Image via AP/Kirsty Wigglesworth Prince Charles
Image via AP/Kirsty Wigglesworth

It’s not just the famous, well-known, and elderly who are falling ill and dying. Young people are also fighting for their lives in intensive care units across the world.

Update (12:18 p.m. EST): A 21-year-old British woman has reportedly died from the coronavirus. She is believed to be the youngest person without pre-existing health conditions to have died from COVID-19 in the UK.

As the novel coronavirus continues to spread, one thing is becoming increasingly clear: It doesn’t matter if you’re young or old, rich or poor, the heir to the British throne or an unnamed 17-year-old in Los Angeles County: You are vulnerable.

That vulnerability, which started becoming clear two weeks ago when Tom Hanks and NBA star Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19, continued to crystallize Wednesday when the office of Prince Charles, the heir to the British throne, announced the royal had tested positive for the coronavirus. 

The 71-year-old son of Queen Elizabeth II has  mild symptoms and is self-isolating in Scotland, his office said.

“He has been displaying mild symptoms but otherwise remains in good health and has been working from home throughout the last few days as usual,’’ Clarence House said, adding that it was “not possible to ascertain from whom the prince caught the virus.”

The Prince’s wife, Camilla, 72, has tested negative for the virus and Buckingham Palace said Queen Elizabeth II, 93, remains at her home in Windsor with the 98-year-old Duke of Edinburgh.

“Her Majesty the queen remains in good health,’’ the palace said. 

Prince Charles is far from the only influential person to get the virus. In the past few days alone, the virus has claimed the lives of art historian Maurice Berger; Tony-winning playwright Terrence McNally; Congolese singer Aurlus Mabele; drag star Nashom Wooden; chef Floyd Cardoz; Detroit community leader Marlowe Stoudamire

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It’s not just the famous, well-known, and elderly who are falling ill and dying. Young people are also being hospitalized and fighting for their lives in intensive care units across the world. In Georgia, a 12-year-old girl suffering from COVID-19 was placed on a ventilator over the weekend. As of Wednesday, she is reportedly improving after her family said she was “fighting for her life” days earlier. 

In New York City, health officials said last week that one in four people hospitalized with COVID-19 symptoms were between the ages of 18 and 49. That trend is mirrored nationwide, according to the CDC, where 38% of patients sick enough to be hospitalized are between the ages of 20 and 54. 

Young people continue to be hospitalized across the country. Of the 46 new cases of coronavirus in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday night, 26 were under the age of 40.

On Tuesday, Los Angeles County health officials announced that a local teenager was believed to have died from the coronavirus. If testing confirms that, the teenager would be the first COVID-19 death in the United States of someone under 18. 

“COVID-19 does not discriminate by age, race or income level,” the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health tweeted Tuesday.

In Kentucky, a group of people in their twenties were so confident they could not be subdued that they attended a “coronavirus party,” the state’s Gov. Andy Beshear announced Tuesday. He did not go into detail about what the party was or how many people attended, but revealed that one of the partygoers later tested positive for COVID-19.

Beshear urged young citizens to take the threat of the coronavirus more seriously. “Anyone who goes to something like this may think they’re indestructible, but it’s somebody else’s loved one that they’re going to hurt,” he said. “We’re battling for the health and even the lives of our parents and our grandparents, and don’t be so callous as to intentionally go to something and expose yourself to something that can kill other people.” 

Perhaps the most infamous example of a teenager ignoring the threats of the virus is Ohio teen Brady Sluder. “If I get corona, I get corona,” Sluder said during a television interview that went viral and drew significant criticism. “At the end of the day, I’m not going to let it stop me from partying.”

The false notion that young people are largely immune from the virus spread after the World Health Organization’s initial analysis of data out of China found that “most people”—about 80%—have “mild to moderate disease” and recover. The report also found those over the age of 60 and those with pre-existing conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer, were the most at risk. 

“A very small proportion of those aged under 19 years have developed severe (2.5%) or critical disease (0.2%),” the report said.

Many young Americans took that to mean they were safe. While it remains true that older people are still more likely to die from the coronavirus, young adults and teenagers are not immune or invincible, and if they are hospitalized, it may force doctors to prioritize saving their lives at the cost of allowing older patients to die.

As more and more young people are falling sick, health officials and government leaders continue to urge them to stay at home and practice social distancing. 

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In a sign that younger Americans may finally be taking the coronavirus seriously, Sluder issued an apology on Monday.

“I would like to sincerely apologize for the insensitive comment I made in regards to COVID-19 while on spring break,” Sluder wrote in an Instagram post. “Our generation may feel invincible, like I did when I commented. But we have a responsibility to listen and follow the recommendations in our communities.”

He expanded on his apology in the post caption. 

“Life is precious,” he wrote. “Don’t be arrogant and think you’re invincible like myself.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.