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Twentysomethings are testing positive for COVID-19 in higher numbers


There’s a lingering tendency to view coronavirus as largely a threat to the elderly. They’re a population at greater risk from the virus, and the public’s eye is now turned toward nursing homes after a series of COVID-19 outbreaks and deaths.

Over the past month, however, more people in their 20’s have tested positive for COVID-19 in Monroe County than in any other age group. One reason for the disparity may be the prevalence of young people working in frontline health care jobs, the county’s top health official said.

During a news briefing Tuesday, Monroe County Public Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Mendoza said that the trend has been apparent to the Health Department for a while.

“I would say that it’s probably more pronounced now as we are testing more” Mendoza said.

Between April 15 and May 18, the county Department of Public Health tallied 218 positive COVID tests for people in their 20’s. By comparison, for that same time period it reported:
  • 186 people in their 30’s who tested positive;
  • 144 people in their 40’s who tested positive;
  • 191 people in their 50’s who tested positive;
  • 170 people in their 60’s who tested positive;
  • 179 people in their 70’s who tested positive;
  • 139 people in their 80’s who tested positive;
  • 104 people in their 90’s who tested positive;
  • 7 people over 100 who tested positive.

When CITY asked about the figures, Mendoza said he believes the numbers reflect ongoing testing of essential workers, particularly frontline health workers such as nurses, certified nursing assistants, and techs. Those workers tend to be younger and female.

“There’s an overrepresentation of younger females in healthcare and I think that is an explanation that we’re seeing here,” Mendoza said.

Between May 10 and May 18, 49 females in their 20’s tested positive for COVID-19, while 26 males in the same age group did.

Yvette Conyers, president of the Rochester Black Nurses Association, said the link isn’t surprising. Many young people start their nursing careers in roles that give them experience caring for patients, whether as certified nursing assistants or in starting nurse positions.

“Your frontline workers are usually the ones who are younger and trying to provide for their families,” Conyers said.

Mendoza added that many of the people from younger age groups who’ve tested positive, including children under 10, are family members or children of “confirmed positives” with whom they’ve come in contact.

“We’re testing more presumed positives in a household and so I think that’s a big explanation for why we’re seeing more in the younger groups,” Mendoza said.

Jeremy Moule is CITY's news editor. He can be reached at