A few weeks ago, I hardly knew what the word “pandemic” meant. It was some obscure thing that doesn’t happen. Something people make games about. It was not a word that came up in day-to-day conversation. Today, that has of course changed. The only thing that anyone can talk about, it seems, is the global pandemic. The Coronavirus may or may not be everywhere at all times. But talk about it certainly is.
As fears over what the virus means for us grow, so do the restrictions around what we can do. A few days ago, I read the headline news. American life overturned! But it didn’t seem that way at first. The sun was shining. People were out walking their dogs. Life was going on mostly the same. Even school was still in session. But that’s all different now. In California, we’re feeling the burden of this disease. Schools are shuttered. College students from home and abroad are returning — classes moved to online. The remote workers at Starbucks are ushered home. I walked downtown and there was a guy with an eye-patch and a bag walking around. That’s the kind of people that are out and about now. Nobody else wants to risk it. The disease could be anywhere.
And yet, even as the San Francisco Bay Area initiates “Shelter in Place” rules, and fully enforced quarantine looms as an actual possibility, at the moment, we have a lot of say still in where we will go. So what do you do?
The Risk for Young People is Low
If you are young and healthy, chances are you won’t die from the disease. You might not even notice that you have anything much worse than a cold. For that reason, many young people have decided that instead of staying around their boring home towns, they’re leaving their parents’ homes, their closed schools, and day jobs to take advantage of unprecedentedly low airfares to travel the world.
Do you have any social responsibility to follow the rules of the quarantine if you are young and heathy? After all, the disease isn’t really your problem, kind of like paying taxes isn’t your problem when you’re in college. Right? There are a few reasons, however, why even young people should stay home during the pandemic.
You Could Carry It Without Knowing
The first problem is that it’s hard to know whether or not you have the disease. You could actually be carrying it right now in theory, and not know. Some people don’t express any symptoms. All of this to say that, if you are currently hitting up the clubs, the bars, the gym and whatever else it is that you do, you could end up getting the virus, then giving it to someone else, before you even know you have it.
You Could Give it To Someone You Love
Additionally, if you are thinking of flouting the ordinances and guidances of social distancing, you may not be thinking about the fact that many people around you could be very negatively impacted if you end up passing the disease to them. That might sound really crazy, but there is so much we don’t know about the virus, and some research suggests that it can stay alive in the air for hours and infect you when you breath it in.
Hoarding Supplies is Harmful
Needless to say, people around the country are panicking. I almost didn’t believe the memes and pictures I was seeing everywhere on social media. But sure enough, a trip to the store the other day proved them all true. Empty shelves. No more toilet paper, but also no more of a lot of things. Hand sanitizers. Orange chicken. Milk. Panicked people are creating a shortage problem by hoarding things.
Why are they doing it? Because psychologically speaking, in such an uncertain time, people feel better knowing that there is one thing they can control. By having rolls and rolls of toilet paper around, they feel as though in a worst case scenario, they will still have the essentials they need.
However, hoarding actually puts a strain on the supply chain that would not be there otherwise. And it is totally pointless to do so. Even in quarantined Italy people are still allowed to make essential trips to the grocery store. What, then, are these hoarders hoarding for? What’s more, taking more than what you need is harmful to those who now must go without because they now don’t have the basic essentials that they need.
If there’s one thing not to do during the pandemic, it’s hoard supplies. Instead, take a realistic look at what you actually need. Stock up on what you need for a week or two the way you normally would, not for several months.
Don’t Buy Up the N95 Respirator Masks
Here’s another problem — there are comparatively few N95 Respirator masks available in this country. Those that are available are needed by healthcare workers, and those who are at a higher risk of dying from the disease. For this reason, young people should not buy them. Doing so will again put undue strain on the supply line. Also, sorry, but the cheaper surgical face masks won’t help you not get the disease, either.
You Could Have Underlying Health Conditions
Lastly, and I sincerely hope this is not the case, but there are people out there who seem very healthy who actually have health conditions they are not aware of. For example, a young, 21 year-old soccer coach in Italy passed away after being taken to the hospital. He did not know it then, but not only did he have the coronavirus, but it turns out he also was suffering from cancer.
It’s not fun to go through a pandemic. It’s frightening, and potentially disastrous for our economy. But the nice thing for young people is not only that you’re less likely to contract a severe case of COVID-19 — you also have time to build things up again. You’re young — even if the virus takes its toll on the economy, you can help build a better economy tomorrow. You have time. The thing you don’t have time for, however, is inadvertently spreading the disease. Harming someone this way, especially a vulnerable person who won’t take it so well as a young whipper snapper like you, is something you can’t take back.
So, are you young and healthy? Then you’re in your prime to stay at home. Only leave it responsibly.
Originally published at https://www.josephwriteranderson.com on March 16, 2020.