Mil­len­ni­als need to take the coro­n­avirus se­ri­ously for the sake of ev­ery­one’s health, in­clud­ing their own, as re­cent surges in big states prove

Chicago Sun-Times - - FRONT PAGE - MAUDLYNE IHEJIRIKA mi­he­jirika@sun­times.com | @maud­lynei

‘Mom, I don’t feel well at all.” It was a call this Chicago mother had feared, ever since the start of the pan­demic lock­downs.

Her mil­len­nial off­spring was call­ing from one of the four states worst hit by new coro­n­avirus out­breaks na­tion­wide.

Un­der a resur­gence of the highly con­ta­gious virus, Ari­zona, Cal­i­for­nia, Florida and Texas now ac­count for 50% of the 44,000+ new cases daily.

Ex­perts say the U.S. could soon reach 100,000+ cases daily — ab­sent an im­me­di­ate U-turn.

That has led states like New York and cities like Chicago to im­pose quar­an­tines on vis­i­tors from im­pacted states in the South and West. The new rule takes ef­fect here Mon­day.

Of par­tic­u­lar note, at COVID-19’s six­month an­niver­sary in the U.S., in­fec­tions are skew­ing younger.

In sev­eral states, nearly half the new cases are oc­cur­ring among mil­len­ni­als — in Cal­i­for­nia, among those un­der age 35; in Florida, those un­der age 37.

The resur­gence, pub­lic health ex­perts say, is traced to Amer­i­cans not wear­ing masks and shirk­ing so­cial dis­tanc­ing pre­cau­tions, as states re­opened in May and June.

Of­fi­cials in the worst im­pacted states are also point­ing the fin­ger at mil­len­ni­als ig­nor­ing safe­guards when pack­ing into bars and so­cial gath­er­ings, where COVID-19 can spread.

“We’re go­ing in the wrong di­rec­tion,” Dr. An­thony Fauci, the gov­ern­ment’s top in­fec­tious dis­ease ex­pert, said last week at a U.S. Se­nate Health, Ed­u­ca­tion, La­bor and Pen­sions Com­mit­tee hear­ing. “I would not be sur­prised if we go up to 100,000 a day if this does not turn around.”

When that Chicago mother got the call from her mil­len­nial, her heart sank.

She quizzed her young adult. Symp­toms? Headache. Fever. Fa­tigue. Nau­sea.

When did it start? A week­end at the bars. You get tested for coro­n­avirus? No.

“Go!” she said, adding, “Please.”

Like many mil­len­ni­als, hers had no in­ter­est in doc­tors. It took three days of plead­ing, in­creas­ing mis­ery, loss of taste and smell, be­fore her off­spring dragged him­self to ur­gent care.

Text­book COVID-19 symp­toms, the doc­tor said. A coro­n­avirus test, an­tibi­otics for a si­nus in­fec­tion, the mil­len­nial sent home to quar­an­tine.

As the novel coro­n­avirus spread these first six months, spark­ing na­tion­wide lock­downs and travel re­stric­tions, the Chicago mother, like all of us, wor­ried. About loved ones we were pro­hib­ited from vis­it­ing, loved ones we couldn’t get to in the event of a dreaded call.

Spread by res­pi­ra­tory droplets from an in­fected per­son, COVID-19 is re­spon­si­ble for the deaths of some 129,676 Amer­i­cans since Jan­uary, with more than 2.8 mil­lion peo­ple in­fected.

Of those in­fected, an es­ti­mated 25% are asymp­to­matic. There is still no cure or vac­cine. Thus, this Chicago mother could only pray.

She stayed on her knees and stayed on the phone with the mil­len­nial as his body fought the virus. And won.

It never found its way to his lungs, where it wreaks dire con­se­quences.

The worst of it was si­nus in­fec­tion, body­wrack­ing pain, ex­treme fa­tigue.

Based on those symp­toms, his mil­len­nial room­mate got it, too. But the room­mate


wouldn’t get tested.

