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The Daily Beast

A COVID-19 Surge in Young People May Sabotage Reopening

After months of lockdown, public congregation increased exponentially last week, as residents of major cities from coast to coast took to the streets in huge numbers to protest decades of black death at the hands of police officers, and specifically the killing of 46-year-old George Floyd in Minneapolis.But even before the unrest and the possibility of attendant contagion, warm weather across the country prompted people to sun in public parks, take day trips to beaches, and drink in groups as states eased COVID-19 lockdowns. Relaxed restrictions have also sent thousands of young people sidelined from service industry jobs back to work in states from Texas to Vermont.As public health experts have warned for months, any return to pre-pandemic behavior—whether at bars in Waco or demonstrations in cities like Los Angeles—could come at significant cost. In fact, if an analysis from the first COVID-19 hot spot in the United States is any indication, young people have, for weeks, appeared to be setting the stage not for a second wave of an infection, but a deadly extension of the first one.Essentially, public health experts told The Daily Beast, the young hold the power to determine whether states can continue on a steady march toward reopening—or else veer back toward an infection spike that could force new lockdowns.It’s Time to Make a Reopening Plan—for Your WalletIn Washington state, half of new daily infections in early May were occurring in people under 40, a dramatic increase from eight weeks earlier, when older age groups made up more than two-thirds of the patients who tested positive, according to a new report. Based on public data from the Washington Department of Health, the analysis noted that cases in Washington state peaked on March 22, then declined for a few weeks, and then sustained a plateau with an average of approximately 200 cases per day since.“Watch what’s happening before and after the peak,” said lead author Dr. Judith Malmgren, an epidemiologist and affiliate assistant professor at the University of Washington’s school of public health. “The disease didn’t change, but the people who were infected changed.”Malmgren said the analysis—published on the preprint site for health sciences research, medRxiv, and not yet peer-reviewed—found 39 percent of confirmed cases in the state were in the 20-39 age bracket, and another 11 percent were in those 19 or younger. Though otherwise healthy young people are less likely to suffer serious illness from the virus than those over the age of 65 or with comorbidities, the disease can cause lifelong health effects on all patients, and recent reports of a life-threatening inflammatory syndrome in children has raised significant concerns across the country. Malmgren’s analysis was first-reported by The Seattle Times, and though it was preliminary, Washington State Health Officer Dr. Kathy Lofy told the paper it was evidence that older residents have done a promising job of social distancing. Dr. Jeff Duchin, the health officer for Public Health Seattle &

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