CAMDEN, NJ — From May to September, the average age of new Camden County residents to contract the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) plummeted from 47 years old to 25.

Camden County hopes to steer the youth to take the virus more seriously going forward through a new campaign. The rollout will include ads on “youth-focused platforms” like Snapchat, Spotify, as well as social media pages (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter).

“We're asking you to ‘Protect Your Circle’ young people. Don't open it up to new individuals or people that aren't familiar to you,” said Freeholder Director Lou Cappelli during today’s coronavirus press briefing at Camden County College in Blackwood. “If you do open up your circle, please get tested. The Board of Freeholders will begin today a multimedia approach to providing public service announcements to…especially young people, to remind them of how serious this disease is.”

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The county’s health department today announced 17 new coronavirus cases - 10 of which were people 30s and younger. So far, 10,030 people are known to have contracted the virus and 568 have died as a result of complications. The average age of those who died from the illness is 79.

Cappelli was joined by Congressman Donald Norcross and Caryelle Lasher, Communicable Disease Unit Supervisor. He said a “lackadaisical attitude” displayed by younger people in the community has persisted because of the notion the virus “is like a cold.” He ensured that science and research conducted has proven that’s not the case.

“Many young people think they are immune and I'm sure Caryelle can tell you, you are not,” Cappelli continued. “No matter what your age, you are not immune to this virus. We have seen this constant trend of younger and younger people, consistently bypassing the few simple steps we've asked everyone to follow to stop the transmission.”

A series of flyers and campaign materials for "Protect Your Circle" can be viewed here.

“What makes it so difficult is, fortunately, [the youth are] having less severe symptoms,” said Lasher. “But the disadvantage to that is, they are out more while they're ill, and so they're able to spread it to their peers. [However] the people in their circle may be more compromised and have much more severe outcomes.” 

The county continues to implore the youth to wear face masks, social distance and get tested if they suspect they have COVID-19.

“This is a critical stage of the pandemic, and we need to make it clear that everyone’s actions have consequences. Even if you’re just hanging out with your friends, you could be contributing to the spread of this disease,” said Cappelli.

Contact tracing - where in a county worker will reach out to inform you to a COVID-19 exposure - continues to be a struggle. Last week in Camden County, 62% of people who responded to calls refused to provide additional contact information to help workers track potential exposures outside of patient’s households. 

If you are unsure someone calling is a contact tracer, call (1-800) 999-9045.

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