Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday said the surge in coronavirus cases hitting California was due in part to younger people who might believe “they are invincible” but nonetheless are becoming sick from COVID-19.
These are younger adults — who Newsom called “the young invincibles” — who are testing positive for the disease, a trend that has become apparent as the economy has reopened and working-aged adults return to work and had resumed social gatherings.
“So a lot of these younger folks may be coming into hospitals, but with not as acute needs as what we were seeing in the past,” Newsom said. In L.A. County, working-age adults are making up an increasing share of the percentage of those who are hospitalized, while seniors are making up a declining share.
Some young people think “they are invincible but don’t feel it’s going to impact them and if it does, it’s not a big burden.”
But Newsom and other experts have warned that increasing infection in younger adults may serve as a way the disease can spread to those with underlying health conditions and older adults.
That’s why, Newsom said, he has made moves to strengthen public health orders, such as ordering many of California’s most populous counties to shut down bars and indoor restaurant dining rooms as hospitalizations have increased.
While a higher percentage of coronavirus tests is confirming infections, “we’re not seeing a commensurate increase yet in mortality,” Newsom said. For the last six weeks, California has reported an average coronavirus death toll of about 436 a week since Memorial Day; for the preceding six weeks, the average weekly death toll was 510, a Times analysis found.
“Those are lagging indicators: hospitalizations, ICUs and deaths,” Newsom said.
It can take weeks for newly infected people to get sick enough to be hospitalized, and even more time before they die from the disease.
Experts say it can take three to four weeks after exposure to the virus for infected people to become sick enough to be hospitalized, and four to five weeks after exposure for some of the most vulnerable patients to die from the disease.
The same trends of younger adults being increasingly infected with the coronavirus is being seen in L.A. County.
By the Fourth of July, “almost 50% of new cases occur among younger people,” which are adults 40 and younger, said Barbara Ferrer, the L.A. County director of public health, on Monday. In early April, that age group made up only about 30% of new confirmed cases.
Adults 18 to 39 make up about one-third of L.A. County’s population.
The decline in deaths in L.A. County is partly due to a significant decline in new deaths among nursing home residents. In May, L.A. County was reporting an average of 25 daily coronavirus deaths among nursing home residents. By late June, the average daily death toll from nursing homes was about 10, Ferrer said last week.
Officials have said better use of personal protective equipment, such as masks, gowns and gloves, and increased testing, has helped reduce the effect of the pandemic on nursing homes.
The age makeup of those being hospitalized in L.A. County has also changed. In late April, seniors 65 and older made up 50% of those hospitalized with COVID-19; middle-aged people between 41 to 64 made up more than 35%; and the youngest adults made up less than 15% of cases.
Now, it’s working-aged adults who are seeing their share of hospitalizations rise, while the elderly’s rate falls. By the Fourth of July, middle-aged adults made up roughly 45% of hospitalizations; seniors made up less than 30%; and the youngest adults made up more than 25% of hospitalizations.
There are several reasons why younger adults are increasingly becoming infected, Ferrer said, citing survey results compiled by the USC Dornsife Center of Economic and Social Research.
More L.A. County residents are leaving their home. In mid-April, 86% of L.A. County residents said they stayed home at all times except for essential activities or exercise; by the last week of June, only 58% said they were doing so.
More L.A. County residents are also having close contact with people outside of their household. In mid-April, only 31% of L.A. County residents had such close contact with people outside of their household; by the last week of June, 55% were doing so.
As the reopening has accelerated, however, fewer L.A. County residents are reporting a fear of running out of food because of a lack of money or other resources. In early April, 30% of L.A. County residents surveyed were worried about running out of food; that figure has fallen to 11% for the last week of June.
Additionally, fewer L.A. County residents are now reporting psychological distress as the reopening accelerated. In early April, 47% of surveyed county residents reported mild, moderate or severe symptoms of psychological distress; as the reopening accelerated, 36% reporting feeling such symptoms.
There was also a slight reduction in the percentage of L.A. County residents who reported the pandemic posed a moderate or substantial threat to their household finances; 64% said it did so in mid-May; 56% said it did so in mid-June.
“This is the good news about opening — it’s that in fact, for many people, it’s provided some very important and much needed relief,” Ferrer said.
But as people have returned to physical work locations, workplaces have increasingly become sites of exposure to the highly contagious virus. While in early May, 37% of surveyed L.A. County residents said their job required them to come within six feet of other people regularly, 43% said they had done so in mid-June.
More L.A. County residents are increasingly concerned California is lifting restrictions on public activity due to the pandemic too quickly, the survey found. While 75% of survey respondents expressed such worry in early May, 79% did so in mid-June.
The rate at which coronavirus tests in California are coming back positive has jumped 42% over the last two weeks, according to data published on the Los Angeles Times’ California coronavirus tracker. An increasing rate of positive test results is an indication that disease transmission is worsening.
The Fourth of July marked the 15th consecutive day that California tallied record hospitalization numbers of confirmed coronavirus patients. On Saturday, the state recorded 5,669 patients with confirmed coronavirus infections in California hospitals — an increase of 62% over the previous two weeks.
On June 27, just a week earlier, the state had reported 4,498 hospitalized patients with confirmed cases of COVID-19. On June 20, the number was 3,494.
The number of intensive care unit patients statewide with confirmed coronavirus infections is up 63% over the last three weeks. On Saturday, there were 1,711 people with confirmed coronavirus infections in the ICU; on the previous Saturday, there were 1,376; the week before that, there were 1,149; and on June 13, there were 1,049.
Newsom said Monday that California is now monitoring 23 counties for surges in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations. That’s four more since last week.
Counties on the watch list include: Contra Costa, Colusa, Fresno, Glenn, Imperial, Kern, Kings, Los Angeles, Madera, Marin, Merced, Monterey, Orange, Riverside, Sacramento, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Joaquin, Santa Barbara, Solano, Stanislaus, Tulare and Ventura.