Florida’s new surge in COVID-19 infections since the beginning of June is being driven by college-aged youth between the ages of 20-22 years old, state health data show. Over that span, new cases among that age cohort have surged more dramatically than any other. Prior to June, college-aged youth trailed behind all other older age demographics except those over 70 years of age.
At the same time, the overall share of new cases among older Floridians has shifted just as dramatically in June – but in the opposite direction. For the first 90 days of the coronavirus pandemic, Floridians between the ages of 45-60 years old accounted for the largest percentage of all infections. Now, that age group accounts for a significantly lower percentage of cases than before.
The chart below plots the percentage of cases by age. Cases confirmed between March and the end of May are represented by the dark blue line. All new cases since the beginning of June are depicted by light blue columns:
The surge comes against the backdrop of a media narrative that largely ignored the impact of nationwide mass gatherings and protests and their impact on coronavirus case spread. Some health officials have gone on the record saying that the protests were more important than protecting against the virus.
Other media outlets have highlighted Florida’s surge in new cases, without the context of what is driving it. The New York Times made the case that the new spike happened “as the economy lurches into motion:”
In Florida, the number of new coronavirus cases has topped 1,000 for all but one of the past seven days. Most of the state began to reopen on May 4, though South Florida is still under tighter restrictions.
The New York Times correctly notes that Florida’s reopening process began in early May, but failed to observe that over the following month, there was no corresponding surge in cases. The chart below shows that COVID19 cases during the month of May remained relatively flat, and only started surging in early June:
In May, hospitalizations and deaths also remained flat, furthering the idea that those who are more susceptible to the virus were taking precautions to avoid getting sick in greater numbers than before. Hospitalizations and deaths lag new cases by up to three weeks, so it’s too early to tell if the new June spike will lead to a corresponding spike in those statistics. But given that the virus is spreading fastest among Florida’s younger adults, hospitalizations and deaths will likely increase, but not at the pace Florida experienced during the first three months of the pandemic.