By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The Pennsylvania Department of Health says the spike in COVID-19 cases is mainly related to younger people traveling and socializing. The spike prompted the department to send out an emergency warning.

COVID-19 infections are going up in Pennsylvania because of a significant increase in cases among younger people.

The concerning new trend prompted the Department of Health to send out alerts over the weekend.

The alert, titled “Changing Epidemiology of COVID-19 Case Demographics,” was sent to health care providers over the weekend.

The new trend is a significant increase in cases among younger people, mainly between the ages of 19 to 24.

Driven by scenes like this from Allegheny County, which includes Pittsburgh, where people are crowded together and not following safety precautions.

(credit: CBS3)

“Statewide, we have been seeing increases in the number of new cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania,” Pennsylvania Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said.

Nearly half of the positive cases in the state are in people under 50 years old which could trigger more infections and deaths among the elderly again.

“At the start of the pandemic we saw a higher number of cases, right at the beginning, in people ages 19 to 49 before it spread to seniors age 65 and older,” said Dr. Levine.

The state health alert said the increased cases among young adults is associated with social gatherings at parties, restaurants and bars, plus travel to other affected parts of the country.

“We’re concerned of course about that rapid increases that we have seen in those other states, we’re concerned about traveling and we’re concerned that one state will lead to next continuous state and head north and head east,” Dr. Levine said. “So those are all things that we watch really carefully.”

New research also shows one-third of young people may be at risk of getting seriously sick, even dying from COVID-19, if they smoke or vape. Smoking, which has recently increased among young adults, was the most common risk factor for severe complications.

There are now more than 95,000 cases of coronavirus in Pennsylvania. The state has expanded its travel advisory list to include people traveling from Delaware who are being advised to self-quarantine for two weeks.

Stephanie Stahl