As initial reports on the coronavirus came out, many people comforted themselves with the idea that “only” the elderly and immunocompromised were at risk. Ethically, that logic was still bad, as both elderly people and immunocompromised people are, well, people, and not just collateral damage during a pandemic. Young and generally healthy people, however, seem to have gotten the idea (perhaps thanks to Donald Trump’s own responses) that they’ll either be unaffected entirely, or are unlikely to get seriously sick, and may “just” be carriers.
In reality, young people in Europe (notably France and Italy) are becoming seriously ill at concerning rates, while here in the United States, up to 20% of patients hospitalized with coronavirus are between the ages of 20 and 44, according to a new federal report covered by CNN. Put another way: That’s one out of five patients. An additional 18% of those hospitalized were between 45 and 54, which while not in the millennial range, is considerably younger than what some people picture when imagining those most at risk.
And still, we have large, congested groups of young people going out and about. Instead of shaming people, it’s time to emphasize education and urgency.
There are tons of pictures of crowded beaches.
Videos of spring breakers are going viral.
People have been going dancing.
On the other hand, here is a Twitter thread from someone who says they tested positive for COVID-19.
And from someone who identifies themselves as a nurse.
This young person’s story.
A message to young people from inside an ICU:
This video compilation from Bloomberg sums it up pretty effectively.
And another visualization of data from the CDC:
According to one Oxford study covered by Wired, part of the reason coronavirus has hit Italy so hard may have to do with young people. Young people—who were likely under the impression they were at less risk of becoming sick—went about their normal routines and daily life, only to come home to, or visit, parents and older family members. According to this study, this initial lack of social distancing from crowds, particularly in cities, and then going home to see older family members in more rural or isolated areas may be partially to blame for the illness accelerating in Italy to the degree that it has.
Now we’re seeing that coronavirus isn’t only dangerous for older people, but for younger generations as well. “It may have been that the millennial generation—our largest generation, our future generation that will carry us through for the next multiple decades—there may be a disproportional number of infections among that group,” Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus task force coordinator, noted at a briefing.
The takeaway? None of us are invincible and many of us may feel helpless and overwhelmed. Abiding by CDC and WHO guidelines as much as possible, and showing each other a whole lot of compassion, however, doesn’t hurt.
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