Tag Archives: Youth

Troubling trend in Bay Area pandemic – more young people infected, ill

[Solano County’s COVID age group data doesn’t mesh with age group data given in this report.  But I can report that 10% of Solano cases are youth under 18, significantly higher than in April.  And although the 18-49 age group is 41% of the County population, it represents over 61% of total cases, by far the highest percentage of all age groups.  More Solano data here.  – R.S.]

Troubling trend in pandemic: More young people infected, ill

San Francisco Chronicle, By Catherine Ho, August 10, 2020

A young crowd attends the Juneteenth celebration at Lake Merritt in Oakland. Young people make up thefastest-growing demographic contracting the coronavirus in many regions.
A young crowd attends the Juneteenth celebration at Lake Merritt in Oakland. Young people make up the fastest-growing demographic contracting the coronavirus in many regions. Photo: Nina Riggio / Special to The Chronicle

As the coronavirus enters its eighth month, a troubling trend has emerged in the Bay Area and around the nation: More young people are getting sick, in numbers so large that in some regions they now make up the largest and fastest-growing demographic contracting the virus.

It marks a dramatic shift from the narrative that dominated the early weeks of the pandemic, when health experts emphasized that older adults, in part due to the higher likelihood of chronic health conditions, were most at risk of falling ill.

“We are seeing increased rates of infection among young adults,” Santa Clara County public health officer Dr. Sara Cody said at a July county board of supervisors meeting. “It’s where the epidemic is spreading the most quickly. … This is disproportionately accelerating among young adults.”

In six Bay Area counties, people in their 30s or younger make up the largest proportion of cases. In San Francisco, for instance, 18-to-40-year-olds represent 48% of all cases; in Santa Clara County, 20-39­year-olds represent 39% of all cases. Anecdotally, the region’s medical clinics are reporting a major uptick in younger people coming in with COVID-19 symptoms like shortness of breath, fever and cough.

Statewide, the number of cases among people ages 18 to 34 shot up 1358% between May 1 and Aug. 1, from 12,373 to 180,354 — representing an increase from 24% of all cases to 35% of all cases, according to the California Department of Public Health. During the same period, the number of cases among people 65 and older grew more slowly, 387%, from 11,547 to 56,206 — representing a drop from 22% of all cases to 11% of all cases.

At the Stanford coronavirus outpatient clinic, the proportion of patients under age 40 has more than doubled since April, from about 25% to 55%, said Dr. Maja Artandi, the clinic’s medical director.

In the South Bay, Kaiser is seeing more patients under age 30 getting hospitalized with COVID-19, which was unusual during the first surge in March. And more patients in their 20s are also seeking medical care for the virus from their primary care doctors.

“It’s worrisome,” said Dr. Charu Ramaprasad, an infectious disease physician in Kaiser’s San Jose Medical Center, who has been leading much of the health system’s coronavirus response.

Health officials and physicians have not pinpointed exactly why younger adults appear to be driving the latest surge in infections. But many believe it is likely because young people have been going out more — either for jobs that require them to interact with the public frequently, or in social settings — and are being more lax about social distancing and wearing masks.

And younger people may experience less severe symptoms, which may lead them to think it’s OK to gather with friends if they have just a minor cough or a scratchy throat, said Dr. Aisha Mays, medical director of the Dream Youth Clinic at Roots Community Health Center in Oakland.

“We have seen our young folks have a false sense of security that make them more susceptible to contracting COVID,” Mays said. “In the beginning, we were really concerned about our elderly population because they are so much more susceptible to the negative effects of COVID, including death. At the same time, it might have sent an unintended message to our young people that they were more immune to contracting COVID.

“We know that’s not true. We know young people can still contract COVID as easily as anyone else.”

People in their 20s and 30s are less likely to be hospitalized or die from the coronavirus than people in their 60s and 70s. Eight out of 10 coronavirus-related deaths in the United States have been among adults 65 or older, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And hospitalization rates for people between 18 to 29 years old are 56 per 100,000, compared to 281 per 100,000 for people between 65 and 74 years old.

Still, many young people have symptoms severe enough to send them to the emergency room or intensive care. And even if they have mild symptoms, they still risk exposing older family members or friends who may get much sicker from the virus.

One of them is Tyler Lopez, 27, who in June began experiencing fatigue and chest congestion and lost his sense of smell. Lopez tested positive for the coronavirus, quarantined for 10 days and felt like he had recovered — but was soon hit with a second and much more severe wave of symptoms.

His heart rate repeatedly shot up to above 120, at times going as high as 140, even when he was sitting or lying down, and he had a fever and chest pain so bad it felt like the inside of his chest was inflamed, he said.

