COVID-19 surging: Should more young people be tested?

More young people are contracting the virus.

SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) - The novel coronavirus continues on a concerning upward trajectory across the ArkLaTex.

Louisiana added over 1,000 new cases Tuesday, while Texas tallied over 4,200 cases Monday. Arkansas recorded 776 new cases on Tuesday and Oklahoma confirmed 585.

So, with more cases being added, how many people have actually taken a COVID-19 test?

Across the ArkLaTex, according to state data, 7 percent of all Texans have tested, that number rises to 8 percent in Oklahoma and around 9 percent in Arkansas. 15 percent of people in Louisiana have been administered a test.

But, throughout the United States, just 10 percent of all 328 million Americans have taken a coronavirus test.

So, considering those figures, do we have a complete picture as to how much this virus has infiltrated our cities and states?

“I think more testing is necessary,” said Dr. G.E. Ghali, chancellor of LSU Health Sciences Center Shreveport. “We’ve been pretty good in the state of Louisiana...we’re number five in the country on tests per capita - that’s good.”

As states work to get a grip on the surge in COVID-19, another worrisome trend is garnering attention.

More young people are contracting the virus.

“What’s concerning in this population under 30 is the fact they can be asymptomatic carriers,” said Dr. G.E. Ghali. “And as a result, they could come in contact with with older patients who have comorbidities or are older patients.”

In Louisiana, over 11,000 people between the ages of 18 and 29 have contracted the virus. They make up the demographic with the highest number of cases, followed by those between 30 and 39 years old.

People between the ages of 18 and 29 now make up the group with the highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Louisiana.
People between the ages of 18 and 29 now make up the group with the highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Louisiana. (Source: Louisiana Dept. of Health)

Though the 18 to 29 demographic statistically has a far lower death rate than those over 70 years old, a grave fear for Ghali and other health leaders in Northwest Louisiana is this group’s ability to carry the virus with mild or no symptoms.

“People are getting tired of this virus and they are tired of being isolated,” Ghali said.

So, now this is the question: should a younger person, who does not show signs of the coronavirus, be tested out of an abundance of caution?

Dr. Ghali believes it varies from person-to-person.

“Generally, I would say depends on what your situation is,” said Ghali. “If you’re asymptomatic and work in the healthcare environment, then it’s probably warranted to get tested; if you’re asymptomatic and you’re going to come in contact with elderly folks, your grandparents, and they have may be warranted to get tested.”

Ghali also suggested evaluating how exposed you are at work. How much contact are you having with people on a daily basis? Are you able to maintain social distancing in the work place?

“In those scenarios, it may be wise to get tested,” he added.

As people in cities everywhere remain anxious to return to some sense of normalcy, Ghali continues to urge patience, especially when case counts continue to mount.

“Social mitigation factors, the hand washing, the mask wearing, the physical distancing, these are really not intended to eliminate the virus, they’re intended to slow the spread,” Ghali added. “I’m concerned about people becoming more relaxed in what they do.”

Through the Emerging Viral Threats lab, LSU Health Shreveport continues to makes strides in its contributions to national and international research of the coronavirus, which is now recognized by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

“It has really been critical in testing, I want to say we’ve done over 40 thousand tests and we’ve focused a lot on nursing homes,” Ghali explained. “We’ve also been able to do over 200 viral genome sequencings for this COVID-19 virus that’s the largest in this part of the country.”

Ghali highlighted this data is contributed to an initiative to compare findings from all corners of the globe, which could lead to a more effective vaccine.

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