And while her mil­len­nial self-quar­an­tined for three weeks, his room­mate still hung out with friends, at bars and so­cial gath­er­ings. But this isn’t sur­pris­ing.

A re­cent sur­vey by Test­ing.com found an alarm­ing 31% of re­spon­dents ages 18-34 would not self-quar­an­tine if ex­pe­ri­enc­ing COVID-19 symp­toms; one out of four of those mil­len­ni­als said they wouldn’t selfquaran­tine even if they tested pos­i­tive.

States see­ing sky­rock­et­ing in­fec­tions be­gin to over­whelm hos­pi­tals have back­tracked on lift­ing re­stric­tions, again clos­ing in­door restau­rant din­ing, bars, beaches.

Other states and cities watch, hop­ing to learn from the les­sons.

Mean­while, the pan­demic still rages glob­ally, warns World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion Di­rec­tor-Gen­eral Te­dros Ad­hanom. It has killed 500,000 peo­ple and in­fected 10 mil­lion to date. An­other 160,000 in­fec­tions are con­firmed world­wide daily.

In Amer­ica, our de­sire for nor­malcy and politi­ciza­tion of mask wear­ing by ir­re­spon­si­ble po­lit­i­cal lead­ers has dis­in­te­grated our ad­her­ence to the pan­demic pro­to­cols that helped flat­ten the curve in the first place.

Sadly, the Chicago mother will tell you her mil­len­nial was not scared straight.

He re­turned to his so­cial gath­er­ings and bars the mo­ment he felt bet­ter, un­til the state shut­tered the bars again. But he’s grown. What more can a mother do?

From the be­gin­ning, mil­len­ni­als have failed to take this virus se­ri­ously. Be­cause ini­tial data showed the dis­ease more deadly to their el­ders, they de­cided it didn’t ap­ply to them or rea­soned that if they got it, they’d es­cape se­vere con­se­quences.

It’s un­for­tu­nate for the rest of us that their age group — one-fifth of the pop­u­la­tion in most densely pop­u­lated cities — holds the key to stop­ping COVID-19’s spread.

In states where mil­len­ni­als are driv­ing new in­fec­tions, it’s a mat­ter of time be­fore those in­fec­tions over­flow into vul­ner­a­ble pop­u­la­tions and deaths be­gin to spike, pub­lic health ex­perts say.

“If what is hap­pen­ing are out­breaks in young peo­ple, it seems likely that these young peo­ple will go on to trans­mit to oth­ers in their com­mu­ni­ties. This spillover would cause a sub­se­quent rise in cases among older peo­ple, fol­lowed by a lagged rise in deaths,” Uni­ver­sity of Florida bio­statis­tics pro­fes­sor Dr. Natalie Dean tells The Covid Track­ing Project.

At the same time, mil­len­ni­als aren’t im­mune to racial dis­par­i­ties in deaths from COVID-19.

The Har­vard Cen­ter for Pop­u­la­tion and De­vel­op­ment Stud­ies finds that among mil­len­ni­als ages 25-34 who con­tract the virus, Blacks are 7.3 times more likely to die than white peers; His­pan­ics, 5.5 times more likely to die.

So take these pan­demic pre­cau­tions se­ri­ously, mil­len­ni­als. COVID-19 data shows you could be up next. Wear your masks and so­cial dis­tance. If not for your­self, do it for your praying mother.


Mil­len­ni­als wait to en­ter a restau­rant late last month in Mi­ami Beach. Florida is one of four big states re­port­ing a surge in the virus as cases skew younger.


A waiter serves food Satur­day in Man­hat­tan Beach, Cal­i­for­nia, one of sev­eral big states fac­ing a virus resur­gence.


An aerial view from a drone shows res­i­dents wait­ing in line last week for drive-thru COVID-19 test­ing at the El­lis Davis Field House in Dal­las, Texas. Texas is fac­ing a surge of new cases.

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