Hospitalizations and deaths of younger people are surging as the COVID-19 pandemic accelerates across Latin America and the Caribbean, Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Director Carissa Etienne said on Wednesday.
“Adults of all ages – including young people – are becoming seriously ill. Many of them are dying,” Etienne said at her daily press briefing as quoted in a PAHO release.
In Brazil, mortality rates doubled among those younger than 39, quadrupled among those in their 40s, and tripled for those in their 50s, between December 2020 and March 2021, she said.
“For much of the pandemic, our hospitals were filled with elderly COVID patients, many of whom had pre-existing conditions that made them more susceptible to severe disease,” Etienne said. “But look around intensive care units across our region today. You’ll see they’re filled not only with elderly patients, but also with younger people.”
Etienne urged hospitals in the region to increase the size of intensive care units (ICU) in anticipation that the trend will continue, while warning that expansion of ICUs cannot continue indefinitely.
As a result, she urged nations to double down on prevention measures such as lockdowns and facemasks.