PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Younger people are better protected, and older people are more at-risk, but COVID-19 cases in Southern New England so far suggest the disease most often affects people between 40 and 60 years old.
The overall sample size remains small, as states continue to grapple to expand testing capabilities, but three weeks of data through Monday show that about 40% of the nearly 1,300 confirmed cases reported in Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut have been people between 40 and 60 years old.
In Rhode Island, the age group had the most cases so far – 33 out of 106, as of Monday – but the disease has been relatively consistent in affecting all ages, as R.I. Health Director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott noted Tuesday.
“The virus does not pick and choose who to infect,” she said during a daily briefing.
COVID-19 nonetheless continues to kill older people and those with underlying health conditions more often, according to early data out of China and the United States.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report on March 18 showing fatality rates were highest among people 85 years and older, followed by those aged 65 to 84. There had been no fatalities among people younger than 20 years old at that point. California on Tuesday reported a person under the age of 18 had died from the disease, marking the first underage death in the United States, according to multiple reports.
“The risk for serious disease and death in COVID-19 cases among persons in the United States increases with age,” CDC researchers wrote at the time. “Social distancing is recommended for all ages to slow the spread of the virus, protect the health care system, and help protect vulnerable older adults.”
Rhode Island has no reported COVID-19 deaths so far, and only 21% of confirmed cases have involved people 60 years or older. As of Monday, nobody in their 80s and only two people in their 90s had tested positive for the disease.
In Massachusetts and Connecticut, which both already have COVID-19 deaths, the states have slightly higher percentages of people older than 60 years old with the disease.
Rhode Island health officials said last week they would not be surprised to see a COVID-19-related death at some point in the future, especially considering it has killed more than 500 people in the United States and 18,000 people globally.
Rhode Island has taken aggressive steps in an effort to protect residents, including an early call for anyone 60 years and older to avoid gatherings. And Raimondo has made multiple orders mandating that people continue to social distance, self-quarantine and stay home when possible so the illness will spread to as few people as possible.
“This whole thing depends on you,” she said during a Tuesday briefing.