We’ve known since early in the pandemic that age is a major risk factor for becoming severely ill or dying from COVID-19. Those disparities are becoming more stark as quarantine fatigue and economic reopening has spurred more infections in younger age groups, but the recent record spike in deaths is still spurred mostly by our elders.
This chart above clearly shows that some of the younger adult age groups are infected more frequently than children or older adults, who make up a smaller portion of the population, but older adults are still the majority of deaths.
An astounding 8 out of 10 coronavirus deaths have been adults 65 and older, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. Data from the California Department of Public Health shows similar numbers in California, where those 65 and older account for 76% of all coronavirus deaths.
Racial disparities are also apparent in the data on who is dying. The chart above shows that California’s Latino population has suffered a disproportionate share of coronavirus deaths. Latinos make up 39% of the Golden State’s population but 46% of all coronavirus deaths. The white population is nearly the same size — 37% — but when it comes to deaths only 30% of those who have died so far in the pandemic were white.
Dr. George Lemp, an infectious disease epidemiologist and former director of the University of California’s HIV/AIDS Research Program, said the racial disparities were “striking,” especially for younger Latinos.
“This is unfortunate and demonstrates the disparities in health outcomes for that population,” Lemp said, pointing out that Latinos and Black Americans disproportionately suffer underlying health conditions that contribute to hospitalization for COVID-19.
The racial disparities are even worse when looking at just those between 65 and 79 years old. California’s Latino population skews young, so Latinos make up just 22% of this age cohort, but still account for 48% of coronavirus deaths. White people make up 54% of this age group and just 28% of deaths.
Lemp has been tracking how the demographics of new cases has shifted over time, and noticed a change when cases started surging in late June. “The surge in cases initially occurred in younger people,” Lemp noticed, “but in a few weeks we saw it among all age groups, even those up through 80 and above.”
That has come into sharp focus this week as the Golden State twice in three days set new daily highs for coronavirus deaths, increasing the total since the start of the pandemic to over 9,000 deaths as of July 30.
He says there are two theories for why this happened: younger people are taking more risks and bringing the virus home to older populations; or as the state opened up, people of all ages started going out more and socially distancing less.
“The best data on that would be from contract tracing studies” said Lemp, “but they have not been disclosing detailed information to tell us what is going on.”
Source: Orange County Register