LA official, other health experts send warning to youth over coronavirus risks

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- While the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. has hit the older population hardest, young Americans are drawing ire for breaking social distancing protocols put into place across the country.

Scenes of spring breakers packing Florida beaches, shoulder to shoulder, have spurred that state's governor to completely close the beaches starting Friday. Some young Americans have shown little concern over catching or spreading the virus.

"If we continue continue with that process, we will fail in containing this virus," said Dr. Deborah Birx of the White House Coronavirus Task Force.

Here in Southern California, people can be seen hiking at Runyon Canyon, Griffith Park and other popular spots. Judging by video shot by AIR7 HD, most seemed to be heeding social distancing protocol.

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Large crowds were on the beach, doing the exact opposite of what health officials have said.

"You can go on a hike, but put six feet between you," Dr. Leo Li told Eyewitness News. "And that's OK. I think its important to keep up your mental and physical well-being during these tough times.

Li is an infectious disease specialist with Beverly Hospital. He says the key to keeping coronavirus at bay is getting everyone onboard with distancing. Los Angeles County Public Health Department says keeping away from others will help break transmission of COVID-19.

"This is not the time to go hang out with a whole crowd of people at the beach, this is not the time to be crowding up on our trails," Dr. Barbara Ferrer said. "Really do what's right not just for you, but for everybody who's around you."

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Experts say some people may be infected with coronavirus and not show any signs, or may suffer only mild symptoms. But those are the people who could be spreading the virus to others who are more vulnerable to it.

"While they themselves may not come down with anything serious, they may be at risk of passing it on to someone else who could have dire consequences from that," Li warned.

Meanwhile, the latest CDC statistics show youth is not a guaranteed shield against coronavirus. People between the ages of 20 to 44 represent 29% of the cases in the U.S., 20% of the hospitalizations, and 12% of intensive care unit cases.

L.A. County residents learning that the hard way Thursday. The Public Health Department announced the county's second death from the virus was a man in his 30s.

"There are many, many young people, particularly between the ages of 18 and 40 who are infected themselves," Ferrer said. "And who, as we just unfortunately had to report, can die."
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