Lopez, who lives in Riverside, was admitted to a hospital twice. Doctors ran tests and concluded the COVID-19 infection likely caused inflammation in the tissue surrounding the heart, and that he could’ve gone into cardiac arrest if the medication he received at the hospital had not reduced the inflammation fast enough, he said.

“It’s just crazy what COVID can do,” said Lopez, who was released from the hospital last week and is recovering at home. He plans to go back to his doctor next week to see if he can get cleared to return to work — nearly two months after he first noticed symptoms. “The past couple months, it totally changed my life.”

Before he got sick, Lopez said, he did not take the virus seriously and continued going to the gym and meeting up with friends.

“I was like, ‘It’s not that big of a deal, whatever, if I get it, I get it,’ ” he said. “I was just living life without taking that extra precaution.”

He now wishes he had been more careful.

“It jacked me up,” he said. “I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy.”

Local health officials recently launched initiatives to urge people in their teens and 20s to practice social distancing, wear masks and limit activities to the outdoors like biking or hiking. Contra Costa County beginning Aug. 10 will start training hundreds of youth ambassadors to help get the message out to their peers.

A regional effort led by seven Bay Area public health departments, Crushing the Curve, has a similar aim.

Brandi House, 19, will participate in both programs as a youth leader. She said many of her acquaintances and coworkers have been going to parties during the pandemic, not believing the virus is serious or that they will get sick. She hopes to help dispel such attitudes.

“The message I’d like to put out for young people is to know this is real,” said House, of Richmond. “I know a lot of people not believing COVID is real. I know people that are still going to parties and stuff. I’m like, ‘Why are you going to parties during this time?’

“There’s a lot of people that have been getting sick and passing from it. That’s one message I want to get out.”

100,000 children have the virus – thank goodness Benicia Schools will open Aug 17 with distance learning only

[For latest info on Benicia Schools see August 6 Virtual Plan Update. For other BUSD information see Reopening / COVID Response. – R.S.] 

Children and the virus: As schools reopen, much remains unknown about the risk to kids and the peril they pose to others

Washington Post, by Haisten Willis, Chelsea Janes and  Ariana Eunjung Cha, August 10, 2020
Parent Amanda Seghetti was concerned when photos on social media showed students — bereft of masks and not observing social distancing — crowding Georgia schools last week. (Lynsey Weatherspoon for The Washington Post)

DALLAS, Ga. — The photos showed up on social media just hours into the first day of school: 80 beaming teens in front of Etowah High School near Atlanta, with not a mask on a single face and hardly six inches of distance between them — let alone the recommended six feet.

Amanda Seghetti, a mom in the area, said her parent Facebook group lit up when the pictures of the seniors were posted. Some people thought the images were cute. Others freaked out. Seghetti was in the latter constituency.

“It’s like they think they are immune and are in denial about everything,” Seghetti said.

Pictures of packed school hallways in Georgia and news of positive tests on the first day of classes in Indiana and Mississippi sparked the latest fraught discussions over the risk the coronavirus presents to children — and what’s lost by keeping them home from school. Friday brought reports of more infections among Georgia students, with dozens forced into quarantine in Cherokee County, among other places.

For months, parents and teachers, epidemiologists and politicians have chimed in with their views on the many still-unanswered questions about the extent to which the virus is a threat to children — and the extent to which they can fuel its spread.

A report from leading pediatric health groups found that more than 97,000 U.S. children tested positive for the coronavirus in the last two weeks of July, more than a quarter of the total number of children diagnosed nationwide since March. As of July 30, there were 338,982 cases reported in children since the dawn of the pandemic, according to data from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association.

President Trump has repeatedly maintained the virus poses little threat to children.

“The fact is they are virtually immune from this problem,” Trump said Wednesday in an interview with Axios.

Eight months after the World Health Organization received the first report of a “pneumonia of unknown cause” in China, much remains uncertain about the coronavirus and children.

Doctors are more confident that most children exposed to the virus are unlikely to have serious illness, a sentiment backed by a report published Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that concluded children are far less likely to be hospitalized with covid-19, the illness caused by the virus, than adults. But when children do fall seriously sick, the burden of illness is borne disproportionately: That same CDC report concluded that Hispanic children are approximately eight times more likely and Black children five times more likely to be hospitalized with covid-19 than their White peers.

Early studies on children and the virus were small and conflicting. But accumulating evidence suggests the coronavirus may affect younger children differently than older ones.

