The University of Georgia Bulldogs faced the Missouri Tigers on Nov. 9, 2019, in Athens, Georgia. (Photo/Jason Born) 

The COVID-19 pandemic has shaken society to its core, forcing businesses to shut down and people to avoid public places. Health experts have warned us the elderly and those with underlying conditions are especially vulnerable. This is true, but it now looks like the novel coronavirus poses plenty of danger for younger people as well.

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show people between the ages of 20 and 54 accounted for almost 40% — nearly two in five — of those hospitalized by COVID-19 in the U.S, illustrating how important it is for younger people to take the novel coronavirus seriously. Though younger people without underlying conditions are unlikely to die, they could hurt themselves and others who have a higher risk of serious illness.

More and more stories keep coming out of younger people becoming infected. In one tragic example, a 12-year-old girl in Georgia is now on a respirator after testing positive for COVID-19. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the U.S. is looking closely at the numbers of young people going to the hospital.

Younger people are indeed at low risk of dying from COVID-19. According to the CDC, people aged 20-54 have a fatality rate of less than 1%.

But there are still plenty of consequences for young people getting sick, some of which could be devastating.

There’s evidence that having the disease can have health consequences even for patients who have recovered. For example, researchers have found that some patients who have recovered from COVID-19 have reduced lung function.

Perhaps more concerning is the stress it could pose to our health care systems. In parts of Italy, the rapid spread of the coronavirus has overloaded the health care system. Dealing with limited resources, desperate Italian doctors had to make the horrifying choice of who received potentially-life saving treatment.

The United States could be headed for a similar situation. With cases increasing quickly, doctors could soon be overwhelmed by the sheer number of patients. The novel coronavirus has battered New York, which now has over 16,000 cases, and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has expressed fears that hospitals may not be able to keep up with demand.

Though they are not at a high risk of dying, young people clearly make up a significant portion of the hospitalization rates. If we reduce the number of young people in the hospital, then hospitals can focus their resources on the patients who need it the most.

If we want to get through this pandemic as quickly as possible, we need to work together. Young people aren't immune from COVID-19. Young people must follow precautions so they stay healthy. It's what's best for them and society.

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