RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — The number of COVID-19 cases among college-aged people in North Carolina continues to rise at a higher rate than it is for everyone else, a CBS17.com data analysis found.
Nearly a quarter of the new cases reported in the state were people between the ages of 18 and 24, continuing the trend of climbing numbers among college-aged adults despite many colleges shifting classes online to prevent further spread.
People in that age group presently account for 30,909 of the 188,024 lab-confirmed cases in the state — or, 16 percent. That percentage share was at 15 percent three weeks ago, and it was at 14 percent a week in mid-August.
COVID-19 has rarely been fatal for people in that age bracket — only three of the 3,149 total deaths have been between 18 and 24 years old.
“These people aren’t inclined to have severe outcomes because of their age and co-morbidities, and they’re young and don’t have many,” said Cyrus Shahpar of Resolve to Save Lives, a nonprofit headed by former Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Tom Frieden.
But the infection numbers keep rising.
According to Department of Health and Human Services data, the state added 30,283 new cases since Aug. 25 — and 7,198 of them, or 24 percent, were in the 18-to-24 age bracket.
Data also show the total number of new cases in that age group increased by 30 percent during that time. For all other ages — either 17 and under, or 25 and over — the case count rose by just 17 percent.
And no other age bracket has a higher percentage of infection among its total population in the state.
A comparison of the number of cases and the population estimates from the Office of State Budget and Management for this year show 2.9 percent of the 1.05 million 18-to-24-year-olds in the state have tested positive.
That’s the second-smallest population among the six age classifications used in the DHHS demographic breakdowns, with only the 75-and-over group — and its estimated population of 730,000 — accounting for fewer North Carolinians.
The University of North Carolina, North Carolina State University and East Carolina University are among the schools that have shifted classes online due to clusters of cases breaking out at the start of the academic year.
The numbers of positive results on those campuses has dwindled in recent weeks. UNC reported just seven new cases on campus from Sept. 7-13, though the school said its on-campus housing had an occupancy rate of just 12.9 percent. N.C. State had 48 new cases in the same time period.
But there’s no national standard for when a school should decide to shift to virtual learning.
“We would say if you have a high rate of community transmission, you shouldn’t be in person,” Shahpar said.