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Tennessee’s data confirms: Oldest hit hardest, but surprising number of fatalities in younger adults

NASHVILLE — For the first time on Thursday, the Tennessee Department of Health released the age breakdown of coronavirus-related deaths in the Volunteer State as part of its daily update.

The new data release came as the state announced 15 new deaths related to Covid-19 on Thursday, bringing the state’s total number of fatalities linked to the coronavirus to 94. The state’s overall number of confirmed coronavirus cases increased 6.2 percent on Thursday to 4,634, as 272 new cases of the virus were reported in the last 24 hours.

Not surprisingly, the oldest age demographic has been hit hardest by the coronavirus, as those in their 80s and older account for 32 percent of Tennessee’s coronavirus-related deaths. That is a trend that has been reflected around the world, and age is known to be the single greatest risk factor for severe Covid-19 illness.

In Tennessee, people aged 81 or older make up just 3.4 percent of the overall cases of coronavirus, but 32 percent of the fatalities.

On the opposite end of the age scale, people in their 20s make up 21.4 percent of the coronavirus cases — but only one fatality related to the virus.

However, the number of relatively young people who’ve died from coronavirus in Tennessee is perhaps surprising. According to the Department of Health’s data, 18 percent of the state’s 94 coronavirus-related fatalities — or nearly 1 in 5 — have been younger than the age of 60. Most of those were people in their 50s.

While a combination of advanced age and underlying illness have always been linked to an especially heightened risk of serious Covid-19 illness, physicians have warned since the outbreak spread to the western world that anyone with chronic medical conditions — such as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease — are at an increased risk for becoming critically ill or dying from the virus, regardless of their age. In recent days, health care experts have begun to sound louder warnings about the risk that obesity plays in developing serious illness related to the virus.

Overall, 82 percent — more than 4 in 5 — of the coronavirus-related deaths in Tennessee have been people older than the age of 60, the age demographic considered most at risk. In addition to people in their 80s, the state’s numbers showed that people in their 70s have accounted for 25.5 percent of the coronavirus-related deaths in Tennessee, while people in their 60s have accounted for 24.5 percent of the Covid-19 deaths.

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People in their 50s have accounted for 9.6 percent of the coronavirus-related deaths, while people in their 40s have accounted for 5.3 percent.

Only three people younger than the age of 40 have died from coronavirus in Tennessee, including one child. That same age demographic accounts for nearly half of the overall coronavirus cases, or 43.3 percent.

Most people infected by coronavirus will experience only mild symptoms, such as sore throat, fever, and a cough that clears up in a few weeks. But in some people — mostly those who are older and who have underlying medical conditions, but rarely younger adults or children who are otherwise healthy — severe illness can develop.

In Tennessee, a total of 505 people out of 4,634 who have tested positive for Covid-19 have been hospitalized at some point. That represents 10.9 percent of the overall cases — a number that is rising. The 505 hospitalizations does not represent the number of people currently hospitalized in Tennessee; rather, it includes all those who were hospitalized at some point due to the virus.

While the vast majority — almost 9 in 10 — of coronavirus patients will recover at home, the outlook grows a bit grimmer for those who require hospitalization, a number that has been reflected across the U.S. and in other western nations. In Tennessee, the 94 fatalities represent 18.6 percent — or nearly 1 in 5 — of the state’s hospitalizations. However, it is not clear from the state’s data whether every patient who died was hospitalized or whether some of them died at home, a factor that could skew the percentages.

As of Thursday, 19.9 percent — essentially 1 in 5 — of Tennessee’s coronavirus patients, 921 total, were listed as having recovered. The Department of Health uses two methods for defining patients who have recovered: those who are confirmed by the health department to be asymptomatic and have completed their required isolation period, or patients who first tested positive for the infection more than 21 days ago. Based on the latter measurement, Tennessee’s number of recovered patients will soon begin to increase at a much faster pace.

To date, the Department of Health is not releasing the number of recovered patients on a county-by-county basis.

Of the state’s confirmed coronavirus cases, 52 percent have occurred in women, compared to 46 percent in men. Two percent of the cases have not yet been classified.

The state continues to work to break down the racial data of confirmed cases. So far, 43 percent of the state’s confirmed cases are in white people, while 14 percent are black. The state has not classified 37 percent of its cases, however, leaving too much data unknown to draw legitimate conclusions.

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IH Staff
Contact the Independent Herald at newsroom@ihoneida.com. Follow us on Twitter, @indherald.
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