The Wall Street Journal & Healthline:
Group largely avoided hospitals earlier in pandemic, but highly contagious Delta variant and lagging vaccination rates have changed health outcomes
Hospitalizations of Covid-19 patients in their 30s have hit a new record, U.S. government data show, a sign of the toll that the highly contagious Delta variant is taking among the unvaccinated.
Thirty-somethings, who are in prime ages for work and parenting, had largely avoided hospital stays for Covid-19 during earlier phases of the pandemic because of their relative good health.
Yet the age group is seeing new Covid-19 hospital admissions increase during the recent Delta-driven surge, which doctors and epidemiologists attribute to the failure of large numbers of Americans to get vaccinated and their highly active lives.
The rate at which adults ages 30 to 39 are entering hospitals with Covid-19 reached about 2.5 per 100,000 people as of last Wednesday, according to the latest data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Department of Health and Human Services, up from the previous peak of roughly 2 per 100,000 people in early January.
COVID-19 variants are now surging across the United States — especially the highly transmissible Delta variant, which accounts for the vast majority of cases.
Vaccinations for COVID-19 have also decreased with an average of around 750,000 vaccinations daily this week compared to over 3.9 million at the peak of vaccination. About 69 percent of U.S. adults currently have at least one vaccine dose. Demographically, people over age 65 have a much higher vaccination rate, with over 89 percent having at least one dose.
During the start of the pandemic, before there was a vaccine, those most likely to be hospitalized for COVID-19 were older adults.
Now that the Delta variant is spreading widely in the United States, physicians are seeing a worrying trend of younger people ending up in the ICU.
According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data, recent weeks have shown an increase in COVID-19-related hospitalizations for all age groups, with hospitalized adults ages 18–49 accounting for the largest increase.
The dramatic increase in cases seems to be related to the more infectious Delta variant.
“The Delta variant comprises well over 80 percent of what is circulating in the U.S.,” Dr. David Hirschwerk, infectious diseases specialist at Northwell Health in New York, told Healthline. “It is likely that Delta will continue to circulate in the fall, but naturally we all will be carefully scanning for the emergence of new variants.”
According to the recent CDC data, in the week ending July 24, people ages 18 to 49 are the largest demographic hospitalized for COVID-19.
This age group is currently affected far more than those ages 50–64 — and significantly more affected than the next oldest group (ages 65 and older), a trend that began in March of this year.
“A major reason for this is that vaccine uptake has been high among those over 65, and this was a group very vulnerable to severe illness,” explained Hirschwerk. “By proportion, fewer patients of more advanced age are currently being hospitalized with COVID.”
He added that the overall prognosis has improved since spring 2020, thanks to mainstays of treatment like supplemental oxygen, blood thinning drugs, and steroids.
“Depending on the severity of illness, some are candidates for other medications that influence the immune system,” he said.