Over the past three weeks I have been reporting on the COVID-19 coronavirus for The Barefoot Times. In these three weeks I have talked to over 30 students, asking them about their perspective on the virus and the overall situation. One of the most common things I have heard is, “Well I don’t really need to worry because I’m young.” This is far from the case; it is not just a false idea to hold, but also a dangerous one.
I do understand where people are coming from, considering the fact that as of March 24th, only one child in the U.S. has died from the virus, but that does not let adolescents off the hook. Firstly, young people are still at risk. A recent study which analyzed cases of COVID-19 in China reported that the odds of disease progression (including to death) were 14 times higher among people with a history of smoking compared to those who did not smoke. This, combined with the fact that the FDA reported that over one-fourth of teens in the US smoke or vape, is expected to contribute to more teen deaths from COVID-19. 1 in 2000 children are immunocompromised, meaning that if they were to contract COVID-19, their immune system may not be able to fight the virus off.
Secondly, this brings up the point of social distancing. Even if you may not die or even show symptoms if you contract COVID-19, you are still a carrier of the virus. This means that though you may not be affected by the virus, you could still give the virus to someone who could be sensitive to it. How do you prevent this? The simple answer is staying inside as much as possible and limiting the number of people you come in contact with.
This limiting of contact includes hanging out with just one friend. That may sound like common sense to most, but in the last week my Instagram timeline has been flooded with photos of people hanging out with each other and with the caption #socialdistancing as a joke. Actions like these are not quirky or brave, but rather the equivalent of intentionally endangering other people. Though you may be only having contact with one other person, you could have gone to the grocery store and contracted the virus and then given it to your friend, who could then give it to their family, who could then spread it to other people. When you keep your contact to a minimum you are metaphorically breaking the chain, preventing the virus from spreading person to person. In South Korea one woman broke quarantine and exposed thousands. If she were to have stuck to social distancing and self isolation, thousands of cases and numerous deaths could have been prevented.
When I talk to people who ignore and make fun of the serious need for social distancing and isolation and I ask why they are still going out with people, they usually tell me something about how it sucks to be stuck inside their house and how bored they are. I agree, this does suck. I think the majority of people right now are unhappy about being stuck inside. We all have something that matters to us that has been cancelled like a concert or a sports season, but this is something that we all have the moral obligation to do. It is your responsibility to do your part in breaking the chain of contact in order to stop the spread of this virus. Though this may sound quite brash, and it is, but as of now, we have no other way of individually helping deter the spread of the virus and preventing future fatalities. In this situation, your decisions matter more than ever.