The chief health threat of coronavirus is to older people. The disproportionate bulk of the fatal cases so far have been older, especially people over 80. This is not good news, but all things being equal, it is less terrible than the other terrible alternative. The loss of any life to infectious disease is a tragedy, but the loss of younger people with more life ahead of them is especially cruel.
Unfortunately, too many people seem to be making the leap from “older people bear most of the risk” to “people under age 60 have nothing serious to worry about,” or at least that only those with very rare medical conditions need worry. That is not the case. Younger people can and do get gravely ill and die from this disease. Several of the health conditions that put younger people at elevated risk are highly common. A not-exhaustive scan of news reports should be sobering.
A 31-year-old St. Louis woman with no known underlying health conditions died from the coronavirus just two days after testing positive, according to family members. Jazmond Dixon became the first St. Louis resident to die from the infectious disease Sunday, shocking her devastated family, who say she was healthy, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.
An infant from Cook County died from the coronavirus, Illinois health officials said Saturday, marking the first infant death from the virus in the United States. Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said up until this point, there had not been a death associated with the new coronavirus in an infant, and she continued to urge people to do all they can to prevent the spread of the virus. The infant had a bowel blockage and organ failure, and died four weeks after being hospitalized, health officials said.
Louisiana health officials say a 17-year-old patient from Orleans Parish has died from COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus. New information released by the Louisiana Department of Health only listed the teen’s age and the parish where they lived. It did not identify the teen or say if they had any pre-existing medical conditions.
The announcement Friday of a 25-year-old pharmacy technician’s coronavirus-related death in La Quinta is bringing about a new warning for young people: that the virus can impact anyone, not just the elderly or those with underlying health conditions. County health officials said the 25-year-old man was found dead in the La Quinta home where he was self-isolating. The man, a resident of San Diego county, was exposed to coronavirus outside of Riverside County, officials said. He had no underlying health issues.
Also from California:
A 46-year-old man with underlying health conditions is the second person in San Bernardino County to die from the novel coronavirus, officials said Wednesday, March 25.
A West Jordan family says five people in the household contracted COVID-19, and the infection killed a 24-year-old daughter and sister. Silvia Deyanira Melendez died Saturday at University Hospital, members of her family said . . .[She] suffered from diabetes and had a heart surgery two years ago, the family said, and the virus hit her hard.
The first death of a minor who tested positive for coronavirus in New York City was reported Monday, as the city’s death toll rose to 790 . . . The vast majority of people who have died from coronavirus had underlying conditions, according to the CDC. New York City’s numbers reflect that as well. Of the 790 people who have died from COVID-19 in New York City, all but 13 had underlying conditions. The city department of health’s definition of “underlying conditions” includes diabetes, lung disease, cancer, immunodeficiency, heart disease, hypertension, asthma, kidney disease, and GI/liver disease.
A popular Queens Catholic high school girls’ basketball coach and school administrator has died from the coronavirus, the school announced. Joseph Lewinger, 42, who spent 20 years at the Mary Louis Academy, a private girls school in Jamaica Estates, died Saturday as a result of complications from the deadly virus, the school’s principal said in a Twitter post on Saturday. . . . He is survived by his wife and three children.
Also from New York:
Father Jorge Ortiz-Garay, a Mexican-born Brooklyn pastor, became the first priest in the United States to die as a result of COVID-19 on Friday. He was the pastor of St. Brigid’s parish located in Wyckoff Heights and the Diocesan Coordinator of the Ministry to Mexican immigrants. Father Ortiz died Friday evening, March 27, at Wyckoff Hospital Medical Center in Brooklyn from complications related to the coronavirus. He was 49 years old. “This is a sad day and a tremendous loss for the Diocese of Brooklyn,” Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, Bishop of Brooklyn, said. “Father Jorge was a great priest, beloved by the Mexican people and a tireless worker for all of the faithful in Brooklyn and Queens. It is unfortunate that he was overcome by the coronavirus because of underlying health issues,” he added.
