Coronavirus, Local

Atlanta Hospitals See Surge In COVID-19 Cases Among Young People

Grady Health System officials said that the hospital's COVID-19 cases have doubled in the last 16 days.
Grady Health System officials said that the hospital's COVID-19 cases have doubled in the last 16 days.
Credit David Goldman / Associated Press

Metro Atlanta hospitals have witnessed a spike in younger people – specifically in their 20s and 30s – catching the coronavirus.

Grady Health System officials told “Morning Edition” host Lisa Rayam that the hospital’s COVID-19 cases have doubled in the last 16 days. For the most part, young people are showing more mild symptoms of the virus, according to Grady Health System’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Robert Jansen.

“They’re spreading it,” Dr. Jansen said.

“We have a number of patients who come into the emergency department who turn out to be positive and don’t require admission. But it’s early on in this sort of new surge.”

Georgia has had record daily increases in confirmed cases recently. Georgia Department of Public Health data shows nearly 3,000 new cases reported Wednesday.

That’s the same day Governor Brian Kemp kicked off his statewide tour to push Georgians to wear face masks during the 4th of July holiday weekend. It’s also a day before a letter signed by thousands of Georgia health care workers was scheduled to hit Kemp’s desk.

The letter called for Kemp to require Georgians to wear face masks in public spaces, and pushes for the governor to allow local officials to create their own regulations, including shutting down bars, nightclubs and places of worship for the time being.

In the wake of this new spike, Kemp says that the state continues to make progress in fighting the virus.

Dr. Jansen said he’s not sure what Kemp’s reasoning is — America hasn’t even reached its second wave of cumulative coronavirus cases.

“We had a decrease, but that was because we were doing what we were supposed to do, and that was being careful, social distancing and wearing masks,” he said.

“It’s young people who really have to take the lead in this. Although they may get infected and be fine, it’s who they may infect. And we are seeing transmission in households, transmission among friends.”

Meanwhile, local leaders like DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond are battling what he calls inconsistent messaging from the White House down to Kemp’s office.

DeKalb issued a public safety alert, which popped up on resident’s phones similar to an Amber Alert. It urges people to wear masks in public areas and practice social distancing, as DeKalb currently has the third-highest number of infections statewide.

“It’s a way of doing everything we can to ensure that we’re protecting the health and safety of our citizens,” Thurmond said.

“We recognize that this is the 4th of July weekend, and thousands of people will be out and about celebrating.”