Young people make up most local COVID-19 cases

MODELING A MASK: Dr. Mandy Cohen, Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, demonstrates the proper the use of a face covering during a press briefing on June 18. Photo courtesy of NCDHHS

This story was updated at 10:38 a.m. on June 23.

Editor’s note: This story has been corrected to reflect changes to the numbers of deaths shown on Buncombe County’s data dashboard. While our original reporting accurately stated the information shown on the dashboard at the time of publication, a county spokesperson clarified at 10:24 a.m. on June 23 that the original data had been incorrect due to an error by the dashboard developer.

Young people may think they’re invincible, but emerging trends prove otherwise: Across North Carolina, as well as in Buncombe County, the majority of COVID-19 cases are being confirmed in people under the age of 50.

According to data released June 22 by the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, 67% of COVID-19 cases across the state have occurred in individuals 49 years old or younger, up from 59% of cases as of May 25. Children and teenagers 0 to 17 years of age account for 10% of North Carolina’s cases; individuals between the ages of 18 and 24 account for an additional 12% of cases. 

The trends are similar in Buncombe: As of June 22, 58.1% of the county’s COVID-19 cases have been reported in individuals under the age of 50, with the majority of those cases in individuals 25 to 49. Children 17 years old or younger accounted for 7.9% of Buncombe’s cases, and young adults between the age of 18 and 24 years old comprised 9.9% of cases.

But the death rate among younger individuals remains significantly lower than in older residents. Only 5% (59) of COVID-19 deaths in North Carolina have occurred in individuals aged 49 or younger.

“We are all at risk of being infected,” said Dr. Jennifer Mullendore, the county’s interim health director, during a June 18 press conference. “Some of us will have serious illness and end up in the hospital. Some of us will die. These are the facts, and we need to take this seriously.”

Key state COVID-19 metrics continue to worsen

“It’s not ‘hair on fire,’ but we need to take this moment to think about how to change the trajectory of cases.” 

High viral spread and worsening metrics continue to worry health officials, including Dr. Mandy Cohen, N.C.’s secretary of health and human services. At a June 22 press conference, she noted that all of the trends she and other state health officials are monitoring are “moving in the wrong direction.” 

The update comes days before Gov. Roy Cooper’s Phase 2 reopening order is set to expire. An announcement with new guidelines — including a potential statewide mask mandate — is expected later this week. 

“We’re trying to find the right balance of protecting the economy and protecting people’s health,” Cohen explained. “We still have capacity in our health care system, but there are only so many beds we can surge if the numbers keep going up.” 

In other news

  • NCCARE360, the “first statewide network that unites health care and human service organizations,” is now operating in all 100 North Carolina counties. The tool offers electronic referrals, shares client information and tracks health outcomes with a wide resource network. 
  • The N.C. Nurses Association is asking the public to “wear face coverings in public whenever possible” to help slow the spread of COVID-19. “North Carolina may be making progress, but we still have a long way to go, and COVID-19 is going to be a threat to the health and well-being of everyone in the state for a long time,” said NCNA President-Elect Meka Douthit in a press release.
  • Girl Scouts Carolinas Peaks to Piedmont is offering virtual camp sessions throughout June and July. The interactive summer camp sessions, daily badge workshops and on-site horse programs are open to all girls grades K-12. 
  • The N.C. State Board of Elections is looking for election workers in advance of the November 2020 general election. To qualify, individuals must be registered voters and serve in their county of residence. 
  • According to data released June 19 by NCDHHS, the following COVID-19 outbreaks are reported at Buncombe long-term care facilities: 52 staff, 82 residents and 30 resident deaths at Aston Park Health Care Center; two staff and one resident at Brian Center Health and Rehabilitation/Weaverville; four staff at Carolina Pines at Asheville; seven staff, three residents and one resident death at Deerfield Episcopal Retirement Community’s Simonds Health Care Center; two residents at Harmony at Reynolds Mountain; and five staff and five residents at Stonecreek Health and Rehabilitation. 
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About Molly Horak
Molly is a recent graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and writer for Mountain Xpress. Her work has appeared in the Citizen-Times, News and Observer and Charlotte Observer. Follow me @molly_horak

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