Youth is no shield from coronavirus in Tennessee, Georgia

Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / People cross the Walnut Street Bridge on Thursday, March 26, 2020 in Chattanooga, Tenn. Despite recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to practice social distancing, which they define as "remaining out of congregate settings, avoiding mass gatherings, and maintaining distance (approximately 6 feet or 2 meters) from others when possible," people still enjoyed the Walnut Street Bridge.

One thing most people understand about the novel coronavirus that continues to spread around the country is that older people - primarily those older than 65 - and those with compromised immune systems are most susceptible to virus.

However, evidence from health officials shows the virus has effects on people of all ages and, in some cases, as in Tennessee, it is disproportionately affecting young people. On Wednesday, Hamilton County health officials announced the county's first child death due to coronavirus.

In Tennessee, where there were 2,239 confirmed cases of the coronavirus as of Tuesday afternoon, more than 25% of people who had tested positive (566) were in their 20s and 15% (346) were in their 30s.

The Georgia Department of Public Health has not been releasing the specific ages of confirmed cases, but similar trends are showing up there.

In Wednesday's report, of the 4,638 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Georgia, 58% of people were between 18 and 59 years old. Only 35% were confirmed to be over 60 years old.

Tennessee Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey said young people have to remember they are putting other people at risk when they don't practice social distancing.

"I understand it's easy to think 'I'm young, I'm healthy, this may not impact me as badly.' But as you've heard the governor say on many occasions and me as well - you're still at risk and you're still putting others at risk," she said. "So, because we are having that disproportionate younger population, we are right now having a lower-than-average hospitalization rate. I'm not certain that trend will hold."

Many by now have seen the photos and videos of spring breakers crowding the beaches of Florida in March, ignoring pleas from the federal and state governments to practice social distancing.

However, a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that younger adults have greater concerns about the coronavirus than older Americans, with 43% of adults under 30 being very worried compared with 21% of those age 60 and over.

Dr. Deborah Birx, who is serving as the coordinator for President Donald Trump's coronavirus task force, said last week in a news conference that millennials are "the core group that will stop the virus."

Birx urged millennials to stay out of bars and restaurants to help stop the spread of the virus. Birx also said she believes millennials will play a large role in stopping the spread because the generation - whose members are now between 24 and 39 years old - are especially good at connecting with each other and their elders in today's digital age without meeting in person.

According to the CDC, there had been no ICU visits or deaths reported among people under 20 in the U.S. as of March 21. Only 1.6% had been hospitalized.

Adults between the ages of 20 and 44 have a 14.3% hospitalized rate, with 2% being admitted to the ICU, and a 0.1% fatality rate.

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