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COVID-19 Cases Growing Among County’s Younger Residents, but It’s Older People Who Are Dying | Coronavirus Crisis

Younger people are accounting for increasing numbers of Santa Barbara County’s COVID-19 cases, even as the virulent disease continues to exact a heavy death toll on older residents, according to the Public Health Department.

In the past three months, 9.3% of COVID-19 cases have been among children (people under the age of 18), which is a 57.6% increase from the tally through mid-May.

That’s according to an Noozhawk analysis of data reported by the county Public Health Department for so-called “community” cases, which exclude Lompoc federal prison inmates.

The 18-29 age group has accounted for 30.5% of cases over the last three months, and the rate of cases in that group is also increasing. 

The youngest age group’s share of COVID-19 cases remains well below its proportion of the county’s population of 22.3%.

But the 18-29 age group, which makes up 22.9% of the population, is now disproportionally overrepresented among COVID-19 patients.

The 30-49 age group, which presumably includes the largest share of the county’s workforce and essential workers, has been disproportionately overrepresented throughout the pandemic.

That group represents 23.1% of the county’s population. As of May, it accounted for 33.3% of cases, a number that has risen to 37.0% over the last three months.

Despite these numbers, these groups have seen very few local deaths from the coronavirus.

Santa Barbara County’s young adults account for a disproportionate number of novel coronavirus cases, according to the Public Health Department. People in the 30-49 age group represent 37 percent of all positive cases reported.  (Giana Magnoli / Noozhawk illustration)

Meanwhile, the two oldest age groups — people between the ages of 50 and 69, and people over 70, — have experienced significant declines in their share of the county’s COVID-19 cases over the last three months.

In May, the 50-69 age group accounted for 30.2% of cases; over the last three months, that has dropped to 17.9% of cases. That’s a decline of 43%.

People in that group make up 21.6% of the county’s population.

Those in the oldest group, who make up 10.1% of the county’s population, accounted for 8.3% of cases in May. In the last three months, they have been only 5.4% of new cases. That’s a 30% drop.

However, that welcome news is more than offset by the fact that the older age groups, particularly those aged 70 and older, are primarily the ones dying from COVID-19 locally.

There have been 54 community deaths among residents aged 70 or older, as of last week, which works out to 73.0% of the county’s 74 reported fatalities at that point.

Many of those were people living in congregate care situations such as nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

Put another way, about 15% of the county’s COVID-19 patients in that age group have died, or roughly 1 in every 6.7.

Also hard hit has been the 50-69 group, which had recorded 17 deaths, for 23.0% of the total as of last week. Roughly 1.4% of confirmed patients in this group have died, or 1 of every 71.

There have been three deaths (4.2%) reported in the 30-49 age group, and none in people under the age of 30. 

Put another way, 1 in every 769 COVID-19 patients (0.13%) in the 30-49 group have died, and none in the 18-29 and 0-17 groups.

Data are not available for the age breakdowns of COVID-19 patients being treated in local hospitals and intensive care units. Along with the death rates, those are key metrics in determining the impact of the disease in a community.

Noozhawk has repeatedly requested that information from the Public Health Department, but to date it has not been forthcoming.

Public Health officials disclosed some age and length of stay information for early patients during the COVID-19 pandemic, but have not released any demographic information about hospitalizations since May.  (Santa Barbara County Public Health Department photo)

The Lompoc Valley Medical Center has treated a COVID-19 patient as young as 31, and a May report by county epidemiologists disclosed four patients in the 18-29 age range. According to that report, the average length of hospital stay increased with a patient’s age, generally. 

Public Health officials say there are taking aggressive action to protect the county’s most vulnerable residents, including widespread testing and other efforts in congregate-care facilities that report positive cases. 

They also continue to implore younger people to embrace strategies to reduce the spread of the disease — social distancing, wearing face coverings, washing hands, and avoiding gatherings. 

While younger people are much less likely to suffer serious consequences from COVID-19 infections, they can act as vectors for the disease, spreading it to older family members, co-workers and others more at risk of serious illness or death, Public Health officials have said. 

— Noozhawk executive editor Tom Bolton can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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