Canada is seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases in millennials and here's why
Canadian health officials are reporting an increase in COVID-19 cases in millennials across the country over the last few weeks, and they have the data to back it up.
Speaking at a press conference on Monday, Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said individuals under the age of 40 now account for a greater proportion of total cases in recent weeks.
"As the epidemic has slowed, the incident rate has steadily declined in all age groups," Tam said. "But the decline has been relatively slow in younger age groups."
On Thursday, Alberta Chief Medical Officer Dr. Deena Hinshaw echoed Tam's words by noting that there has been a "particular increase" in COVID-19 cases among residents aged 20-39.
"In the last month alone, we have seen family barbecues, funerals, birthday parties, and other get-togethers lead to dozens of new cases," Hinshaw said.
"The good news is that we are not powerless. It is on us to decide what the rest of 2020 will look like."
We’re seeing younger Albertans testing positive, particularly those 20-29. 60% of our active cases are under 40. Young Albertans may not be at risk for severe outcomes but their actions are critical in protecting those who are higher risk. We’re all in this together. (5/9)— Dr. Deena Hinshaw (@CMOH_Alberta) June 12, 2020
As early as April, Montreal health officials reported that individuals between 20 and 29 accounted for most of the cases in the city.
On Friday, Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Howard Njoo said it's difficult to tell whether young people in Montreal are primarily responsible for transmitting the virus these days, but he made the point that nobody is immune.
"Everyone is susceptible to the virus," Njoo said in French, emphasizing that there are young people who have suffered "serious illness" as a result of contracting COVID-19.
He added another important aspect to consider is that young people can transmit the virus to other (more vulnerable) people, including their grandparents or older parents.
"It's very important to underline that everyone must always follow public health guidelines," Njoo said.
1/3 Younger age groups make up a larger % of recent #COVID19 cases in 🇨🇦. Younger age groups may be going out more, which ↑ likelihood of coming into contact with the virus. No-one is immune to serious illness & anyone can spread infection. https://t.co/hoKfQOJKiU— Dr. Theresa Tam (@CPHO_Canada) June 19, 2020
So why are the cases rising? Well, that's a trickier question to answer; we've all seen photos of millennials flocking to the beach or lounging in Trinity Bellwoods Park, so it's easy to assume the increased cases are simply a result of young people going out more.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford certainly seemed to link the two when he scolded young Canadians in late June for crowding on beaches.
"Young people think it's alright to go out and party, party, party and hang out with whoever they want," Ford said. "People think they're like superman out there."
Ford added that 27.9 per cent of COVID-19 cases on June 23 were Canadians aged 20-39, making it one of the two hardest-hit age groups in Ontario.
"You get a few cold pops in you and you start going wild," Premier @fordnation tells young folks who crowd beaches. #onpoli— Antonella Artuso (@suntooz) June 23, 2020
However, there could be more at play than the fact that Canadian millennials really love a beach party.
As Tam pointed out, the rising percentage of younger Canadians contracting the virus could be in proportion to a decrease in older patients in the last month.
In that sense, it's not that young Canadians are merely contracting the virus more often, but rather that older Canadians are starting to contract it less.
That being said, young people can still suffer serious complications from COVID-19 (and, as Njoo pointed out, pass it along to loved ones), so — at the risk of stating the obvious — it's best to avoid contracting the virus in the first place.
"I've heard from my colleagues that younger people are going outside and may not be respecting some of the public health advice," Dr. Theresa Tam said on June 15.
"Even if you feel you're young and somewhat invincible, that is not the case."
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