Jack Allard of Ridgewood, New Jersey is in a medically induced coma more than a week after contracting COVID-19. He's breathing with the help of a respirator and awaiting approval to try a potentially life-saving drug called Remdesivir.
"This happens to really healthy young people," Jack's mother, Genny Allard, said by phone on Tuesday.
Jack's hospitalization comes as new data from the CDC shows the coronavirus starting to affect younger people more than expected. That report shows that 40% of those hospitalized with COVID-19 are between the ages of 20 and 54.
"It's easy to draw the conclusion that maybe young people are more susceptible to the disease, maybe they get sicker with the disease, and that's premature," said Dr. Steve Cobb, the Chief Medical Officer at Centura Denver Medical Group.
Cobb says it's unknown why the number of cases in that group has grown, but he suspects younger cases are becoming critical as the number of total cases surge. But he also points to reports that some young people are not practicing social distancing guidelines urged by the CDC.
He said health officials are continuing to learn more from cases in Europe and China, but that simply put, more testing is needed to understand COVID-19 fully.
"Until we have widespread testing available, we're just not going to know," Cobb said. "And so we're always going to be guessing who's more at risk; what population is more in danger. But what we know for sure is this young, healthy population — who I think can be at risk for thinking they're not vulnerable — is absolutely at risk for contracting this virus; getting severe invasive disease and dying."
Still, the CDC says the greatest risk remains for the older population, reporting that about 80% of Americans who have died from coronavirus were 65 and older.
On Tuesday, California announced the first death of a COVID-19 patient younger than 18 years old in the United States.
Meanwhile, in Georgia, the family of a 12-year-old girl reported Wednesday she was "improving" after being on a ventilator and fighting for her life in an Atlanta hospital.
This story was originally published by Craig Treadway on WPIX in New York.