A 42-year-old hospital worker in Georgia who had coronavirus was found dead in her home with her 4-year-old child by her body. Diedre Wilkes’ body was discovered Thursday in the living room of her home in Newnan, about 40 miles southwest of Atlanta, after a family member called the Coweta County Sheriff’s Office requesting a welfare check, the coroner, Richard Hawk, told NBC News on Wednesday. . . . A posthumous coronavirus test was conducted and came back positive for COVID-19, according to Hawk. Wilkes did not have any known underlying health conditions, and an autopsy is being conducted, he said. Wilkes worked as a mammogram technician at Piedmont Newnan Hospital, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
A 39-year-old man who had visited Wuhan, China, where the virus first appeared, died at Hong Kong’s Princess Margaret Hospital on Tuesday morning, the hospital confirmed. The man, who had been to Wuhan on Jan. 21 and returned to Hong Kong aboard a high-speed train on Jan. 31, had unspecified underlying health issues, according to the Centre for Health Protection.
Chloe Middleton, from High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, died last week. In a Facebook post, her aunt Emily Mistry said Ms Middleton “had passed away from Covid-19” and urged others to “do your bit” to stop the spread of the disease. According to government figures, most patients who have died with coronavirus had pre-existing medical conditions. There have been concerns that younger people were ignoring warnings over its spread, believing the contagion was only a danger to the elderly. But in a series of Facebook posts, Ms Middleton’s family urged the public to heed safety advice and take the virus “seriously”. Her mother, Diane Middleton, wrote: “Please think again. “Speaking from a personal experience, this so-called virus has taken the life of my 21-year-old daughter.” Ms Mistry added: “My beautiful, kind-hearted 21 year old niece has passed away from Covid-19. “She had no underlying health conditions.” She said the family was “shattered beyond belief”.
The mother of France’s youngest coronavirus victim has spoken of the “unbearable” loss of her 16-year-old daughter, as the country reported its highest daily toll from the pandemic. . . . The teenage girl named Julie A died in Paris, becoming the youngest French victim of the disease that more often afflicts the elderly or people with underlying health conditions. “It’s unbearable,” the girl’s mother Sabine told AFP by phone from her home in the Parisian suburbs. “We were meant to have an ordinary life.” A week ago, Julie developed a mild cough but on Saturday she began to feel short of breath, her mother said. . . . She underwent scans in hospital and several tests for COVID-19, the disease first detected in China late last year that has now killed more than 23,000 worldwide. Her condition deteriorated and her death was announced on Thursday, with health officials emphasising that severe cases are very rare in young people. “From the start, we were told that the virus doesn’t affect young people. We believed it, like everyone else,” Sabine said. Her daughter had no known underlying health problems.
A 42-year-old coronavirus-positive woman died at a Patiala hospital on Monday, taking the death toll in Punjab to three. A resident of Ludhiana, Pooja Rani was admitted to the Patiala hospital Sunday night. She had an acute respiratory distress syndrome. She died around 1:30 pm on Monday. The report of her samples, which came after her death, was positive for novel coronavirus.
Of course, some of these people already had health problems. But in most cases, they were not teetering on the lip of the grave. They were people in their youth or the prime of their lives who had every reason to believe their conditions were manageable and they had many years before them. The Kaiser Family Foundation offers some idea of quite how many Americans could be in the same shoes:
About four in ten adults (41%) ages 18 and older in the U.S. (105.5 million people) have a higher risk of developing serious illness if they are infected with coronavirus, due to their older age (60 and older) or health condition… Most of those at higher risk of developing a serious illness are older (72.4% or 76.3 million adults); however, the remaining 29.2 million adults ages 18-59 are at risk due to an underlying medical condition….The share of adults ages 18 and older who have a higher risk of developing a more serious illness varies across the country, ranging from 31 percent (Washington, D.C.) to 51 percent (West Virginia). In Washington State, California and New York, some of the states hardest hit by COVID-19 thus far, the share of adults at high risk is 40 percent, 37 percent and 40 percent respectively.