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Expert: Spike in COVID-19 cases in young people spreading to older generations, leading to more hospitalizations

Posted at 5:23 PM, Sep 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-30 00:13:27-04

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah is dealing with an increase in COVID-19 cases.

The spike began with teenagers and young adults but is now spreading, according to Dr. Russell Vinik, the Chief Medical Operations Officer with University of Utah Health.

“This current outbreak started with young people, but young people are around older people," Vinik said. "The data was very clear that about 7 to 10 days, that next generation started to get infected, and then a few days later than that, the next generation, the grandparent generation, started to get infected."

University of Utah Health provided FOX 13 with the following graph to showcase the surge in cases and who is being impacted:

The graphic is made from data from the Utah Deptartment of Heath and is based on the 7-day rolling average of new COVID-19 cases as of Sunday.

The numbers show an increase of 235 percent in positive cases for people between 15-24 years old since Aug. 31, 181 percent increase for people between 25-44 since Sept. 9, an increase of 153 percent for people between the ages of 25-64 since Sept. 10, and an increase of 132 percent for people 65-84 since Sept. 9. The graph also reports a 170 percent increase in cases of people 1-14 years old since Sept. 10.

Older people and those with pre-existing conditions are more vulnerable to the devastating impacts of COVID-19.

University of Utah Health is seeing an approximately 50 percent increase in the number of COVID-19 patients in the past 10 days, Dr. Vinik said.

“We expect our in-patient numbers to increase by at least 100 percent and maybe more,” he said.

While the hospital is prepared and can handle the surge, the increased number of patients with COVID-19 is tough on patients and staff, Dr. Vinik said. It is more time-consuming and difficult to care for a COVID patient, he said.

“Just being meticulous about putting on and taking off PPE and trying not to infect yourself or infect your co-workers. and that is all so time-consuming,” he said.

Intermountain Healthcare System is also seeing an increase in the number of COVID-19 patients. Rheumatologist Dr. Paul Jensen says people need to understand there are a lot of people who are sick, who don’t look sick and are vulnerable.

“I think we all need to be cognizant of the fact that there are vulnerable people all around us,” he said.

Dr. Jensen helps people who have Lupus and Rheumatoid arthritis.

“I have patients of mine who are students in our public schools, who are teachers in our public schools, who are on medicines that weaken their immune systems,” he said.

It is so important for people to wear a mask, and to come together to help slow the spread instead of being divided, Dr. Jensen said.

For more information on COVID-19 in Utah, click here.