Changing Age Distribution of the COVID-19 Pandemic - United States, May-August 2020

MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2020 Oct 2;69(39):1404-1409. doi: 10.15585/mmwr.mm6939e1.


As of September 21, 2020, the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic had resulted in more than 6,800,000 reported U.S. cases and more than 199,000 associated deaths.* Early in the pandemic, COVID-19 incidence was highest among older adults (1). CDC examined the changing age distribution of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States during May-August by assessing three indicators: COVID-19-like illness-related emergency department (ED) visits, positive reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test results for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and confirmed COVID-19 cases. Nationwide, the median age of COVID-19 cases declined from 46 years in May to 37 years in July and 38 in August. Similar patterns were seen for COVID-19-like illness-related ED visits and positive SARS-CoV-2 RT-PCR test results in all U.S. Census regions. During June-August, COVID-19 incidence was highest in persons aged 20-29 years, who accounted for >20% of all confirmed cases. The southern United States experienced regional outbreaks of COVID-19 in June. In these regions, increases in the percentage of positive SARS-CoV-2 test results among adults aged 20-39 years preceded increases among adults aged ≥60 years by an average of 8.7 days (range = 4-15 days), suggesting that younger adults likely contributed to community transmission of COVID-19. Given the role of asymptomatic and presymptomatic transmission (2), strict adherence to community mitigation strategies and personal preventive behaviors by younger adults is needed to help reduce their risk for infection and subsequent transmission of SARS-CoV-2 to persons at higher risk for severe illness.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • COVID-19
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Coronavirus Infections / epidemiology*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Middle Aged
  • Pandemics*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / epidemiology*
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Young Adult