The Surprising Victims of Coronavirus: The Middle Aged
Globally there have been at least 378,679 confirmed coronavirus cases. The first 100,000 coronavirus cases took 67 days to appear. The second 100,000 cases appeared in only 4 days. More than 16,500 infected people have died. Hospitalizations and fatalities are quickly accelerating.
The coronavirus has reached every continent except Antarctica. About 20% of the global population is under lockdown. Some international borders have been completely closed. Across the world, schools, workplaces and restaurants have been shut down until further notice.
As the pandemic spreads like wildfire around the world, medical professionals are struggling to understand and contain the coronavirus. With limited data available, clinicians are closely analyzing how the virus progressed in China, where the virus originated last December. Unfortunately, the trajectory of the virus is not predictable.
Neither are the virus’s victims. France, one of the European countries hit hardest by the pandemic, currently has more than 5,300 coronavirus cases and 127 deaths. More than 50% of the most severe coronavirus patients being treated in Paris are under the age of 60. Half of the ICU patients in the Netherlands are younger than 50. In the United States, 38% of people sick enough to be hospitalized are under the age of 55. The majority of coronavirus cases are contracted by people younger than 70. On March 24th, the coronavirus claimed its first American fatality under the age of 18 in Los Angeles county.
Why Aren’t Younger People Taking The Coronavirus Seriously?
With the new statistics from France, the Netherlands and The United States, people are wondering, why aren’t younger people taking the coronavirus more seriously?
Previous data has found that patients age 10-39 have a .02% chance of dying from the coronavirus. Unfortunately, this conclusion has led to many younger people not taking the virus seriously. The press is circulating photos and testimonies of young adults taking advantage of low airfare, going to the beach and congregating in bars. Some young people returned from spring break with coronavirus.
Is this lax attitude of younger people due to an invincibility complex? Lack of media coverage regarding newer data showing non-seniors severely or fatally infected by the coronavirus? Or is the data being influenced by external factors? The Netherlands has a relatively younger population than most countries so the younger demographic may be overrepresented. There is a high percentage of young smokers in France. Some populations may be overrepresented when people are tested in clusters. Infected persons also live with and are in close proximity with people of a similar age.
To prevent the spread of the coronavirus, countries are implementing stay-at-home mandates and strict social distancing orders. Schools, workplaces, and social venues have been closed. Everyone, regardless of their risk level, has been encouraged to at home as much as possible to decrease the spread of the coronavirus. It is increasingly considered a matter of social responsibility to “flatten the curve” of the virus. Some countries are fining people who leave their homes for non-essential tasks. As the virus’s toll widens, so do government-mandated restrictions.
The emerging coronavirus cases in non-seniors are especially concerning considering 86% of uninsured Americans are non-elderly adults. Young adults are the least likely of all age groups to have health insurance coverage. The Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare” had previously greatly increased the health insurance coverage of this demographic. With the Trump administration cutting 90% of the ACA’s advertising budget, 400,000 fewer people enrolled in the program this year.
How Will Standard Health Insurance Cover Coronavirus?
Standard health insurance policies have some coverage for coronavirus treatment. The coronavirus is being treated by most health insurance companies like any other virus. Unfortunately, this also means that consumers will still be financially responsible for some of their coronavirus treatment costs. There are no specific restrictions or limitations for coronavirus coverage. Insurers have not waived out-of-pocket expenses, including hospitalizations, during the pandemic. The average deductible amount for single coverage in 2019 was $1,655. More than 25% of employer-insured workers paid a deductible of $2,000 or more. If you receive out-of-network care, you could be personally responsible for an even higher medical bill.
Many health insurance companies are waiving the charges for coronavirus tests. Some are increasing telemedicine appointments and virtual care. If you are hospitalized or quarantined at a medical facility, your insurance should cover it like any other inpatient stay. Experimental or alternative treatments will likely not be covered by your health insurance.
If you self-quarantine at your home, your plan should cover the medical care you receive at your home from a licensed medical professional. Your health insurance plan will not pay for lost income while you are away from work.
If you are already enrolled in a health insurance plan, check ahead of time with your health insurance company to find out what coronavirus-related expenses you may be responsible for. More than half of Americans are at risk of being unemployed or underemployed because of coronavirus. If you are suddenly not insured or if you’re pregnant, you can enroll in a health plan outside the open enrollment period. Also, regardless of circumstances, many states have opened up the health insurance market, so you may be able to buy health insurance now.
What Are Symptoms of Coronavirus and Who Is Affected?
Symptoms of coronavirus may appear 2-14 days after exposure and include:
- Sore throat
- Runny nose
- Shortness of breath
- Breathing difficulties
More severe symptoms may include:
- Severe acute respiratory syndrome
- Lower Respiratory tract illness
- Kidney failure
Everyone is at risk of contracting the coronavirus. 80% of people who contract the coronavirus recover. In 20% of people, the virus is severe or deadly. The majority of people who contract coronavirus will only exhibit mild symptoms or may even be asymptomatic. The problem is that those mildly affected are infecting people who may die from the virus.
Interestingly, there have been no reported deaths in children aged ten and younger. Children under ten represent less than 1% of coronavirus patients. In the United States, people with coronavirus aged 19 and younger had almost no hospitalizations and much milder symptoms. A study from China provided a larger sample population of children and came to the same conclusion.
