KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas City-area health officials are seeing a drop in the average age of people hospitalized due to COVID-19.
Frank Thompson, deputy director of the Kansas City, Missouri Health Department, said last year that the average age of people hospitalized due to the virus was 45. Currently, it's 34.
"It is definitely hitting a younger age group," Thompson said, "and that is the group that is unvaccinated. This is basically now an outbreak or a pandemic of the unvaccinated, that is who is driving it."
Doctors at the University of Kansas Health System said the delta variant is the dominant strain in the region. Dr. Steve Stites, chief medical officer, said the hospital's COVID-19 patients range from 20 to 80 years old.
"We are losing young, healthy adults now to the delta variant," Stites said. "This is a different take on coronavirus. This is not only a disease of the elderly, this is also a disease of the young and healthy."
Thompson said younger age groups have lower vaccination rates and that he hopes people 45 years old or younger consider that the current cost for a hospital stay due to COVID-19 is about $51,000.
"Young people just starting their lives out trying to get themselves financially situated, that's something to factor in as part of your calculation, as part of your risk motivation," Thompson said.
A harsh reality could be in the near future, according to Thompson, if vaccination rates don't increase.
"If we do not get this virus suppressed within our community, it will keep mutating," he said, "and there will eventually be a mutation that we will not be able to respond to."