Dr. Dylan West posted a warning to Twitter late Saturday: Coronavirus can strike anyone, regardless of age.
This week I have intubated just as many young individuals as old. Please take this seriously. Please stay home. Nobody thinks this will happen to them until it’s too late.
— Dylan West (@dwestdoc) March 29, 2020
West, an Oneida native and graduate of Oneida High School, is a physician at Baton Rouge General Medical Center in Louisiana. He’s been treating patients in the hospital’s intensive care unit.
For clarification, these are HEALTHY young patients with no serious comorbidities. Of course, we see the more severe cases with individuals with underlying illnesses in the older population, but there are a substantial amount that only have minor dz (HTN, HLD, etc.).
— Dylan West (@dwestdoc) March 29, 2020
Once thought to be a disease that only impacts the elderly and those with serious underlying medical conditions, doctors have been sounding the alarm that COVID-19 is impacting a surprising number of younger patients in the United States — a trend that was also recognized in Italy, where the coronavirus outbreak is still raging.
The threat for young adults to be infected has long since been established. In Tennessee, for example, one in four COVID-19 patients are in their 20s. Another one in three are in their 30s or 40s. In all, 64 percent are younger than 50, and 80 percent are younger than 60. It is those 60 and older who are thought to be most at risk.
But just because younger patients are contracting the virus don’t mean they’re suffering serious illness. Skeptics who have criticized state and federal governments of inflicting too much damage to the economy by adopting strict measures intended to slow the spread of the virus have pointed out that only a few people under the age of 70 have died from COVID-19.
West’s warning, however, is a direct look inside the ICU in one of America’s hardest-hit states. More than 150 people in Louisiana have died from COVID-19, and about 4.2 percent of diagnosed cases of the illness have ended in death — well above the national average. In East Baton Rouge Parish, where Baton Rouge General Medical Center is located, there have been 164 confirmed cases of coronavirus and seven deaths.
For reasons that public health authorities haven’t offered an answer for, Tennessee has not been hit especially hard by the coronavirus, even though the Volunteer State has a relatively high number of cases. As of Saturday, there had been 1,373 cases confirmed in Tennessee — the 13th-highest among individual states. However, there had only been six deaths; the 0.4 percent ratio of confirmed cases ending in death is among the lowest in America.
The outbreak seems to be slowing in Nashville. The office of Mayor John Cooper said in a release Sunday that 18 new cases of infection had been confirmed in the past 24 hours — a sharp decrease from 64 in the previous 24-hour period ending Saturday. While Nashville’s numbers have not been linear, with the daily reports of new infections rising and falling, Sunday’s increase represented a rise of less than five percent. Of the 394 cases of coronavirus confirmed in Davidson County, 80 — or one in every five — have been declared recovered. Of the 314 active cases, 4.5 percent are hospitalized. Two people in Nashville have died from COVID-19 illness.
However, the disease’s impact is increasing in other parts of Tennessee. A total of 118 patients had been hospitalized as of Saturday, up from 103 on Friday. Of the Volunteer State’s confirmed cases, 8.6 percent have required hospitalization, a number that has slowly risen in recent days.
In Sumner County, a suburban Nashville county where the community spread of coronavirus has been alarmingly high compared with other Tennessee counties of comparable size — with 82 cases confirmed there as of Saturday — 40 residents of the Gallatin Center for Rehabilitation and Healing have been hospitalized following an outbreak within the facility, and one has died, the Tennessean reported.
It was not clear how many of those patients had tested positive for COVID-19 or whether the numbers are included in the 118 statewide hospitalizations being reported by the Tennessee Department of Health. Many of the hospitalizations occurred on Friday, but another round occurred Saturday.