The question on everyone’s mind right now is when can we go back to life as usual? Quarantine is dragging on and people, especially young people, are getting restless. But we are asking the wrong question. It was this same defiance that contributed to the spread of the coronavirus in the first place.
I was one of likely hundreds of thousands of Americans who suffered a “mild” case of COVID-19, and recovered. And it was not like any flu or cold I had ever experienced. All of us, millennials included, need to commit to hunkering down for as long as it takes.
All of us, millennials included, need to commit to hunkering down for as long as it takes.
It was subtle at first. I felt a little fatigue. My temperature crept to 99.5 — a little high but not a fever. I had a slight cough.
I brushed it off. After all, my job had never been busier. Californians were sheltering in place, the NBA suspended its season, and President Donald Trump gave his second-ever Oval Office address. As a reporter, I was focused on the story and how to cover it.
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But then on March 20, I came down with a fever. My cough got worse and my chest felt tight. I called my doctor and described the symptoms. They aligned with COVID-19. I became a “presumed positive” case. But I live in New York City, where tests were mostly reserved for those who needed hospitalization. My case (thankfully) didn’t come to that and I was not considered “high risk,” so my diagnosis was never confirmed.
Still, my world suddenly became very small. My husband and I realized we now needed to fully quarantine. We had already been staying home except for the occasional trip to get essentials — but now even getting those was going to be a challenge. Figuring that out became my husband’s job as my symptoms got much worse.
My fever hovered above 102 and I couldn’t get it down for days. The headaches and body aches that accompanied it became unbearable. I felt like all my joints were arthritic. I couldn’t sleep at night and I was immobile all day. The fatigue was extreme. When the fever finally broke, my respiratory issues got worse and it hurt to breathe. At one point, I had about 24 hours of reprieve and then the symptoms came back with a vengeance. I added extreme nausea to my repertoire. Staying hydrated became a challenge and my primary focus.
In total, these symptoms lasted more than 18 days. The relentlessness of this disease was the hardest part.
But even as I drowsily scrolled Twitter and Instagram in bed, I saw images of spring breakers crowding beaches, of large groups picnicking in the park, of people gathering in apartments. Now, some of those beaches are already reopening again.
Young adults were some of the last to fall in line with social distancing and isolation guidelines issued by federal, state and local governments. And now they’re some of the most eager to get back to life as usual. Many of us have a bit of a bulletproof mentality. It’s why we go skydiving, take dangerous hikes, eat suspicious street food (speaking for myself here, too). But this isn’t a backpacking adventure.
That sense of invincibility might have been reinforced early by an initial focus from officials and the media on risks to the elderly and the immunocompromised populations. But as more data has rolled in, it’s become clear that young people are far from immune. In the epicenter of the global pandemic — New York City — individuals between the ages of 18 and 44 account for 38 percent of cases, according to data from the NYC Health Department. And a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study showed those ages 18-49 comprised 24.7 percent of hospitalizations in the month of March.
Despite these numbers, many young, healthy people still assume they will be asymptomatic or that their case will be mild.
I am under 30. I have no underlying conditions. I was one of the luckier ones. And this was the sickest I’ve ever been. It disrupted my work, my husband’s work, and terrified my family who live on the other side of the country. I’m still regaining strength and catching up to the new normal.
I am only one example, but if my generation isn’t careful, we could still make this pandemic worse for everybody — including ourselves.