People walk on Fore Street in Portland on July 7. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer Buy this Photo

The average age of individuals with COVID-19 continues to trend downward in Maine, as state health officials reported 24 additional coronavirus cases on Monday but no new deaths.

Maine continues to see relatively low numbers of new cases compared to other states where the coronavirus is surging. While daily figures fluctuate – ranging from eight to 41 cases during the past week – Monday’s two dozen new cases is slightly above the rolling average of 22 new cases daily for the previous week and the two-week average of 21 in Maine.

But as in other states, the age of people testing positive in Maine is skewing younger and younger. Maine residents under age 20 accounted for just 2.3 percent of all cases on May 1 – roughly six weeks after the first positive case in Maine – but were 7.9 percent on July 1 and 9.4 percent by Sunday.

Similarly, the share of cases among Mainers in their 20s increased from 11 percent to 16 percent during that period and from 10.4 percent to 15.2 percent for individuals in their 30s. While Maine residents in their 50s have consistently represented the largest age demographic, the percentage of total cases occupied by Mainers age 60 or older – the age group that accounts for the vast majority of COVID-19 deaths – has been shrinking.

Of the 22 new cases reported Sunday – the most recent date for which age data is available – 14 people were in their 30s or younger, including six in their 20s and three younger than 20. Only three were over 60.

Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, noted earlier this month that the median age of positive cases in Maine has fallen from 56.7 to 47.2 years old since the beginning of the pandemic in mid-March.

“This shift was expected as younger individuals resume economic and social activity,” Shah said on Twitter. “It is a reminder that younger folks can get #COVID-19.”

This is a trend that has been playing out for more than a month nationally – particularly in southern and western states. Public health experts attribute part of the rise in cases among younger individuals to states relaxing restrictions on bars, entertainment venues and social gatherings — factors that Shah and Maine Gov. Janet Mills have cited to explain why bars in Maine are still prohibited from indoor service.

In Arizona, individuals between 20 and 44 accounted for 50 percent of that state’s 145,000-plus cases as of Monday. In Florida, which has had record infection rates in recent weeks, the median age of positive cases has been hovering around 40 for weeks, thanks in large part to a surge in cases among younger residents.

And last week, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, warned that while he understands the temptation to socialize at bars or in crowds, young people need to understand the implications of such actions and take personal responsibility.

“What they need to understand is that given the nature of this outbreak, even if you get infected and have no symptoms at all and never get sick, you are inadvertently propagating the pandemic,” Fauci said during a virtual conversation with students on the pandemic hosted by Georgetown University. “You are part of the problem and not the solution. … The chances are you are going to infect someone, who then will infect someone who then will be a vulnerable person who can get sick, who can get hospitalized and who can even die.

To date, the Maine CDC has tracked 3,711 individuals since March who are believed to have contracted the COVID-19 disease caused by the novel coronavirus. That figure includes 3,287 cases confirmed through molecular testing and 424 probable cases among symptomatic individuals who either had close contact with a known, infected person or who had a positive antibody test.

The number of deaths among individuals with COVID-19 held steady at 117 on Monday, according to the latest figures from the Maine CDC. Over the weekend, Maine recorded its first death of an individual in his 20s. The vast majority of deaths, to date, have been among people over 60.

After accounting for the 117 deaths and 3,159 people who have recovered from the disease, Maine CDC was tracking 435 active cases of COVID-19 as of Monday. That is an increase of 13 since Sunday.

Maine averaged 403 active cases daily for the week ending Monday compared to 463 active cases for the seven-day period ending July 13.

Hospitalization rates among individuals with COVID-19 remain low across the state, however. The Maine CDC reported that 12 individuals were hospitalized as of Monday, which is up two from Sunday, while 10 people were in critical care units and four were connected to ventilators.

Maine and Delaware are the only states where the per capita case rates for COVID-19 cases trended downward over the past two weeks, according to virus tracking by The New York Times. Meanwhile, new case numbers are surging in Florida, Louisiana, Alabama, Texas and other parts of the Deep South and Southwest.

“The sustained resurgence of #COVID19 occurring in other states could easily and quickly take hold here, undoing the great work #Maine people have done,” Shah said in a tweet Sunday. “The fire is not yet out and it would be unwise to walk away until it is. We are still in this. Please, #WearAMask.”

In a post on Twitter on Monday, Shah noted that the rate of positive test results in Maine during the previous 24-hour period was 1.41 percent, while the seven-day rate was 1.18 percent. That is nearly a full percentage point below the seven-day weighted average from one month earlier.

Nationally, the seven-day average positivity rate stood at 8.5 percent as of Sunday, according to data from the COVID Tracking Project and Johns Hopkins University.

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