Coronavirus infections surge among young people across the South

Tribune Content Agency

RALEIGH, N.C. — Coronavirus cases have surged in the South this month, and young people make up a significant number of them, health experts warn.

At least three Southern states in the past week reported increasing numbers of teenagers or younger adults testing positive for COVID-19.

Young people account for the highest number of new cases in Florida and Louisiana, according to McClatchy newspapers and The Daily Iberian. And the largest rise in infections in South Carolina has been among people younger than 30.

In Texas, nearly half of all coronavirus infections in populous Dallas County in June were among 18- to 39-year-olds, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported on Saturday.

Though health officials say people older than 65 may be most at risk of getting seriously sick from COVID-19, younger people also can become ill. Some urban areas have seen recent rises in young people with serious coronavirus-related complications.

In Georgia, an Atlanta hospital had a jump in patients in their 20s and 30s, WSB-TV reported Saturday. And in North Carolina, three Charlotte-area patients who died last week were 40 to 59 years old, The Charlotte Observer reported.

While younger people across the country may be looking past health guidelines, others are keeping them in mind.

“It’s so concerning,” 24-year-old Nina Cecere told the Star Tribune. “It’s not a lesser threat than it was two months ago.”

Why are case counts rising?

Some health officials have said lax social distancing could be behind recent jumps in COVID-19 cases among younger people.

In South Carolina, people younger than 30 make up the biggest spike in new cases, a rise of almost 400% since April 4, The State reported.

“The increases that we’re seeing serve as a warning that young adults and youth are not immune to COVID-19,” a state health official said, according to the newspaper. “They also tell us that younger South Carolinians are not taking social distancing seriously.”

Health officials have urged people to keep their distance from others to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. But there’s evidence people across the region aren’t following that guidance.

On a “Social Distancing Scoreboard,” every Southern state earned an F grade as of Monday.

The company that compiled the scoreboard, Unacast, says it analyzes location data to determine distance traveled, optional trips and the likelihood people will come in contact. Failing scores were also reported in parts of the Midwest, Northeast and West.

The rankings come after governors in several Southern states relaxed restrictions on nonessential businesses.

Some young people who recently tested positive for the virus had gone to reopened bars and restaurants, McClatchy News reported last week. In Mississippi, several people got infected after fraternity rush events, according to the Sun Herald.

Recent coronavirus cases also have been tied to Myrtle Beach, S.C., a tourist destination that reopened before Memorial Day, The Sun News reported.

It’s also possible younger people aren’t following other health advisories, such as wearing a face mask in public. Using face coverings in public helps protect against the coronavirus because people can have the infection without showing symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

In Mississippi, it’s difficult to get that message through to younger people, who are ending up in hospitals, the Sun Herald reported on Friday. In the state, health experts attribute the spread of the virus to people who aren’t wearing face masks and are going to their jobs and other reopened businesses.

To the southeast, most new coronavirus cases in Florida are among younger people, the Miami Herald reported on Friday.

Members of that age group think because “it doesn’t really hurt them, they don’t have to wear the mask,” said Carlos Gimenez, Miami-Dade mayor, according to the newspaper. “But you can take it home to your parents and your grandparents.”

A recent surge in overall cases couldn’t be attributed solely to increased testing, according to the newspaper.

Reports of younger people increasingly testing positive for the coronavirus come after several Southern states earlier this month had record single-day hospitalizations or jumps in cases.


©2020 The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.)

Visit The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.) at

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.