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Staff File Photo / "We strongly recommend that anyone eligible get vaccinated," said the health department's interim administrator, Sabrina Novak.

An increasing number of younger Hamilton County residents are dying because of COVID-19 as a result of the ongoing summer surge powered by the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus.

About 4% of Hamilton County COVID-19 deaths were age 50 or younger during the 2020-21 winter surge, whereas since the beginning of July, 22% of deaths have been below the age of 50, according to a news release Thursday from the Hamilton County Health Department.

(READ MORE: 'A great young man': Pastor, school remember Hamilton County student who died of COVID-19)

"We extend our sympathy to all of our community members who have lost a loved one to COVID-19," the health department's interim administrator, Sabrina Novak, said in the news release. "A greater number of young people are being hospitalized and dying compared to last year. We strongly recommend that anyone eligible get vaccinated to protect themselves from becoming seriously ill with COVID-19."

Although younger people are less likely to die from COVID-19 and related complications than their older counterparts, they're also less likely to be vaccinated against the disease and, in general, are more likely to engage in high-risk activities.

The number of new COVID-19 cases in Hamilton County has stabilized in recent days following weeks of exponential growth since mid-July. However, even if new cases continue to decline, the growing death toll from the summer surge is expected to continue for at least several more weeks.

(READ MORE: Tennessee leads nation in COVID-19 cases per capita)

COVID-19 hospitalizations in the county remain near a record high, with 344 patients — including 110 Hamilton County residents — hospitalized locally as of Thursday, according to data from the Hamilton County Health Department.

Vaccines are highly effective at preventing serious illness and death from the coronavirus and remain the best tool available to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

People seeking COVID-19 vaccinations can visit vaccine.hamiltontn.gov or call the COVID-19 Hotline at 423-209-8383 to find a vaccine site or upcoming event.

Contact Elizabeth Fite at efite@timesfreepress.com or follow her on Twitter @ecfite.

 

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