New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that the median age of people diagnosed with COVID-19 is getting lower. In May, the median age was 46. By July, the number dropped to 37.
In the new study, the CDC reports that one out of every five confirmed coronavirus cases is a person in their 20s. From June to August, COVID-19 incidence was highest in people ages 20 to 29. Earlier in the pandemic, it was reported that COVID-19 incidence was highest among older adults.
According to researchers, the shift toward infections among younger people shows that young adults likely contributed to community transmission.
Young Adults & Community Transmission
CNN notes that a similar age shift happened in Europe, where the median age of COVID-19 cases also declined from 54 to 39. The CDC study found multiple factors for the increase in coronavirus cases among young adults in the US.
In the report, the CDC writes, “Younger adults make up a large proportion of workers in frontline occupations…and highly exposed industries.” The jobs listed include retail, public transit, child care, restaurants/bars, and personal services.
Young adults with COVID-19 are more likely to have mild to no symptoms. This, the CDC says, can cause young adults to unknowingly “contribute to presymptomatic or asymptomatic transmission” in their communities.
The report also points out that younger adults might be less likely to follow community mitigation strategies, like practicing social distancing and avoiding group gatherings. As colleges welcomed students back for fall semester, many universities saw spikes in coronavirus cases among students. Colleges, like the University of North Carolina, placed blame on students hosting large gatherings and parties.
The CDC urged all people, including young adults, to take extra precautions to avoid transmission to family and community members who are older or have underlying medical conditions. As of publication, the US has more than 6,900,000 reported COVID-19 cases and 200,000 deaths.