Healthbeat: Number of COVID hospitalizations increase for those younger than 65

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PLAINS TOWNSHIP, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — The COVID-19 pandemic has hit the 65 and older population especially hard given the number of hospitalizations and deaths. But lately there’s a troubling trend: an increasing number of hospitalizations for those younger than 65.

It’s certainly worrisome for medical facilities like Geisinger. More, younger patients with COVID-19 are being admitted to hospitals. And some are suffering from more severe symptoms now compared to earlier during the pandemic.

More than a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, Pennsylvania hospitals are dealing with thousands of patients a day battling the highly contagious virus.

“The number of people who are currently in the hospital is as high as it ever has been. So, we’re still hitting new peaks in high of people in the hospital,” said Dr. Gerald Maloney, Chief Medical Officer, Geisinger System Hospitals.

But Dr. Maloney sees a dramatic change as to who is filling up those beds during this third wave of infection.

“So, the rate of people 20 to 29 is up by 10 percent. The rate in people 50 to 64 is up by ten percent.”

Dr. Maloney says on the flip side, the rate of hospitalizations for people 80 and older is down 20 percent. He credits that improvement to seniors having access to the COVID vaccine first. But now everyone 16 and older can get the shot.

“The evidence says that the people coming into the hospital have not been vaccinated so that’s one issue. And the other issue is what does that mean for the overall population.”

Dr. Maloney considers the rise in younger hospitalizations an alarming and clear sign that vaccine hesitancy presents a problem to all of us — one which is propelled by COVID-19 variants.

“We know that those form most in unvaccinated and partly vaccinated people. So, when we hear now that there’s a trend towards people refusing the second of a two-dose series, that’s very frightening because again, partially vaccinated is going to give rise to variants that we don’t know for sure the impact will be on the overall population.”

Dr. Maloney reminds us that even the most effective vaccines provide 94% protection — meaning six of every 100 people could still get infected. Besides getting vaccinated, he urges continued mask wearing, social distancing and hand washing.

He says people letting down their guard will only prolong this pandemic.

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