We know COVID19 has trashed your spring semester, and all the fun and truly hard-earned events you’ve looked forward to have been swiped out from under your feet.
High school proms, musicals, concerts, banquets, spring breaks and even graduations are cancelled.
Ditto for college students, but add in losing internships, studying abroad and oh yeah, real jobs that were supposed to happen at the finish line.
And all of you are facing the reality of online learning, dreading technical frustrations with internet connections, lack of access to necessary programs that ran on computer labs, dealing with old, inadequate home computers and some teachers/profs who struggled with remote controls & power points, and now must convert their teaching to ZOOM. OMG, we feel your pain (and theirs!)
Many cannot fathom how their classes can even function when their learning is so hands on and dependent upon expensive or highly specialized equipment like those in chemistry labs, computer labs, and film production. Or physical space and need for 3D in-person instruction in art or dance studios.
Not to mention the anticipated dryness and boredom of your least fav classes when you have no one sitting next to you to share smirks and eye rolls.
Your friends may be scattered back across the country or globe, on different time zones. New relationships are forced into long distance stress instead of enjoying daily interaction and intimacy.
You may feel overwhelmed with the financial implications, housing issues or food insecurity.
I promise, we’re listening, and I want to acknowledge you’re not a bunch of spoiled kids pouting about frivolous issues during this crisis. I believe most of you are “getting it” as you work through your new normal.
BUT- many of you do NOT get why all these closures are necessary.
You know that in other countries, young people have been largely spared, and 80% of COVID19 is mild. You are seeing some of your heroes diagnosed and saying they don’t even have any symptoms. Who cares if you get some mild “cold” symptoms- you’re mostly surrounded by other healthy young people that wouldn’t be affected much either, right? Why can’t we leave you in your classes or at least hanging out on a beach together?
Up until a few weeks ago, I shared many of these thoughts. Flu infections and deaths still far outnumber those from this new virus…but flu season is measured in many months, not days or weeks, which is a critical difference. You know how this week, suddenly all the toilet paper is gone?* Pretty sure our national bathroom needs have not changed, but stores were overwhelmed and ran out in a matter of days when everyone wanted TP at the same time. COVID19 spreads much faster than flu, and as we’ve seen in China and Italy, those 20% with severe symptoms are all hitting at once and overwhelming the ICUs in the same way as the run on toilet paper. Hospitals do NOT have hundreds of ICU beds and breathing machines-they have maybe twenty ICU beds in a hospital that has three hundred “regular” beds. (PS. ventilators don’t run themselves; we need respiratory therapists, nurses, PAs, MDs, who are trained to manage them). And there will still be car wrecks, strokes, appendicitis, and broken hips that require surgery and ICU care. If those twenty ICU beds are filled up with the rush of COVID19 severe cases, who gets the beds?
Meanwhile, apply the same TP principle to masks. Know that while healthcare providers typically have a reasonable supply of surgical style masks, most non-hospital-based doctors only have a handful (if ANY) N95 respirator masks, which we need to block transmission of COVID19. We only use these masks treating patients with very contagious airborne diseases like measles, chicken pox, and tuberculosis…and now COVID19. But we can’t GET the masks now, because medical suppliers got overwhelmed and then the general public bought out amazon. So now the people at the highest risk, healthcare providers directly in contact with coughing, infectious patients, are stuck wearing the same mask all day (often covering the precious N95 with a surgical mask) and praying they don’t get infected. And this one’s not on Gen Z or millennials, it’s the BOOMERS! I’m including this here to add to your understanding of why medical people are so anxious, and to ask you to help us out, and (unless they are immune-compromised) please ask your parents to donate their stash of masks to a local clinic!
Back to the spring break crowds. One person infected with COVID19 is thought to easily infect three others (vs. flu where that number is 1.3 others).
- If you get COVID19, with or without symptoms, you will likely infect 3 people, who will infect 9, who infect 27…and in only 14 steps, you’ve reached over 1.5 MILLION others. THAT is how COVID19 became pandemic.
Beyond hurting “just the old people”, please think of newborn babies and pregnant mothers, or parents and friends already struggling with cancers, diabetes, and autoimmune disease. Plus, oh yeah, some young and healthy people will die too- we already see this from the flu every year. I’m extra worried about the possibility of more severe disease in everyone JUULing and smoking pot (or cigarettes). We know this virus directly attacks the respiratory tract, and inhaling ANY substance is abrasive to your tissues- roughing up the lining of your nose, throat and lungs. That precious lining is our first line of defense against all respiratory viruses and bacteria. And in this fight- with no vaccine and no anti-viral treatment yet- we need every bit of protection that we have.
BOTTOM LINE: Please, STAY HOME. I love how many of you are already creating virtual hang outs and even happy hours together (though I’m hoping the ZOOM drinking game is more of a joke than a “thing”). You guys started your lives surviving 9/11, and with your creativity, perseverance and frankly superior tech skills, please show us Boomers how it’s done.
Note: I initially addressed this to “Millennials” but I was using that term loosely to reference younger generations, so I’ve edited to reflect the primary focus group of this article, high school and college students, most of whom are Gen Z.
Credit Dr. Ahmed Rabea Reddit.com for concept of featured image
Credit NicoleCG for illustrations
Credit Natasha.mom.md on Instagram for concept of rush on TP comparison