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US sees more COVID-19 cases, fewer deaths as more young people are infected

COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are up nationally but deaths are going down. That could be because younger people now make up a majority of the cases and more of the older population has been vaccinated.

The recent holidays impacted more than just our social calendars.

“We have seen a slight upward curve recently, and we’re trying to suppress that as much as we can,” said Joseph Pepe, administrator for the Florida Department of Health in Charlotte County.

Pepe said coronavirus cases in Charlotte County are rising, with similar trends happening across the state.

“The reason why that’s a concern is we just had Easter holiday. And in Easter, you typically spend time with grandparents and other family members, so you run the risk of exposing those that are maybe more vulnerable,” he said.

Dr. Cindy Prins, an epidemiologist with the College of Public Health and Health Professions at the University of Florida, said young people “tend to be less likely to be symptomatic and they may not even be aware that they’re spreading COVID.”

Lee Health and NCH report an increase in the number of coronavirus patients they’re treating, but one positive: The numbers of deaths have trended down.

Prins said vaccines are key.

“If folks can get vaccinated, at least that’s going to help interrupt that chain of transmission within our younger populations.”

“We know after H1N1, that the lowest level of adoption for vaccines was our college-aged kids. So they were less likely to get vaccinated,” Pepe said.

The recent rise in cases and hospitalizations is a nationwide problem. The CDC said the seven-day average in new cases is up 7% compared to last week. Hospitalizations are up about 3% and deaths are down to about 800 a day.

Pepe said it takes everyone to make a difference.

“My wish is a maskless Fourth of July. So in order to do that, we need to work together on this.”

Statement from Bayfront Health Port Charlotte and Punta Gorda:

As you likely know, Charlotte County has experienced an increase in newly reported COVID-19 cases over the course of the last few weeks. We too have seen an increase in the number of individuals testing positive for COVID and requiring hospitalization, with the age of positive patients being treated remaining around age sixty and older.

We do want to take this opportunity to remind viewers that masking and keeping a safe distance is still encouraged to slow the spread of the virus. Even with more people being vaccinated each day, these precautions remain CDC recommendations for everyone. Studies have shown that vaccinations significantly reduce the likelihood of becoming infected with COVID-19 but data is still being gathered that will inform future recommendations on when masking and other precautions will no longer be needed.

For certain individuals recently diagnosed with COVID-19, Bayfront Health Punta Gorda is offering monoclonal antibody therapies for the treatment of some cases of COVID-19. The research is showing that this therapy may limit the amount of the virus in the body; therefore, helping symptoms improve sooner. To learn more about this treatment, please encourage your viewers to speak with their physician. They can also visit https://www.bayfrontcharlotte.com/covid-19 to learn more about this treatment and how Bayfront Health is taking extraordinary measures to provide COVID-safe care.

R.D. Williams, CEO of Hendry Regional Medical Center, saw some of his most vulnerable neighbors in the ER when the pandemic first hit.

“As the COVID infections were kind of sweeping through the nursing facilities in the area, we had a lot of admissions from those facilities.”

Now, about 16 months in, the people coming to Hendry Regional for help have changed.

“We haven’t seen a nursing home admission for COVID in months. So all of our COVID admissions are coming from within the community,” Williams said.

According to the DOH, the average age of people testing positive for COVID in Hendry is just 38 years old. Surrounding counties are seeing younger people test positive as well and the state’s average is now just 40 years old.

“In terms of those who are testing positive for COVID, it tends to be a younger demographic who do not typically require hospitalization,” said Mary Mayhew, president and CEO of the Florida Hospital Association.

But that doesn’t mean our seniors are safe just yet, she said. “The individuals who are requiring hospitalization still tend to be those who are older, who have underlying medical conditions.”

“When I talked to the folks in the public health department that are conducting the contact tracing, they’re still finding that a lot of the spread is coming from within family groups,” Williams said.

There’s something we can all do now, no matter our age, to keep hospital beds empty.

“Here we are barely four months since those first vaccines arrived in Florida in mid-December, and we have now millions of individuals who have been vaccinated,” Mayhew said.

“We certainly need to continue to do this on into the summer and try to break the cycle of infections,” Williams said.

In Hendry County, the number of hospitalized COVID patients has dropped to only about one or two at a time. Williams said that allows medical center staff to focus on vaccinations instead.

Reporter:Veronica Marshall
Writer:Jackie Winchester
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