More Young Adults Are Being Hospitalized with COVID as Faster-Spreading Strains Dominate

Cases of COVID-19 and hospitalizations are again rising in the U.S., but this time, they're primarily occurring in younger adults now that older age groups are vaccinated against the virus.

After months of decline, COVID-19 cases started to creep upwards again in late March as several faster-spreading, and more severe variants of the virus moved through the U.S. The highly-contagious B.1.1.7 variant, which was first identified in the U.K., is now the dominant strain in the U.S. and the reason why more young adults are getting COVID-19, Centers for Disease Control Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said.

"Cases and emergency room visits are up," she said. "We are seeing these increases in younger adults, most of whom have not yet been vaccinated."

In Michigan, which currently has the most COVID-19 cases per capita in the U.S., younger people who have not yet been vaccinated against the virus are being hospitalized at an "alarming rate," the Michigan Health & Hospital Association said last month.

The group said that between March 1 and March 23, hospitalizations went up 633% in people aged 30 to 39 and by 800% in those aged 40 to 49, the Detroit News reported.

New Jersey, which is also dealing with one of the largest COVID-19 caseloads in the country, had a 31% increase in hospitalizations in people aged 20 to 29, and a 48% increase in those aged 40 to 49, CNN reported.

There is also an ongoing rise in infections happening in school-aged children, which the CDC has said is stemming from youth sports like basketball and wrestling.

"We're finding out that it's the team sports where kids are getting together, obviously many without masks, that are driving it — rather than in-the-classroom spread," Fauci told ABC's George Stephanopoulos on Good Morning America last week. "When you go back and take a look and try and track where these clusters of cases are coming from in the school, it's just that."

As more states open up vaccine eligibility to all adults aged 16 and up, the hope is that infections in younger adults will soon slow. But some college students are voluntarily agreeing to hold off on their vaccinations to take part in a large study of around 12,000 people across 20 colleges to test if the Moderna vaccine stops people from unknowingly spreading COVID-19 after they've been vaccinated.

Some students will receive the Moderna vaccine, while others will stay unvaccinated, a tough choice for many.

"There were kids … who just broke down," Brian L. Stauffer, chief of cardiology at Denver Health Medical Center and one of the leaders of the trial at the University of Colorado at Boulder, told the Washington Post. "One individual sat there, and recovered, and said, 'Let's do it.' … It's been great to see people participate that way. We frequently don't give college kids enough benefit of the doubt."

Everyone in the study is required to swab their noses each morning and send the sample to their test facility. The hope is that the study will give a clearer understanding of how COVID-19 spreads, if at all, in vaccinated people and provide an idea of when the pandemic will end.

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