Why I'm participating in Social Distancing as a young, healthy 25-year-old
“Why are you so paranoid?”
“What’s the big deal? It’s just like the flu.”
“This is all just a conspiracy theory to throw off the election.”
The past 72 hours have been fraught with emotion for me.
I am a young, relatively healthy person. At 25 years of age, I am not likely to die from COVID-19. But I recognize that there are many people in my community and my city that are far more vulnerable than I am, and it’s out of respect to them and the rest of our nation that I will be partaking in social distancing. I am not panicking, but I am taking this seriously. Here’s y:
1. This isn’t the flu.
COVID-19 is an acute respiratory disease that attacks the lungs, prevents them from producing enough mucus to keep harmful debris out of the body, and eventually limits their ability to oxygenate blood.
2. Younger, healthy populations of people are most likely to be spreading COVID-19.
There is strong evidence that the virus can be transmitted by people who are just mildly ill, presymptomatic, or even asymptomatic. You can transmit the virus without even knowing you have it.
If you take a look at this graph, you’ll see the percentage of cases of COVID-19, by age group.
South Korea has done BROAD testing, which means they are testing the majority of their population for the disease.
Italy has done testing only for those who are SYMPTOMATIC.
The difference between Italy and S. Korea is significant: there are a lot of people in S. Korea between the ages of 20-29 who are feeling asymptomatic, or recovering quickly, who are spreading the disease to the older (and more vulnerable) populations.
3. The spread of COVID-19 is growing exponentially in the USA.
Italy’s situation is so severe because the cases of COVID-19 exponentially grew and completely overwhelmed the healthcare system. Providers are put in the position of who gets treatment from the respirator and who doesn't, who lives and who dies. And those who are coming into the hospital with other complications (heart attacks, strokes etc.) are not getting the care that they need because the system is overwhelmed.
**If we don’t take part in social distancing now, our healthcare systems will likely be in the same situation as Italy’s.
Data from March 12th:
Note that in Iran, China, and Italy, the spread of COVID-19 is exponential. These are countries that have not practiced social distancing. Without an available vaccine, the only way to limit the spread is to limit in-person interactions. Singapore has contained the virus completely by quarantining anyone who enters the country, canceling all social gatherings, and implementing social distancing.
We are about two weeks behind Italy on the epidemic growth curve. It’s not a matter of if COVID-19 will spread in our communities, but when. What we can do now is mitigate the spread by limiting contact with one another as much as possible.
Social distancing is effective and reduces transmission by 33-40%.
Three weeks ago, I was diagnosed with mononucleosis. I have a history of severe childhood asthma. With an already compromised immune system, I am more at-risk of suffering from complications from COVID-19 than the average person my age, so naturally, I am more vigilant.
But I’m far more worried for my two grandmothers and my grandfather, by whose presence I’ve been blessed with up until this point considering how old they are. I’m worried about my friend’s uncle, who just got diagnosed with cancer and is undergoing chemotherapy. The decision to follow social distancing guidelines might be the noblest thing we can do for the next 2-4 weeks... It’s the one thing about this disease we can actually control.
It’s about caring for, respecting, and protecting the health of others-- so that we can all live long, healthy lives.
Welppp… that’s the end of my public health rant. As a master’s student at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, surrounded by top epidemiologists and public health professionals, I have reason to believe that the information given to me is valid and reliable.
From a human perspective, I’m terrified of losing people I love. I have a lot of love for people in this world and I desire to do good for others. I believe that social distancing is the right thing to do… for now, in these uncertain times.
Do I want to do it? No.
I love hugs. I love kisses. I love touching people as a form of affection.
Is it difficult? Yes. I miss my friends and family. All I want to do is protect them.
In this time of uncertainty and fear, it feels wrong to be distancing myself from others when all I want to do is surround myself with the people I love. But if the right thing to do currently is to remain 6 feet away from others and limit contact as much as possible by staying home… I will do it.
And if I’m calling you to tell you about this, it’s because I care about you. I’m trying to help, not hurt. And all the public health officials, experts, and government representatives that are advising us to put a *TEMPORARY* (social distancing will likely last 2-4 weeks) hold on our lives… they are also trying to help. They are trying to save lives.
I’m hopeful that we’ll come out the other end of this with a lot of lessons:
This is exposing a lot of gaps in the healthcare system in terms of emergency preparedness, and we will be better prepared when a potentially more threatening infectious disease comes along.
We have an opportunity to slow down and be still. To learn to connect in other ways without physical movement. To pray more and rest more. To let our creativity drive us more than our adrenaline (I learned a lot about this in ED recovery).
I believe there will be a lot more gratitude in the world after this. An appreciation of the lives we live and the blessings we’re given on a daily basis.
I’ve seen a lot of ... “Good vibes only” “Keep it positive” “Let’s focus on the good stuff” ...messages out there, and I think they serve a great purpose to combat the residual panic that’s happened nationally. Trust me, I'm a fan of good vibes. However, I’d like to ask my generation one thing: given the information presented to you, given that we have an opportunity to slow the curve, what will you choose to do?
If your actions (or inaction, in this case) are the difference between life or death for someone else… why wouldn’t you act?
We're going to be okay. But let's do what we can.