COLUMBUS, Ohio — Experts say certain age groups of people are driving the latest surge as the COVID-19 wave, including the delta variant, worsens.

What You Need To Know

  • An infectious disease doctor says people in their 20s and 30s are becoming hospitalized

  • The delta variant COVID-19 surge is being fueled by transmission among younger people 

  • Lower case rates are being reported for seniors, who are vaccinated at the highest levels

“The individuals who are being admitted to the hospital with COVID are younger,” said Dr. Mark Herbert, an infectious disease specialist with Mount Carmel Health in Columbus. “We're seeing patients in their 20s and 30s, which is very uncommon compared to earlier surges.” 

Young and early middle-aged adults have been at lower risk of becoming severely ill with COVID-19 throughout the pandemic, but the delta variant has brought about a concerning shift, Herbert said. 

“During the first 12 months of the pandemic, many people who were admitted to the hospital were older and had chronic medical conditions which placed them at increased risk of complications, but now we're seeing younger people who really don't have underlying medical conditions,” Herbert said. 

He believes more patients in these demographics are becoming hospitalized due to lower vaccination rates among the age group. In Ohio, the vaccination rate is relatively high among the older segments of the population — greater than 82% for seniors 65 and older — but less than 50% of residents in their 20s and 30s have taken a shot, according to state data.

Herbert said more than 90% of Mount Carmel’s recent hospital admissions are unvaccinated patients, demonstrating the continued protection offered by the vaccine. 


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data shows the COVID-19 case rate for the 18 to 29 demographic was the highest of all age groups for the week ending July 31, the most recent period when data is available. People aged 30 to 39 had the second-highest case rate. 

With less defense against the virus from vaccines, the population is seeing high rates of transmission as the more contagious delta variant circulates.

​​In addition to the surges among those in their 20s and 30s, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued a warning this week about increased COVID-19 spread among youth as nearly 94,000 U.S cases among children were reported this past week. In June, weekly children infections had reached a low of about 8,400.

The AAP is calling on the Food and Drug Administration to speed authorization of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children younger than 12 due to the delta variant. 

In the meantime, Herbert said those who are eligible for vaccination can protect children by getting the shot themselves. 

“Right now, we're looking at entering a school season with many school-aged children who don't have access to vaccine, so it's really incumbent upon the adults in their life, whether those are teachers, or parents, or friends of family, all of those adults need to get vaccinated to protect those children,” he said.

The two best tools for reducing transmission in the coming weeks are masking and vaccination, Herbert said.

Boosting the vaccination rates among teenagers and parents will be critical for children to be able to safely attend school in the classroom this fall, he added.