For example,doctors say themultisystem inflammatorysyndrome linked to the virus — known as MIS-C —that has appeared in some children weeks after infectionpresents differently in younger children than in teens and young adults. Infants and preschoolers who have been diagnosed with the syndrome have symptoms mirroring Kawasaki, a disease of unknown cause that inflames blood vessels.In the older group, the consequences appear more severe, with doctors describing it more like a shock syndrome that has led to heart failure and even death.

Several studies suggest adolescence could mark a turning point for how the virus affects youths — and their ability to spread the pathogen.

One paper published in July in the journal JAMA Pediatrics found that children younger than 5 with mild to moderatecases ofcovid-19 had much higher levels of virus in their noses than older children and adults — suggesting they could be more infectious. That study, conducted by doctors at the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, used data from 145 children tested at drive-through sites in that region.

A study out of South Korea examining household transmission also found age-based differences in children. Puzzlingly, it seemed to reach an opposite conclusion about transmission than the Chicago researchers did. Children under age 10 did not appear to pass on the virus readily, while those between 10 and 19 appeared to transmit the virus almost as much as adults did.

Max Lau, an epidemiologist at Emory University tracking superspreader events in the state in collaboration with the Georgia Department of Public Health, said two striking trends have emerged even as work continues on an analysis of recent data.

Disease detectives have found relatively few infections among young children even after the state loosened its coronavirus-related shutdown. Researchers elsewhere have noted there hasn’t been a clear, documented case of a young child triggering an outbreak. In contrast, cases spiked among 15- to 25-year-olds, suggesting they may be driving the spread of the virus.

“When the shelter-in-place lifted, they perceived that they could go back to normal life and that’s what I observed,” Lau said.

In May, Jerusalem’s Gymnasia Ha’ivrit high school was the center of a major outbreak that public health officials said seeded transmission to other neighborhoods. In June, an overnight YMCA camp in Georgia was forced to close after 260 of 597 children and staff members tested positive for the virus — an event some experts heralded as a parable for what can happen when young people are allowed to gather without being attentive to wearing masks or maintaining physical distance. At that camp, the first to come down with symptoms and be sent home was a teenage counselor.

Other gatherings among teens have led to smaller outbreaks. In New Jersey, it was a party at a country club that left at least 20 teens infected. In Michigan, health officials said more than 100 teens in three counties have tested positive since mid-July following graduations and other parties.

Sadiya S. Khan, an assistant professor of cardiology and preventive medicine at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, said social practices, rather than biology, may explain why teens and young adults appear to be spreading infection.

“They are more likely to be out and about. They are more likely to not have experienced any consequences,” Khan said. “There has been a lot of attention to the fact that people who are older have a worse course and if you’re young, it doesn’t feel as dangerous, so they might think, ‘Why be as careful?’ ”

Khan said she worries schools that don’t enforce mask-wearing and social distancing can be laboratories for superspreader events rippling out to the broader community.

For years, the flu vaccine was targeted to adults. Then, researchers recognized the role of children in spreading the virus and advised they be inoculated. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Medical history tells us that children’s role in infectious diseases is not always what we first assume. In 1960, in response to significant deaths among the elderly during the 1957-1958 influenza pandemic, the surgeon general recommended flu vaccines for people 65 and older. It wasn’t until decades later that studies showed that mortality among older people could be reduced by vaccinating the young. In 2002, the CDC recommended flu shots for infants and in 2008 expanded that to school-age children.

With the coronavirus pandemic, like any disease outbreak, research takes time, and experts say decisions being made about reopening schools are necessarily being made without the full picture of the risk the virus poses to children.

For example, the CDC’s study of that Georgia YMCA camp did not include detailed tracing of how cases spread among campgoers. Did one teenage counselor spread the virus to the whole camp? Did that counselor infect a few younger children, who in turn infected other younger children?

Similarly, that study did not document what happened to families of the infected when the children returned home. Did they bring the virus back to their families, thereby dispelling the notion that children do not transmit the virus to adults? Or, if infections did spread, was it simply the result of high viral prevalence in Georgia, and not the result of contact with a campgoer?

As the case of the Georgia camp illustrates, measuring the risk younger children face in returning to school continues to be an inexact art. Parents are left with the agonizing and anxiety-riddled task of evaluating that potential peril for themselves. And they must weigh the potential health risks of the virus against the educational, social, developmental and economic consequences of children remaining out of the classroom.

Teachers unions from Florida to Ohio have protested plans to fully reopen schools, arguing that even if a few months of data suggests children are not likely to suffer severe outcomes from the virus, they could still pass it to vulnerable adults.

On Aug. 2 — hours before the first day of school — the principal of North Paulding High School near Atlanta sent a letter to parents informing them of coronavirus infections on the football team. Video on the Facebook page for the team’s parent-run booster club showed members of the team, with no masks or distance between them, lifting in a weight room as part of a fundraising event a week earlier.

