COVID-19: We Are Not Immune

By now, we all have likely seen videos of college students dismissing coronavirus fears as overblown in an effort to continue enjoying their spring breaks. One March 10 TikTok video, for example, depicted students at Fordham University gathered in large groups on a grassy quad after the administration cancelled in-person classes and urged students to leave campus. Commenters on the video expressed supportive sentiments. One such comment, as reported by Insider, reads: “Corona bringing us all together.” The irony of a pandemic “bringing us all together,” when in fact the more proper response would be social distancing, speaks for itself. 

On the opposite end of the spectrum, most of us have also seen articles or social media posts urging us to take this problem seriously. And yet, even if we personally have listened to these directives, in all likelihood, most of us probably also know fellow college students or high school peers who continue to hang out with friends. 

This is an aggravating factor of the failed response to the coronavirus by the U.S., propelled by the dismissive attitudes of young people who feel that their age makes them immune and are consequently unconcerned about the spread of COVID-19. 

Most articles have unsuccessfully attempted to persuade young people to stay inside for the benefit of the elderly and their loved ones. This clearly has not worked. Some people need a more selfish reason to self-isolate. In response to this need, the Editorial Board seeks to explain why college students — like ourselves — need to stay inside for their own sake.

The low risk statistics that have led many college students to believe themselves immune — a mere 0.2 percent of critical cases and 2.5 percent of severe cases — refer to children under the age of 19 rather than adults. This is not the category the majority of college students find themselves in. Rather, college students are generally somewhere between 18 to 49 years old, the age range that Governors Andrew Cuomo of New York and Gavin Newsom of California say make up over half of those who have tested positive for COVID-19 in their states. Most college students are also in the 20 to 44 age range which, according to CDC data, makes up 12 percent of critical cases.

Despite these numbers, only 50 percent of respondents in a poll of American college students, conducted from March 19 to 21, said that they were concerned about coronavirus. Fifty-three percent said they had attended a social gathering in the past week. For this reason, there are higher numbers of reported cases amongst younger people than previously expected by health experts. 

Additionally, new evidence suggests that the hospitalization and death rate for young people in the U.S. may be higher than it was in South Korea or China due to the relative unhealthiness of the average American. For example, being more overweight makes you more likely to face health complications as a result of the virus; over a third of Americans are obese.

However, even without the worry of hospitalization and death, COVID-19 is not something that we should shrug off. Despite common comparisons between the two, COVID-19 is more infectious, deadlier and more severe than the average flu. For that reason, even though the majority of cases among young people are reported as mild, that should be taken with more than a few grains of salt. “Mild” COVID-19 indicates a high fever, uncontrollable shivers, loss of appetite and fatigue that makes basic acts like climbing the stairs difficult. In addition to putting everyone around you in danger, the virus would put a complete stop to your day-to-day life, rendering you immobile for weeks. 

So, even if you don’t care about social distancing for the elderly or for the loved ones in your life, you should do it for you.

Unsigned editorials represent the Editorial Board (assenting: 12; dissenting: 0; abstaining: 1)