Young adults spreading COVID-19, older folks being hospitalized with the disease

UPMC Medical Director of Infection Prevention and Hospital Epidemiology Graham Snyder discusses the status of COVID-19 cases in the region at a virtual press conference based in Pittsburgh on Thursday.

PITTSBURGH — For about the past two weeks, COVID-19 cases in the region have “significantly” increased due largely to young adults that contracted the virus while they traveled or socialized, didn’t wear a face mask or observe physical distance from other people.

UPMC Medical Director of Infection Prevention and Hospital Epidemiology Graham Snyder provided that and more data at a virtual press conference on Thursday.

The median age of people that tested positive for COVID-19 in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, where the hospital system is based, is under 30.

“This is the pattern I’m seeing everywhere I look,” Snyder said. 

The current cases are presenting in young, healthy people exposed in the community setting.

“UPMC does not take this new rate of (positive cases) lightly,” he said. “This is serious and we believe it’s important to share the facts.”

While the virus doesn’t typically cause severe symptoms in that age group, older folks are being hospitalized with the disease.

Systemwide, UPMC has 118 patients hospitalized with COVID-19, Snyder said.

“The average age of those hospitalized is over 60,” he said. “We’re also not seeing the same mortality that (we were) seeing in the spring at the emergence of the epidemic.”

The hospital system’s asymptomatic positive rate is holding steady at .27%, Snyder said.

He repeated best practices — to slow spread of the disease — that most people appear to understand and some refuse to follow.

“Wear a mask in public spaces, stay home if you’re not feeling well and wash your hands frequently,” he said. “If you test positive or are notified through contact tracing you’ve been exposed, take the quarantine and self-isolation instructions seriously. Do not go out and expose others.”

UPMC Chief Quality Officer Tami Minnier said it’s important for every person to wear a face mask correctly. 

“If I can see your nose, I know you’re not wearing it properly,” she said.

Donald Yealy, UPMC senior medical director and chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine at UPMC and the University of Pittsburgh, said the global pandemic shouldn’t cause folks to delay medical procedures.

“If you’re due for a preventative care visit like cancer screening or even a simple annual exam, don’t cancel it because you fear getting COVID-19 illness or infection,” he said. “Our care sites are safe, our staff is well equipped and well trained.”

Also on Thursday, Gov. Larry Hogan said Maryland’s COVID-19 positivity rate remains stable at 4.53%, 406 patients are hospitalized with the disease and half of the state’s 24 jurisdictions have met the goal to test 10% of their population.

And, the Garrett County Health Department reported a new COVID-19 case that brings the jurisdiction’s positive cases to 19. 

“The new positive is a male in his teens who does not have symptoms and is isolating at home,” officials said via press release. “He did have contact with a previously reported case.”

The next community COVID-19 testing opportunity in Garrett County is scheduled for 7 a.m to 1 p.m. July 17 in the parking lot between the health department and Mountain Laurel Medical Center at 1025 Memorial Drive in Oakland. 

Testing will be free and without the need for an appointment or a doctor’s order. 

“This is not an antibody test that may identify a previous infection,” the release stated. “This event is intended for persons who do not have symptoms. 

People with symptoms of COVID-19 or those who want antibody testing should contact their health care provider. 

For more, call 301-334-7770 or 301-895-3111.

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