Covid-19 Infections Are Rising Fast in Millennials—Here’s Why

Young people thought they didn't need to worry as much about novel coronavirus, but now new Covid-19 cases are skyrocketing in younger populations. Here's why and how to protect yourself.

There’s no denying that the Covid-19 pandemic is still raging, and the United States is setting records for new infection rates on a daily basis. And while the virus was originally thought to be the biggest concern for only the elderly and those with pre-existing medical conditions, that may no longer be the case. The amount of Covid-19 cases are currently rising fastest in younger populations. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), when comparing an April 18 report to a June 27 report on the weekly surveillance summary of Covid-19 activity, there has been a 299 percent increase in hospitalizations among young adults aged 18-29, versus a 139 percent increase in hospitalizations for older adults aged 65 and up. So, why are more millennials testing positive for coronavirus? We asked medical experts for their insight. Here are some of the possible reasons for the high number of Covid-19 cases in this population.

people wearing face masks leaning against red wallLeoPatrizi/Getty Images

There are more opportunities for testing

One reason that Covid-19 cases in younger populations may be rising is that more of them are finally getting tested now. “Back in March and April, most of the testing for Covid-19 was happening at hospitals and acute care centers, places that older people were going when they got infected and sick,” explains Abe Malkin, MD, founder and medical director of Concierge MD LA and a contracted internist at Avalon Malibu. “Younger people didn’t need to go to the hospital, so they weren’t being tested as much. Now that there are drive-through testing centers and outpatient places where younger individuals can go to get tested, younger cases are being captured.” (Here’s what you need to know about at-home Covid-19 tests.)

The virus may have changed

Since its inception in the United States, the Covid-19 virus has changed. “The virus attaches itself to a host through ‘spikes,’ and when it initially attached to patient populations, those who were more vulnerable were being attacked—people with weakened immune systems and the elderly,” explains Mark Brown, chief nursing officer of Good Samaritan Hospital in San Jose, California. “Then, once the shelter in place orders started, the virus had to mutate to sustain itself and survive,” Brown says. That means it’s possible that it has become more infectious, he explains, so it can replicate itself easier and attack anyone within minutes.

Millennials are being less cautious

As reported in places like the Ozarks in Missouri and The University of Washington in Seattle, multiple outbreaks have led to higher Covid-19 cases are happening in younger demographics. “Twenty- to 30-year-olds are congregating in these places and not social distancing because they don’t seem to care,” says Brown. “With the virus being so contagious, it can be passed when you’re hanging out for just 30 minutes with no precautions.” (Check out the public places doctors avoid during coronavirus.)

group of friends drinking cocktails and wearing face masksnautiluz56/Getty Images

Millennials miss coronavirus symptoms

Another reason that younger populations are seeking treatment for Covid-19 is that they aren’t recognizing the initial signs and symptoms of coronavirus. Things like a slight but persistent cough, gut issues, and inflammation can be symptoms of Covid-19, but they’re being passed over as not serious. “These individuals are thinking ‘oh I just have bad allergies,’ or ‘I drank too much the night before,’ and by the time they finally decide to get treatment, we’re seeing them sicker than if they’d come in during the first initial days,” explains Brown. “Now they need fluids, oxygen, or some kind of extra support when we could have had them treated at home if they came in earlier.” Plus, anyone they came into contact with could end up being infected, too. (If coronavirus is airborne, this is what you need to know.)

Millennials are eager to get back to “normal” life

Younger populations seem to be more cavalier about following the social distancing and mask-wearing guidelines. “Now that restrictions have been lifted around dining and other stuff, older populations seem to be staying home or socially distancing well,” explains Dr. Malkin. “But younger people are chomping at the bit to get out and live their lives.” (Here are some of the worst super spreader events since the start of the pandemic.)

How to stay safe and reduce your risk of coronavirus

The best way to stay safe and lower your chances of contracting Covid-19 is to follow the guidelines put forth by the CDC. “Wash your hands, wear a mask whenever you can, and try to congregate in small enough group sizes where you can maintain some sort of social distance,” says Dr. Malkin. “Use common sense when you go out to eat, and don’t do things like share food or drinks or straws.” While wearing a mask and staying socially distance may seem inconvenient, the alternative is getting sick, making someone else sick (and potentially deadly ill), not to mention contributing to another lock down—and no one wants any of that to happen. (Need help finding a comfortable mask? Here are 9 best face masks for summer.)

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Amy Schlinger
Amy Schlinger is a skilled reporter, writer, and editor who regularly interviews world-renowned doctors and medical professionals, elite trainers, nutrition experts, professional athletes, and celebrities. She has 11 years of experience covering health, fitness, wellness, nutrition, and lifestyle topics. She has held staff positions at Shape Magazine, DailyBurn, Self Magazine, and PopSugar. Her work has appeared in Men’s Health, The New York Post, Women’s Health, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, Health Magazine, Outside Magazine, Livestrong, Map My Fitness, MSN, Runner’s World, Bicycling Magazine, and more. She has been featured in DailyBurn’s Live to Fail workout video series (five total), is a National Academy of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer (NASM-CPT), and is certified in Kettlebell Training. Amy is extremely passionate about healthy living, and can often be found researching and testing out new wellness trends and fitness programs or strength training at the gym. She has run six half marathons, completed one triathlon, biked two century rides, finished two Tough Mudder races, and four Spartan races, including a beast at the Spartan World Championships at Squaw Mountain in North Lake Tahoe.