There is a correlation between preexisting health conditions and the severity of symptoms. People with serious chronic medical conditions like diabetes and people with heart and lung disease have a higher risk of developing serious symptoms and dying from the coronavirus than the general population. About 75% of Chinese coronavirus patients had no preexisting health problems. The fatality rate for Chinese patients without preexisting conditions was just under 1%.
There is a correlation between age and fatalities, with seniors representing the majority of coronavirus deaths. Patients in their 50s have a fatality rate three times higher than patients in their 40s. Seniors over the age of 80 have a 15%-21.9% chance of dying as a result of contracting the coronavirus. Italy, with one of the oldest populations in the world, has suffered the most coronavirus fatalities. 60% of Italy’s citizens are over the age of 40, with a median age of 46 years old.
It is uncertain whether the death rate increases with age or preexisting conditions. Older people are more likely to have preexisting conditions than younger people. While younger people have a smaller chance of dying from coronavirus, they also have a smaller chance of dying from almost any other health risk. In China, medical professionals have pointed out that the age at which people died from the coronavirus is very similar to their projected age of death by natural causes.
How Can I Protect Myself From Coronavirus?
As with any virus, you can take preventative measures to avoid contracting coronavirus, these include:
- Practicing self-isolation. Leave home only when absolutely necessary (i.e. grocery store, pharmacy)
- Regular handwashing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
- Using hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol to clean hands if soap and water are not available
- Avoiding touching eyes, nose, or mouth with unclean hands
- Avoiding close contact with infected persons
- Avoiding crowded and badly ventilated areas
- Wiping down commonly shared areas such as bathrooms
- Wiping down highly touched surfaces such as doorknobs and faucets
You may be exposed to the virus if you are within six feet of an infected person, or through inhaling the respiratory droplets that are produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It is possible you can get sick from someone not showing symptoms, but primarily the virus is spread by people displaying symptoms. You may contract the illness through shared surfaces if you touch an orifice of your body such as your eye, nose, or mouth after touching an infected surface.
The CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear face masks. Face masks are recommended for people who show symptoms, healthcare workers and caretakers to help prevent the spread to others.
It is wise to cancel all unnecessary travel plans if you have not already been forced to do so by government restrictions. You should practice social distancing and avoid gathering in groups of larger than 10 people. If you are ordered to shelter in place, comply with these orders. Keep informed about the pandemic and comply with various federal and state advisories as they are declared.
What Should I Do If I Contract Coronavirus?
If you suspect you have contracted coronavirus, you should seek immediate medical help. You should also contact your healthcare provider if you may have been exposed to a person with coronavirus or you live in/have traveled to an area with a high concentration of infected people.
There are tests that will help your medical practitioner identify if your symptoms are in fact coronavirus. Once you have been diagnosed, your doctor may suggest:
- Taking pain and fever medications
- Drinking plenty of liquids
- Staying home to rest
- Taking a hot shower to ease sore throat and cough
- Using a room humidifier to help with respiratory symptoms
- Support for vital organ function in severe cases
It is important to note that antibiotics will not work against a virus. Do not attempt to treat the virus yourself without consulting a medical professional.
When Will The Coronavirus Pandemic End?
There is no apparent end to this pandemic insight. China has contained the coronavirus within its borders for now. If the virus had been left unchecked, China’s 3,500 deaths would have translated into 3.6 million deaths after only 10 weeks. Coronavirus transmission is estimated to double every week the virus is uncontained.
Italy will not likely end up being the country with the highest coronavirus fatality rate. It is important to take into consideration Italy’s strong public health system and access to medical supplies. Developing countries do not have the same access to resources. Less privileged countries could sustain much more devastating results from the virus. Standard social distancing measures may be impossible to implement in packed communities like Calcutta or Lagos.
In the United States, President Trump has proposed reopening the country by Easter. Taking into consideration the weekly doubling estimate of the virus, American citizens are justifiably very frightened. In New York, the number of coronavirus cases is doubling every three days.
The Demographic Breakdown of Coronavirus Victims
There are also glaring socio-economical and racial disparities in health insurance coverage which may be disastrous for marginalized American populations. Most uninsured people are in low-income families. People of color are at a higher risk of being uninsured than non-Hispanic white people. Nearly 1 in 3 American families decided not to seek medical care during the past year because of out-of-pocket expenses. This is a huge problem during a pandemic, as people are less likely to seek out and receive appropriate treatment. The coronavirus pandemic creates not only the potential for massive economical costs but more importantly, massive loss of human lives.
The United States has a high uninsured rate and high out-of-pocket costs for medical care compared to the rest of the world, and 45% of Americans report they remain uninsured because the coverage cost is too high.
If you are one of the 60% of Americans who lack the savings to pay for an unexpected $1,000 deductible, you may want to consider a health insurance plan with lower deductibles. Take a few moments to enter your zipcode below and research the best health insurance plan for you.
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An Exclusive Provider Organization (EPO) is a managed care plan where services are covered only if you go to doctors, specialists and hospitals in the plan’s network. The only exception to this rule is in the case of an emergency.
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