Dr. Anthony Fauci, the White House infectious diseases expert, said the “overwhelming majority” of people getting infected with the coronavirus now are young.
People age 20-44 account for nearly half of COVID-19 cases in Arizona, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.
Fauci said there are a number of reasons behind the rise in new cases since late May.
“I don't think there's time for now all day to try and analyze and figure out the multifaceted elements that went into that,” he said during a coronavirus task force briefing Friday. “You know, everything from maybe opening a little bit too early on, some to opening at the right time, but not actually following the steps in an orderly fashion to actually trying to follow the steps in an orderly fashion. But the citizenry did not feel that they wanted to do that for a number of reasons, likely because everyone feels the common feeling of being pent up for such a long period of time.”
Arizona had seemed to be doing well in the early days of the pandemic. The state never reported more than 100 new cases in a day until late March. Arizona was one of the first states to lift stay-home orders in May with no requirements for face masks. Gov. Doug Ducey allowed retailers, cosmetologists and barbers to resume in-person operations May 8. Restaurants and coffee shops were allowed to serve dine-in customers since May 11.
Now Ducey is urging residents to wear masks and stay home whenever possible.
Health expert Dr. Mikhail Varshavski, speaking on FOX Business’ “Mornings with Maria” this week, pointed to what he called “caution fatigue” as playing a role in the rise in cases among younger people specifically.
“We’re tired of playing it safe, we want to go outside, we want to be with our friends, and we’re skirting a lot of these rules and regulations,” he said. “And as a result, we’re seeing these huge spikes popping up in places where cases were quite low before.”
There have been reports across the country of coronavirus cases attributed to young adults who visited crowded parties, bars that had reopened and other venues.
“Young folks are really the ones starting to come out in droves as the summer begins,” Varshavski said.
Fauci said he understood why young people want to get out, but it’s important that everyone understands while they may not be at serious risk and may even feel well and show no symptoms, anyone carrying the virus could put others in danger.
“So people are infecting other people and then ultimately you will infect someone who's vulnerable,” he said. “Now, that maybe somebody who is a grandmother, grandfather, uncle, who's on chemotherapy and who's on radiation or chemotherapy. Or a child who has leukemia.”
There had been questions that the rise in confirmed cases could be tied to an increase in testing. However, infectious disease expert Dr. Deborah Birx of the White House coronavirus task force said positive results had been declining in some areas even as testing went up in May.
The number of COVID-19 cases confirmed in Arizona each day began rising more sharply in late May, according to Arizona Department of Health Services data. Now the state is seeing record numbers of cases and hospitalizations. There were more than 66,000 cases as of Friday and the coronavirus has killed more than 1,500 people in Arizona.
Maricopa County, home to Phoenix, is leading the state by far in cases with more than 39,000.
“Arizona is unique and they have essentially one county that is primarily represented by the depth of the new cases, and this is in the Phoenix area,” Birx said.
Other states besides Texas and Arizona seeing large increases in cases, including Florida, Mississippi, South Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Nevada and Utah, according to Birx.
Health officials are using a six-part strategy to stop the spread of the virus, according to Fauci: surveillance, testing, containment, health care capacity, therapeutics and vaccines.
“First, we've been strengthening surveillance so that we can be aware of and respond to surges,” he said. “That means, for instance, being able to track more cases among younger Americans that we never would have caught earlier in the pandemic.”