More than twice as many in that age category died of COVID in September than in peak month of winter surge

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – As stories mount of people in the prime of life dying of COVID-19. News Channel 11 has been following the data — comparing how Tennessee deaths impacted different age groups in January and whether that’s changed during the delta surge.

What we found made the stories a lot less surprising.

With no vaccines and antibody treatment not in full swing, 2,419 people 61 and older died in January. That represented 89% of that month’s 2,721 COVID deaths.

Among 21- to 60-year-olds, the January COVID death toll was 303, or 11.1% of the total.

Now with the state’s highest vaccination rates, the older age group saw less than half its January death total during September. The total of 1,037 deaths represented 62.3% of the state’s total of 1,664.

The reverse is true for younger COVID sufferers. The total of 623 September deaths was more than double January’s figure of 303. That sent the share of deaths among that age group all the way up to 37% for September.

That trend is also being seen in Southwest Virginia, Norton Community Hospital ICU nurse Lori Looney said.

Looney oversees the ICU and said several of her fellow staffers have personally known younger people who’ve died of COVID in their hospital recently.

“And it’s been very tough,” Looney said. “We had a 49 year old on Friday and it was tough for the whole team, because that’s just way too young.”

The younger you went, the more the differences widened.

Deaths among people in their 20s went from zero in January to 29 in September. Where 27 people in their 30s died in January, that total more than tripled to 84 for September.

For those in their 40s, the total was 79 in January — and more than double that, 182, in September. And the figure rose from 197 for people in their 50s in January to 328 in September.

The biggest decrease was in people 81 and over. 1,084 of them died in January compared to just 268 last month. The number for people in their 70s dropped from 838 in January to 392 last month.

For those in their 60s, deaths were 497 in January and 377 in September.