Locking fatigue, “invincibility” causing more COVID-19 infections in young people

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More and more young people are infected with COVID-19, which creates the risk of a serious epidemic, warn scientists.

They say the demographic shift could be attributed to lockdown fatigue, increased testing or feelings of invincibility.

Brett Snider, doctoral student in water resources at the University of Guelph, first noticed a higher number of infections among those under 20 and 20-29 years old in the Toronto and Peel areas in May.

Snider’s supervisor, Ed McBean, said he was baffled by the increase in infections among those under 20 because daycares and schools were closed.

“And we thought ‘whoa’. The little ones don’t tend to get seriously ill, but they will take it home. And if you have multiple generations or even visitors, you get that boost as a result, ”said McBean, an engineering professor at the University of Guelph.

Although the numbers have leveled off in Peel and Toronto, McBean said there has been an increase in infections among young people in other parts of the country.

“This is essential because once you start getting a hike, it can explode very quickly,” he said.

McBean said he was particularly concerned about the increase in infections among those under 20.

Children who may be sick usually do not have symptoms, and when they share a space or toys, they can spread the infection to others and take it home, he said.

“If we start to see an increase in the younger age group, there is no doubt that it will eventually spread from parent to grandparent, and this can have serious repercussions on older populations.” ”

McBean said his message to public health officials was to keep daycares and schools closed.

Data from British Columbia, Ontario, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Quebec, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island show an increase in COVID-19 infections in the 20 to 29 year age groups. The numbers also show more women are testing positive for COVID-19.

Figures from the Public Health Agency of Canada show that in the second week of July, the highest proportion of new cases reported – 22% of cases in women and 28% of cases in men – belonged to to the 20-29 age group.

Since the start of the pandemic, 14% of female cases and 15% of male cases have increased in this age group.

Younger age groups now account for a higher percentage of positive tests, while older groups are on the decline overall, the data shows.

A clinical professor at the University of British Columbia’s School of Public and Population Health said the increase could be because it’s summer and fewer job opportunities during the pandemic mean more time for young people to spend with friends.

Stephen Hoption Cann said that when they get together in larger groups, young people can potentially spread the virus because they may not have symptoms or have a mild infection.

“They have to be careful at social gatherings, pubs and bars,” he said.

“You never really know when you are close to the person who may be infected, so you need to be more careful. ”

Toronto deputy medical officer of health Dr Barbara Yaffe said health officials noticed the same pattern, noting that healthy people had no symptoms, had very mild symptoms, or were unaware they were had COVID-19.

“I think this potentially contributes to some complacency,” she said at a recent press briefing.

While young people don’t see the infection as a “big deal,” they can pass it on to someone they have an underlying medical condition with, Yaffe said.

British Columbia public health officials said early on that many long-term care facilities and assisted living facilities have been severely affected and that most of the new cases in the province are now in the community. wider.

“We are concerned about the increase in the number of new cases in recent days as COVID-19 continues to circulate silently in our communities,” the Minister of Health and the provincial health officer of Colombia said recently. Briton in a statement.

Another factor to consider is a higher number of infections in women.

Julia Smith, a research associate in the Faculty of Health Sciences at Simon Fraser University, said Canada had a higher proportion of infected women than other countries at the start of the pandemic.

Age and job can be factors, she said.

Most residents of long-term care homes are generally women, she noted. These homes were the first to be affected by COVID-19 in Canada, killing thousands of older people.

Women also tend to be a larger share of health workers who would have more interactions with patients, putting them at greater risk of infection, Smith said.

McBean said that messages to maintain safe social distance and wash your hands frequently, wear a mask and meet in small groups outside are the best way to avoid infection.

Keeping the Canada-U.S. Border closed for as long as possible would also help prevent external infections from entering the community, he said.

McBean said provinces must continue to follow strict protocols to contain the virus and keep the R-value below one. The R-value or reproductive rate represents the average number of new people who will catch the disease from an infected person.

If the R value is less than one, the epidemic is under control. If R is greater than one, then the epidemic increases.

“We are on a very fine line as is currently the case in Ontario. So we just have to be very careful because that number doesn’t start climbing again and being above one, “said McBean.

McBean said provinces must continue to follow strict protocols to contain the virus.

“Basically we’re doing pretty well,” he said. “I mean it’s a terribly infectious virus and so easily transmitted. It’s much worse than the others. This one is pretty bad. ”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on July 19, 2020.

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