Coronavirus Chronicles — The Youngification of COVID-19, Continued

In July of this year, news media continued to report on the admission of non-geriatric folk to hospitals all over the country. Florida reported 214,000 new cases, an increase of 57% over the previous week. In Jacksonville, the Intensive Care Units at St. Vincent’s and Naval Hospital were full of unvaccinated patients of middle age and younger, who were undergoing such ordeals as respiratory failure and renal failure.

By mid-August (earlier this month as this is written), California was a mess. UC Davis Medical Center was “putting a much younger generation of Sacramentans on life support than they did earlier in the pandemic.” By this, they meant people younger than 40, which three out of five COVID-19 emergency department cases now were.

From Nashville, TN, Vanderbilt Health reported that “Patients we are treating for COVID-19 are all ages, with some in their early to mid-20s being very sick.” For two groups, adults in their 30s and children, hospitalization rates were at an all-time high.

A sneaking suspicion

By now, the old familiar refrain that “healthy people don’t catch it” is harder to believe than ever. High school and college football players are coming down with COVID. It is even possible that starting out in better shape can be a drawback, and somehow make the course of the disease worse. Or maybe the problem is that young healthy individuals are more likely to be out and about, working or recreating in settings where the ferocious Delta variant can catch them.

It might be that aside from maintaining a high level of fitness, they are unvaccinated. It took a while for the younger demographic to become eligible to receive the available vaccines. In many cases, the invincible optimism of youth prevents them from even trying to get the shots. This suspicion, that being fundamentally healthy might cause some patients to have more severe cases, is just a shadowy impression at the moment, but it has been mentioned and is worth keeping an eye on.

Collateral damage

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hospitalizations of Americans between 30 and 39 years of age are “more than 30% higher than their previous peak.” In that group, a lot of people are parents of young children and teens. Who is taking care of their children? Who is making sure they eat things that are good for them and don’t eat things that are bad for them? Distraught relatives of ICU patients might forget to supervise children who need to weigh their portions. In a time of grief, the traditional human response is to feed people lots of comfort food. As always, the coronavirus and the obesity epidemic are partners in crime.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “UC Davis emergency room is seeing ‘astonishing’ numbers of young people with COVID-19,”, 08/13/21
Source: “Rates of Covid-19 hospitalizations for children and adults under 50 reach their highest levels yet, CDC data shows,”, 08/20/21
Image by Dale Simonson/CC BY-SA 2.0

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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
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Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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