Health officials concerned about rising COVID-19 cases among young people

State, local health officials concerned with universities and COVID

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - State and local health professionals are concerned about an uptick in COVID-19 cases among young adults and some universities in the state are impacted by the increase in cases.

Some students at local universities said they are taking the ongoing coronavirus pandemic seriously and are adhering to precautions put in place by their schools.

Kayla Snaer is a Loyola student.

“I think it’s a very important issue that a lot of people aren’t taking very serious,” Snaer said.

Matthew Rosenblum walked with his backpack near Tulane. He said it is a different world in terms of being on campus.

“Certain protocols put in place, whether that be from the gym to the dining hall, the classroom and everything off-campus” Rosenblum said.

While universities have COVID-related rules the number of cases among 18-to-29 year-olds is troubling.

Dr. Fred Lopez is an infectious disease expert at LSU Health New Orleans.

“In Louisiana, we know that the recent data shows that more than 40,000 cases have occurred in our state in the 18 to 29 age group, almost 42,000 cases in fact in that specific age group,” Lopez said.

Dr. Joseph Kanter is interim Assistant Secretary of the Office of Public Health in the Louisiana Department of Health.

“Unfortunately, we’re seeing increases particularly in that age bracket and starting to see evidence that it’s spilling over into the older age bracket,” Kanter said.

And COVID can cause severe illness in older adults and people with underlying medical conditions.

“The overall message is to be careful and that we all need to be considerate. The scary thing about COVID-19 is that even if you yourself might be young and healthy and be set up to do okay on average if you get infected you might spread it to somebody else who’s not going to be so fortunate,” Kanter said.

Lopez said there is no guarantee young people will not be sickened by the virus.

“And if you happen to be in that age group and have an underlying medical condition you are also more likely to develop severe illness as well,” Lopez said.

Earlier this year there was a spike in cases of the virus among young adults.

“You know, folks will remember that we saw a similar dynamic just ahead of the second spike that Louisiana had in July and August where we saw increases in younger adults for a week and then slowly older adults. That’s what we’re seeing now, college students are certainly a part of that,” Kanter said.

This weekend’s football game between LSU Baton Rouge and Alabama is postponed due to COVID cases among LSU players. LSU did not provide anyone to comment on this story.

In New Orleans, Tulane University spokesman Mike Strecker said the school has seen an increase in cases on its campus.

“Tulane is the only university in New Orleans that is regularly testing its entire student population. Our robust surveillance testing enables us to detect positive cases among students who are displaying no symptoms and isolate them quickly, while also quarantining their close contacts. This system has enabled the university to maintain a positivity rate lower than both the city and state throughout much of this semester. Following Hurricane Zeta and Halloween, we detected an increased number of cases among our undergraduate students. The vast majority of these individuals are asymptomatic. In response to this rise in cases, we have greatly increased the frequency with which we test students and are already seeing encouraging signs that the increase in cases is leveling off. We have also increased the space we have to isolate/quarantine our positive cases and their close contacts. Through these efforts we believe we can control further spread and, as a result, we will see our positivity rate return to its previous low levels.”

Kanter and Lopez worry about the impact of travel for the holidays and family gatherings.

“And looking ahead we have a lot of gatherings, people are going to be gathering for Thanksgiving and potentially traveling, all of those introduce risks, so I think we have more cases coming our way,” Kanter said.

“They may be coming from areas of the country where cases are much greater in number than they are here,” Lopez said.

Both urge everyone to continue to practice social distancing and mask-wearing.

Copyright 2020 WVUE. All rights reserved.

See a spelling or grammar error in our story? Click Here to report it. Please include title of story.