Pictures keep coming out of people on the beach for spring break. And before that, partying on St. Patrick’s Day. Every time I see one, I have to step away from my computer and take some deep breaths.
I haven’t left my house since last Friday, since I only have the view from the inside of my home, I assume that everyone else is doing the same — staying home. Because my social media feeds are echo chambers of nurses and doctors and epidemiologists pleading with the public to STAY HOME, FLATTEN THE CURVE, I assume that’s what everyone is doing. I assume that every car that passes my house is a health care worker (God bless) or a grocery store employee (God bless).
But so when I see pictures of people in chicken fighting in bikinis, crammed together at a concert I just feel…confused.
Why are people still partying on the beach?
I hate to generalize, but it’s clear that the people in these pictures are young, as in, not in the “at risk” category. And I can’t speculate exactly why each of them have decided to ignore everything that’s happening in the world around them, but my guess is that they aren’t alarmed because, isn’t it just a like bad cold? Plus, I don’t ever get sick.
It’s a global pandemic, but only if you’re old. If you’re young and already have spring break reservations, the pandemic doesn’t apply.
I’ve tried to guess what my reaction would have been if this had happened when I was in college. I try not to give my under-developed frontal-cortex too much credit, but I hope I would have taken the cue from my closed colleges and places of work: this is a big deal. Even if you won’t be directly effected, it’s a big deal.
I can imagine my 20-year-old self rationalizing that I’ll be fine. Why cancel THIS concert? I’ve never gotten sick at a concert before. Why avoid THIS party if none of my friends are sick?
But just imagine for a moment that the at-risk age groups were flipped. What if this virus was dangerous for the young? What if it was the twenty-somethings whose lives would depend on ventilators and beds in the ICU?
Imagine that people ages 50 and up were at much lower risk. They might contract the virus, but odds that it was serious or fatal were low. In fact, it was much more likely that they would be asymptomatic (but still contagious, of course).
Armed the information that their personal risk was low, imagine that your grandparents and their friends didn’t cancel their plans. They didn’t stay home, they continued to gather, to travel, attend festivals and concerts.
What would the public response be like then?
I imagine vitriol, fury — a public outcry for even tighter restrictions, arrests. The internet would be flooded with memes that all but crucify those putting the young and vibrant into harm’s way.
If the categories were flipped, then would this be important enough to cancel plans?
But perhaps that’s the problem, at its core — thinking in categories. This isn’t a crisis for the older population, it’s a crisis for the entire population. Young, old, us, them; there are no distinct categories because our actions affect the whole. We’re in this together, all of us across the globe. Every age, gender, nationality, and religion we’re all depending on each other.
- the Coronavirus CAN be severe even in young patients: nearly 40 percent of patients sick enough to be hospitalized were age 20 to 54
- Florida won’t close its beaches