On the first day of school, students posted a picture of hallways crammed with unmasked classmates. One student was initially suspended for posting the pictures. The school overturned that suspension Friday.

Within days, the school burst into the national spotlight, and the issue spawned heated arguments in a local Facebook group called “What’s Happening Paulding,” with parents occasionally descending into name-calling and expletive-laced tirades as they argued over whether the pictures should warrant concern. Sunday night, North Paulding High sent a letter to parents announcing the school would be closed to in-person learning for at least two days because of nine cases of the coronavirus.

John Cochran, the father of a ninth-grader and middle-schooler in the Georgia school system, said in an interview he felt it wasn’t safe for his children to attend school in person, in part because multiple adults in their family are immunocompromised.

“That was one thing we stressed to the kids — they’ve got too many adults that they are regularly in contact with who could be in bad shape if they pick this up from them,” Cochran said. “Personally, I didn’t want that on my kids’ conscience that they went to school and got their mother, stepdad, dad or grandparents sick.”

Seghetti has decided to keep son Kaiden, 11, out of his Georgia school.
Seghetti has decided to keep son Kaiden, 11, out of his Georgia school. (Lynsey Weatherspoon for The Washington Post)

In Georgia’s Cherokee County, where the 80 students gathered for that unmasked photo, Seghetti said she knows she’s in the minority in deciding to keep her 11-year-old son, Kaiden, home from school.

Seghetti said after seeing photos shared by parents from inside schools and learning that two elementary campuses in the district already had reported coronavirus cases — a second-grader Tuesday and a first-grader Wednesday — she is confident she made the right decision. Cherokee County schools spokeswoman Barbara P. Jacoby said the schools have implemented changes to try to keep students safe, including staggering bell times to avoid hall crowding and providing students with two masks each they can wear if they wish.

Karin Jessop’s two children, ages 12 and 13, attended that YMCA day camp at Lake Burton where the residential camp outbreak unfolded. Her children, who were at the camp for four weeks but came home each night, did not get infected; the outbreak was among those who stayed overnight, another reminder of the unpredictability of the spread.

Jessop, a technology company executive, said after news of the outbreak broke, “a lot of moms were getting stressed out about making the wrong decision and worried what people will think.”

“At the end of the day, it’s your family,” she said, adding she believes staying home affects her children’s development, which makes the camp experience worth the risk.

“Many of these kids have been home since March, and if you have super gregarious, extroverted kids, they are used to and need that interaction.”

Recklessness or reopening: Why are more young people getting coronavirus?

Millennial, Gen Z workers often on the front lines of retail, restaurants

OAKLAND, CA – JUNE 27: Katherine Brady, 25, of San Francisco, has lunch with Cinque Curry, 25, of Oakland, at Jack London Square in Oakland, Calif., on Saturday, June 27, 2020. Brady and Curry talked about the changes they made to their daily routine because of the coronavirus pandemic. Curry changed his behavior after members of his family were infected by COVID-19. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group)
Mercury-News, by Nico Savidge and Leonardo Castañeda, June 28, 2020

A surge of coronavirus cases among young people is leading to a generational blame game as California and other states grapple with a second wave of the virus.

Reports of outbreaks across the country tied to fraternity houses and college-town bars have helped fuel a perception that people in their teens and 20s — who are far less likely to die from COVID-19 but can still suffer debilitating bouts of the virus or pass it along to others who are more vulnerable — have thrown caution to the wind because they don’t feel threatened by it.

A long list of other factors may also be at play in the increase, however.

“I see plenty of irresponsibility going on across the age spectrum as we have opened up,” said Dr. Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, chair of the University of California San Francisco’s Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics. “I don’t think it’s helpful to demonize one group or another.”

An analysis released last week found 44 percent of new coronavirus cases in California were among people 34 or younger, compared to 29 percent a month ago. Meanwhile, the analysis of California Department of Public Health data, conducted by infectious disease epidemiologist George Lemp, found the share of cases from people over 50 was dropping.

At a press conference Friday, Gov. Gavin Newsom said the state is seeing an alarming increase in coronavirus cases among people under 35, which he called “that age cohort that believes in many cases that they are invincible, and they are somehow immune from the impacts of COVID-19.”

But the increase tracks with what Bibbins-Domingo said she expected as more businesses reopened.

During that process, she noted that government and public health officials told people at higher risk from coronavirus — particularly those who are older — that they should still stay at home to avoid infection. Younger people at lower risk, meanwhile, were given the OK to go out again, making it more likely they would catch the virus.

Now, after seeing a massive increase in new coronavirus cases last week, states and counties are rethinking their reopening plans.

