SACRAMENTO, Calif. — As coronavirus infections rise among young Americans, so too have deaths in a population once thought to be largely shielded from the worst of the pandemic.
It marks a sharp contrast to the elderly and frail, many living in nursing homes, who succumbed to the virus a year ago before states made seniors a priority to get inoculated first.
UC Davis Health reported a 33% increase in COVID-19 patients in the first week of August, with just eight fewer patients hospitalized than the peak of the coronavirus pandemic back in December 2020.
“This is leading to substantial crowding of the emergency department, despite creating a special area for the care of patients with COVID,” Nathan Kuppermann, professor and chair in the Department of Emergency Medicine, said.
As has been reported in hospitals all over the world, the vast majority of symptomatic COVID cases coming into the hospital are unvaccinated individuals. More than half (61%) of the patients coming into the UC Davis Health emergency department so far in August have been 39 years old or younger. According to hospital data, 42% of patients are between the ages of 20 and 39 and 17% of the patients are 19 years old or younger.
“We are seeing young, otherwise healthy unvaccinated patients who are coming in with varying symptoms, ranging from gastrointestinal upset, fever, coughing, and sore throat to full-blown respiratory failure requiring intubation. It’s very sad,” said Nick Sawyer, a physician in the Department of Emergency Medicine at UC Davis Health.
It’s still not clear whether the delta variant leads to more severe illness in younger people but health experts say one thing is certain: The more contagious strain is causing more cases among people age 50 and under.
Most of those who have died were unvaccinated.