that he, too, remembers feeling “invulnerable” when he was young. But he warned, “if you get infected, you will infect someone else, who clearly will infect someone else.”
“Ultimately, you will infect someone who’s vulnerable,” Fauci continued, emphasizing that many young people are asymptomatic after the virus infects them. “That may be somebody’s grandmother or grandfather, uncle who’s on chemotherapy and who’s on radiation or chemotherapy, or a child who has leukemia.”
The spread of the coronavirus among young people is especially evident in states that are experiencing major surges in new cases. In Arizona, for one, people ages 20-44 account for nearly half of all cases, and in Florida, the median age of someone testing positive for COVID-19 dropped from 65 in March to 35. The phenomenon is prevalent across much of the South, where many governors speedily reopened their economies at the urging of President Donald Trump.
“I also want to appeal to the millennials and those that are under 40,” Redfield said Friday. “It’s really important that this group really commit themselves to these practices to protect those at risk,” he said, advocating the “very powerful weapons” of masks and good hand hygiene.
“And it’s not just the elderly that are at risk,” he continued. “Many of us may have friends and colleagues that are younger that may not advertise their underlying co-morbidities,” Redfield said, listing diabetes and immune deficiencies as examples.
Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, made a similar plea at Friday’s press conference.
“We do know that we have people in the younger age groups with significant Type 1 diabetes and may also have individuals with significant obesity,” she said. “We know that those are risk factors, so risk factors go with your co-morbidity, not necessarily with your age.”
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