The number of new COVID-19 cases has increased by more than 10% in 26 states, Washington, DC and Puerto Rico since last week, a possible signal the country is on the cusp of a new wave.
And for the first time, the majority of new hospitalizations were among younger adults, with cases among those aged 50 to 65 increasing more than those over 65, who are more likely to have been vaccinated. And in some states, like Michigan and Massachusetts, the number of cases in older children, teens, and young adults has also increased.
At the same time, recent data has shown a 96% drop in COVID-19 cases in nursing homes since the vaccine rolled out in December, indicating that high vaccination rates are helping protect patients. older populations.
Dr Nick Gilpin, chief medical officer of Beaumont Health System in Michigan, said the average age of their COVID-19 patients is 46 years old.
“A lot of these people did all of these things that we warned about: getting together in big groups, going to bars and restaurants,” he told ABC News.
“I so want to be done. I know you all want to be done so badly. We’re almost there, but not quite yet, ”Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in a moving warning on Monday.
Walensky and other public health officials said cases were on the rise because people were starting to relax their behavior while there was still a lot of the virus spreading in the country, especially the newer variants that can spread. easier. As more states have relaxed restrictions and more people travel, the virus has taken advantage of more opportunities to spread.
“The rapidly increasing number of cases of COVID-19 among adolescents and young adults is very disturbing. Tragically, states – like Massachusetts – have ignored advice from public health officials and reopened too quickly, ”said Sam Scarpino, assistant professor. in the Emerging Outbreaks Lab at Northeastern University.
“As a result, we are in danger, entering a new wave and delaying our safe return to normalcy,” Scarpino added.
Twenty-six states, Washington, DC and Puerto Rico have seen a more than 10% increase in the number of new cases since last week. New Jersey, New York, Michigan, Rhode Island and Connecticut currently have the highest case rates per 100,000 people in the past seven days. Hospital admissions are also increasing in nearly a dozen states.
As more states push to reopen schools and businesses, the increased activity is also creating more opportunities for the virus to spread among younger groups that have so far not been considered. as at high risk of serious illness.
“Few states make data available on age over time, but in a few that do, older children – 10 to 19 – and young adults account for a larger portion of cases. This probably reflects a combination of generalized vaccination in the elderly. adults and increased mobility among young people, through the reopening of schools and more community activities, ”said Dr. Caitlin Rivers, epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.
Rivers said a new outbreak in young adults wouldn’t necessarily lead to an increase in hospitalizations and deaths like the trend with previous outbreaks.
“During most of the pandemic, hospitalizations and deaths followed cases closely. But now that nearly three in four people over 65 have received at least one dose of the vaccine, we’ll start to see that change. I hope that even in places where cases are increasing, we will not see as many severe cases as we were six months ago, ”she said.
But Walensky and other public health officials have said that even though a “fourth flare” of cases affects more younger adults, they are still concerned about any increase in the spread of the virus.
“There are a lot of reasons not to want to have COVID other than just deaths,” Walensky said in an MSNBC interview Monday night.
“We know that about 10% of the population who get sick with COVID have long distance syndrome, have symptoms beyond three weeks, heart problems, depression and mental health problems, lung problems , kidney failure, coagulation. So there are a lot of things we don’t do. I don’t understand this disease and we shouldn’t want to circulate it whether or not it causes death, ”she continued.
Arielle Mitropolous of ABC News contributed to this report.