Loudoun County health officials reported Monday they have noticed an increase in the number of positive tests for the coronavirus among residents under 29 years old.
“We are taking a closer look at these cases to determine what may be causing the increase in COVID-19 among our younger population,” said Loudoun County Health Director Dr. David Goodfriend. “I suspect that many teens and young adults are increasingly participating in activities that involve larger gatherings of people, such as beach week and other celebrations, which has increased their exposure to others outside their families.”
Over the past week, more than half of those who tested positive in Loudoun were 29 or younger. Over the past week alone, 150 people between the ages of 16 and 18 years old tested positive for COVID-19, which represents 58 percent of all people who tested positive in this age group in the county since the pandemic began.
“While younger people may feel invincible, it is critical that all of us take the necessary precautions to slow the spread of COVID-19 because the virus is still circulating in our community, particularly staying home and away from others when sick and wearing face coverings while in public,” Goodfriend added.
Loudoun has reported almost 4,000 positive cases overall since the pandemic began.
In an email to parents last week, Loudoun County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Eric Williams issued a similar warning. "LCPS has become aware that a large number of students have participated in recent private, non-school-sponsored events that may have resulted in exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19," he wrote. The events were not identified. "The Loudoun County Health Department (LCHD) is conducting contact tracing investigations among participants in these events. Participants in those events are encouraged to self-quarantine or self-isolate as directed by the LCHD or your medical provider, in accordance with public health mitigation guidance."
The risk of exposure to the virus increases in large gatherings, the health department said. Without proper precautions, events such as senior week festivities, beach trips, house parties and Fourth of July celebrations pose a danger, not only to the young people in attendance, but also to the people in the community they might unknowingly infect with the virus, including vulnerable older adults.
The health department encouraged parents, young adults and teens to remain vigilant in taking the following precautions:
- Avoid large gatherings of people and sharing living spaces with people outside your immediate household.
- Practice social distancing: stay 6 feet apart from others whenever possible.
- Wear a face covering over the nose and mouth while in public, particularly indoors.
- Wash hands frequently with soap and water for 20 seconds; use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol when soap and water are not available.
- Stay home when sick, except when seeking medical care.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick, including in your home.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
- Clean and disinfect frequently-touched surfaces frequently.
- Cover coughs and sneezes when not wearing a face covering.
Health officials urge anyone who has been in a large gathering and develops symptoms of COVID-19 to see a doctor and to notify others who were with them so they can take precautions as well.
“No matter how old or young, we all play a role in slowing the spread of coronavirus in our community,” said Goodfriend. “Even healthy teenagers and young adults need to follow these steps. While younger people may recover from COVID-19, they may unknowingly spread the virus to more vulnerable members of our community who are at risk of serious illness.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offer this advice to teens and young adults on dealing with the pandemic and these recommendations for parents of teens to help their children cope.