Coronavirus task force makes plea to young people: ‘You will infect someone who’s vulnerable’

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Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Anthony Fauci speaks as U.S. Vice President Mike Pence listens after a White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing at the Department of Health and Human Services on June 26, 2020 in Washington, DC.

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As more young people become infected with Covid-19 in states with increasing case numbers, they may not be at risk of serious disease but could infect someone who is, members of the White House coronavirus task force warned on Friday.  

“People are infecting other people and ultimately you will infect someone who’s vulnerable,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said during a press briefing. 

Vice President Mike Pence said that there are 16 states reporting a rise in the total number of cases and the percent of tests coming back positive. While the rise in daily case numbers could reflect increased testing in certain locations, some states are reporting higher positivity rates that epidemiologists say could reflect greater spread throughout a community. 

“We now have seen cases rise precipitously across the South,” Pence said during the briefing. 

Pence said that roughly half of the new cases are Americans under the age of 35, which is “at a certain level very encouraging news” because experts say that younger people are less susceptible to serious illness from the virus. 

“If there’s one message that comes through today I hope it is saying to younger Americans in these states, and in these counties in particular, that they are a big part of the numbers that we are seeing in new cases,” Pence said.

While young people may be at less risk, it’s been proven that they will likely spread the coronavirus to someone else, Fauci added. He noted pictures and videos of people at bars and said that they are likely part of the overwhelming number of young people who are becoming infected.

“A risk for you is not just isolated to you,” Fauci said. “Because if you get infected you are part, innocently or inadvertently, of propagating the dynamic process of a pandemic.” 

Fauci said that “we are facing a serious problem in certain areas” of the U.S. while other states have been able to control their outbreaks. However, what happens in one area of the country “ultimately could have an effect on the other areas of the country,” he said. 

“If we want to end this outbreak, really end it. And then hopefully when a vaccine comes and puts the nail in the coffin, we’ve got to realize we are part of the process,” Fauci said. 

Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, added that the coronavirus poses a greater risk to those with underlying health conditions, such diabetes and significant obesity, which are seen in every age group. 

“Remember those comorbidities span the entire age group. We do know that we have people in the younger age groups with significant Type 1 diabetes and may also have individuals with significant obesity,” Birx said. “We know that those are risk factors, so risk factors go with your comorbidity not necessarily with your age.” 

— CNBC’s Kevin Breuninger contributed to this report. 

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