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By early May, some 39 percent of newly confirmed cases of the virus were among people aged 20 to 39, according to a recent analysis. Meanwhile, 11 percent of new cases were also identified in those 19 and younger.
The data represents a significant shift from earlier on in the state’s coronavirus epidemic when more than two-thirds of positive cases in the Evergreen State were among older populations, The Seattle Times reported.
The research, which was published in the medRxiv online depository and tracked ages of cases between March 1 and May 3, is based on public data from the Washington Department of Health. However, the study has not yet been peer-reviewed.
Speaking to the outlet, Judith Malmgren, a Seattle epidemiologist who led the study, said more investigation is needed to understand why the shift occurred. However, she did note that she has personally seen younger people in Seattle congregating and not using face masks.
“Younger people are the most likely to be socially active, they are the most likely to work in essential professions and have more contact with the public,” Malmgren added.
Washington State Health Officer Dr. Kathy Lofy told the outlet that social distancing efforts among older populations in the state could partly be behind the shift.
“I believe this means that older individuals who are at higher risk of infection are doing a great job social distancing and protecting themselves,” she said of the trend.
Meanwhile, Dr. Jeff Duchin, health officer for Public Health for Seattle & King County told The Seattle Times the shift is to be expected as younger people come out of isolation and return to work.
“The pattern in who’s getting infected over time reflects people’s behavior,” he said. “If we’re seeing a drop in age, that means younger people are doing things that place them at a higher risk of transmission compared to people who are older who might be staying home more reliably.”
Washington has more than 20,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and over 1,100 virus-related deaths, according to official estimates.