VCH targeting young adults as they represent the biggest increase of test positive cases

ALTHOUGH the number of COVID-19 cases in the Vancouver Coastal Health region is down among the seniors who are most impacted by it, the disease is still gaining ground in millennials in the Vancouver Coastal Health region. According to data compiled by VCH’s Public Health Surveillance Unit, people aged 20-39 represent the biggest increase of test positive cases in the region since Phase 3 of BC’s Restart Plan began on June 24.

“In Phase 1 of B.C.’s Restart Plan, in the first months of the pandemic, 43 per cent of our cases were in the 60-plus age group — the demographic where we see the most serious disease — and those in the 20-39 age group only represented 21 per cent of our cases,” said Dr. Patricia Daly, VCH Chief Medical Health Officer. “In Phase 3, the demographic curve is trending the other way: the 60-plus age group now represents 16 per cent of our cases, while those aged 20-39 make up 56 per cent of our cases.” As of August 18, there have been 1,526 reported cases of COVID-19 in VCH, infecting people from newborn to age 104. The data shows the median age of those who test positive for COVID-19 has now dropped — from 57 years old in Phase 1 to 34 years old in Phase 3.

“We expected to see our curve rise once we moved into this phase of reopening, so these increasing case counts are not a surprise, but they do provide an important reminder to all of us to continue following safety measures such as staying home when you’re sick,” said Daly.

The reasons for the shift in demographic are varied, said Daly, including the reopening of businesses where younger adults work, such as restaurants and bars. Another reason? Partying.

“We’re seeing transmission take place in nightclubs in particular, but also at bars and restaurants, while boating and in other indoor social settings. It’s the way people act and interact in these settings that’s problematic: sharing food and drinks, speaking loudly and in close proximity if there’s background noise, and not social distancing among strangers, especially if they’ve been drinking alcohol. When people aren’t taking measures to protect themselves and others from COVID-19 in these settings, it means more potential risk to the public.”

For most young adults, COVID-19 causes very mild illness, but they may spread the virus to seniors and others at risk of more serious disease. This can occur in families, shared households or workplaces.

In an effort to reach millennials and those younger, Vancouver Coastal Health has launched a new campaign that includes a series of COVID-safe summer guides (found here) posted on social media and online with tips for visiting restaurants, getting together with friends, playing recreational sports, going on road trips, going to the beach, and COVID-safe sex. A poster campaign and a TikTok video series of do’s and don’ts are also aimed at preventing the spread of the virus.

“We want people to get out and enjoy summer with their friends, but we can’t forget that COVID-19 is still in our communities,” said Daly. “By following public health guidance, we can help limit the spread of the virus and protect those most vulnerable to severe disease.”