Administration officials pleaded with adults under 40 on Friday to act responsibly to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
In the first public meeting of the White House Task Force on COVID-19 since late April, several administration officials said the rising number of cases in states like Florida, Texas and Arizona suggest that younger adults are not following public health guidance for containing the COVID-19 outbreak.
Healthy young people are less likely to suffer the worst symptoms of COVID-19, but they can still infect others - numbers suggest that everyone who catches the virus infects at least one other person, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. And some of those people will be vulnerable to breathing struggles, organ failure, immune overreaction and even death from COVID-19, he said.
"If you get infected, you will infect someone else, who clearly will infect someone else," he said, speaking directly to people under 40. "Then, ultimately, you will infect someone who is vulnerable - that may be somebody's grandmother, grandfather, uncle who's on chemotherapy, aunt who's on radiation, or a child who has leukemia."
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Fauci said he didn't want to blame anyone, but said that "you have an individual responsibility to yourself but you [also] have a societal responsibility." To end this outbreak, people have to realize "that we can be either part of the solution or part of the problem."
People under 40 are most likely to have no symptoms when infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, said Dr. Deborah Birx, who has been leading the White House's response to the pandemic.
"No one is intentionally spreading the virus. They don't know that they're positive. They don't know that they have the virus and need to be tested in order to have that awareness," she said, thanking those younger adults who have recently been tested.
She also encouraged younger adults to wear masks, to keep their distance from others, to get tested so they know if they are infected, and to do the shopping for their grandparents and others who are most vulnerable to the effects of the virus.
As Dr. Robert Redfield, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, closed his short speech, he said, "I want to re-re-re-emphasize how important for now, for individuals to really think seriously about the responsibility to others that we have. This infectious pathogen really does have the capacity to cause quite serious illness."
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Coronavirus: Adults under 40 must help slow spread, Fauci urges