“The age doesn’t concern me as much as the big rise in cases,” Bibbins-Domingo said.

Another possible explanation for the rise among young people: It’s a lot easier to get a COVID-19 test these days, which has meant people with milder or even asymptomatic cases, who skew younger, are finding out they have the virus, Bibbins-Domingo said.

And the jobs young people do could be playing a role as well. Nationwide, only about one-third of workers are in the 16 to 34 age group, but those in essential, public-facing jobs — as well as industries that have started reopening more broadly in recent weeks — tend to be younger.

In retail, where officials have been easing lockdown restrictions, about 56 percent of workers at clothing stores are 34 and younger, as are 70 percent of workers at shoe stores and 60 percent of those at electronics stores.

Nearly two-thirds of restaurant workers are 34 or younger, as are nearly half of grocery store employees, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Workers in food service “are so exposed,” said Sameer Shah, the 36-year-old co-owner of Voyager Coffee, who noted the business model of a coffee shop relies on serving perhaps hundreds of customers each day — all of whom could pose a risk in the coronavirus age. Nearly every worker at Voyager’s three cafes is under 35.

To lessen risk, Voyager workers serve customers at doorway counters, and don’t let people inside their cafes. Shah said it seems like irresponsible behavior from customers is becoming more common as the pandemic has dragged on — but he didn’t chalk it up to any particular age group.

“People are just not quite as on guard as they were before,” Shah said.

Still, there is some evidence that young people are more likely to take risks during the pandemic: While most people across all age groups report they are consistently wearing masks, avoiding groups and staying at least six feet away from others, people from 18 to 24 were much less likely than older adults to say they were doing so, a May CDC survey found.

Then again, millennials from 25 to 34 tend to be more cautious — they trailed only people 65 and older in their likelihood to report they were avoiding groups and wearing masks. (People from 45 to 54, the age range 52-year-old Newsom falls into, reported the second-lowest levels of compliance with those guidelines.)

Cinqué Curry, a 25-year-old construction worker from Oakland, admitted he didn’t take coronavirus very seriously at first — he went on a cruise in February, and traveled to Las Vegas in March, just as casinos started shutting down.

But then, Curry said, “I started to really think about my grandmother,” who was terrified of the virus. Seven of his family members across the country fell ill with COVID-19. All have since recovered.

Now, Curry said, he wears a mask, doesn’t venture out much and takes other precautions. On Saturday, he was enjoying some takeout tacos on a bench in Jack London Square with plenty of distance from other groups; unlike some peers, Curry isn’t jumping at the chance to start dining in restaurants or drinking in bars again.

“I feel like I’ve taken it as seriously as I can,” he said.

Coronavirus live updates: Solano youth infected at much higher percentage than nationally

3 important stories from the SF Chronicle’s Coronavirus Live Updates

A medical worker collects a sample to test for the coronavirus at CityTestSF in San Francisco. People around the world believe they have gotten sick despite testing negative.

San Francisco Chronicle, by Alejandro Serrano , Anna Bauman , Rita Beamish and Brett Simpson, updated June 18, 2020

7:58 p.m. June 17, 2020 – Solano County case spike reflects ‘preliminarily positive’ data, official says: Solano County reporting 105 new confirmed coronavirus cases Wednesday reflects a change in data reporting and a local outbreak among vineyard workers, county public health administrator Jayleen Richards wrote in an email. The new cases marked a 15.2% increase in Solano County’s total. Richards wrote the county has experienced “significant” delays in confirming results from two state-run test sites and has begun considering preliminary positive tests as positive cases in order to begin case investigations. “The data jump should be a one-time event since we started to include the preliminary data today,” Richards wrote. Wednesday’s case total also includes an outbreak among vineyard workers housed in Solano County and working in other counties who were recently tested for the virus, Richards wrote.

12:12 p.m. June 18, 2020 – Californians must wear masks outside home under new state order: People must immediately begin wearing masks outside the home when they cannot safely distance from other people to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, state health officials ordered Thursday, a day after reporting the largest number of new cases in a single day. The Chronicle’s Alexei Koseff reports.

June 18, 2020 1:35 p.m. – Kids and teenagers appear to be less likely to get the coronavirus and get sick than adults: A study recently published in Nature found that those under 20 are half as susceptible to infection as those that age or older, and only one in five between the ages of 10 and 19 show symptoms. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention puts the figure of coronavirus-infected kids younger than 18 at more than 90,000, or around 4% of those with the disease. [BenIndy Editor: Compare at 6.6% in Solano County as of June 17.]  See our detailed FAQ on the coronavirus and children for more.