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Younger Mainers are accounting for a larger slice of the state’s confirmed coronavirus infections, but state officials say that the change has not been nearly as dramatic as in some other states, where the virus appears to be flaring up partly as a result of teenagers and younger adults venturing back out into public.
In Maine, the average age of people testing positive for the coronavirus has remained close to 49 throughout the pandemic, according to Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. He contrasted that with some other states in the Southeast and West — such as Florida, Texas and Arizona — that are now seeing surges of cases after allowing bars and other parts of their economies to reopen.
“Our average age in Maine is still pretty much right at 49,” Shah said on Wednesday. “It’s come down just a little bit, only owing to younger folks who have gotten infected a bit more recently, but it hasn’t changed in the way that we’ve seen some of the Sun Belt change, where the average age has been in the mid to late 40s, and has now in some states dropped to the low 40s, high 30s.”
Shah attributed the trends in those states to younger people “coming into contact with one another” at bars and other places. As a result of those outbreaks in other states, Gov. Janet Mills on Monday announced that she was indefinitely postponing indoor bar service in Maine.
Through the start of June, the majority of Maine’s confirmed coronavirus infections were in people older than 50. But that flipped around June 10: since then, the majority of cases have been among people younger than 50.
The greatest increases have been among people younger than 20 and in their 20s and 30s, who together accounted for about 21 percent of the state’s known COVID-19 cases at the start of April and now account for about 38 percent, according to Maine CDC data.
Dr. James Jarvis, the COVID-19 incident commander at Northern Light Health, offered two “theories” for the uptick. One could be that younger people are now going out into public more frequently for events such as high school graduations, while older Mainers remain more careful about staying home and wearing face masks, Jarvis said.
Like other health officials, Jarvis said that increased testing for the coronavirus could also be revealing more cases among younger people. Early on in the pandemic, Maine prioritized testing for health care workers, the elderly and people who were seriously sick because of a lack of testing capacity.
That was partly because the elderly are at higher risk for serious health effects from the virus. But now, it’s much easier for people of any age who are showing mild symptoms to receive a test from a doctor.
As the coronavirus keeps surging in other states, Shah, Jarvis and other Maine health officials have stressed the need for people to continue practicing social distancing, wearing face masks, washing hands and taking other precautions to prevent the same thing from happening here.