Adults under age 65 are now making up the largest group of people infected with the coronavirus in Los Angeles County. Unlike the early days of the pandemic when COVID-19 devastated nursing homes and senior care facilities, local medical care providers are treating an increasing number of younger patients who are mostly unvaccinated.
According to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, among the over 1.2 million infections reported in the region, the number of cases from people ages 30-49 is three times more than that of senior citizens.
Dr. Oliver T. Brooks, Chief Medical Officer at Watts HealthCare Corporation, says he and his staff are increasingly seeing younger Angelenos coming into his hospital with COVID symptoms.
“They are less likely to be fully vaccinated. They're more likely to congregate and be around other people in generally closed quarters — both outdoors or indoors,” says Brooks, who also believes younger people are less likely to wear a mask.
He says his conversations with recent patients indicate that their distrust in the government and health care system turned them away from vaccines. “I tell them, ‘The vaccine is safe and effective. I'm in the health care system. You can trust me.’”
Dr. Brooks also shares that some of the new COVID patients became infected after putting off vaccinations plans. “That category [of people] is called wait-and-see, and I tell them, ‘What are you waiting for?’”
But as COVID variants outpaced public health’s response to the pandemic, Dr. Brooks laments that ever-evolving messaging from officials may have become less effective in convincing the unvaccinated to get their shots.
“It's getting trickier now. We used to be able to say, ‘Look, if you get fully vaccinated, you can start going to the parties, and you can go to these sporting events.’ But the recommendations now have moved toward wearing a mask indoors or outdoors in public settings. So we've kind of lost that.”
Medical workers are also having uncomfortable conversations about breakthrough cases. Especially people who were reluctant to get vaccinated but did so eventually, they’re sometimes angry when they come into the hospital for treatment, says Brooks.
However, he and his colleagues remind them that they’ll have a milder case of COVID compared with someone unvaccinated.
“I reassure them that they're seeing the result [of the vaccine.] I tell them, ‘If you were not vaccinated right now, you would likely be in a hospital bed on oxygen.’ This is what happens with a novel virus. We've never seen anything like this before in our lifetimes or the last four generations.”
He believes that amid pandemic fatigue, more Californians may start becoming desensitized to the barrage of vaccination reminders from health officials. But the doctor says medical experts must stay on point.
“Advertisers pay billions of dollars, and they show the same ad 30 times. We just need to keep repeating.”