My fellow Gen Zers, I know how you feel. In the matter of a week, my entire life has been upended. I was forced out of my dorm room and had to say goodbye to my best friends without knowing when we will be reunited. All of my classes are now online and I am struggling to keep up with my academics while the world feels like it is crumbling all around me. I have spent much of my time mourning the sense of normalcy that I used to take for granted.
This is an unprecedented adjustment period for the entire world, and it will forever change the way we approach public health, particularly its intersection with public policy, education, and the economy.
Yet, some people find peace in their desire to rebel against the measures that are intended to act as safeguards for the entire U.S. population. College students in Florida recklessly partied on the beaches, feeling entitled to their "spring break" trip even in the midst of an unprecedented pandemic. Gen Z teens and many young adults (including millennials) seem to brush off the current state of the world as unjustified panic, flaunting their status as young, healthy adults who are less at-risk than the general population. Laughing in the face of the virus, they defy curfews, crowd into bars, and mock the idea of self-quarantine. While this is not representative of the entire adolescent and young adult population, the proportion of irresponsible socializers is sizable enough to warrant alarm. Shelter in place orders being issued by governors seem like less of a precautionary measure and more of a necessity to impose restrictions on those refusing to practice social distancing.
Early reporting on the virus lured young Americans into a false sense of security. While young people are less likely to die from the virus, they are no less susceptible to infection. In fact, they are the key carriers of the virus as their asymptomatic or mild infection can prompt virtually untraceable outbreaks in communities. It is terrifying to think that an asymptomatic carrier refusing to practice social distancing could infect members of a high-risk population demographic.
It is far better to err on the side of caution and self-isolate, rather than contributing to an exponential increase in cases that will overwhelm the United States healthcare system.
This is uncharted territory for all of us. A world where we are forced to isolate ourselves from almost everyone and everything that we know. A place where the physical distance between us has never been greater, but the palpable fear of the moment inextricably links us to one another. Amid the anxiety of the uncertainty, find solace in the knowledge that although you are isolated, your experience is not unique. Instead, approach this situation with a sense of civic duty in that it is your responsibility to help protect the wellbeing of your fellow humans by staying home. That being said, practicing social distancing, complying with curfews, and living under lockdown is extremely stressful. None of this is normal but it is necessary, and Gen Z must take it seriously.
If we want to effectively combat COVID-19, we have to practice social distancing.
The federal government, despite repeated warnings from U.S. intelligence agencies as early as January, was woefully underprepared for this pandemic. The underproduction of medical masks, personal protective equipment, and ventilators coupled with an insufficient number of ICU beds to support the expected influx of patients foretells disaster if we do not act quickly. Due in large part to the Trump administration's fumbling of the response to this virus, we will likely never know just how many Americans are infected with COVID-19. The United States simply does not have the testing capacity to detect every case of COVID-19. For now, it's better that we all act under the presumption that we are already infected.
So, for the love of your fellow Americans, stay home.