Lessons from the exceptions

Unlike with Spanish Flu a century ago or Hong Kong Flu in the 1950s, today we’re receiving constant and more or less real time information about the pandemic we’re experiencing. But how much of the information we’re receiving is valuable? How much of it is true? One of the things that’s incredibly difficult, despite our information glut or because of it, is to figure out is just how much of a threat this virus really is.

“I’m 26. Coronavirus Sent Me to the Hospital,” writes Fiona Lowenstein:

I’m 26. I don’t have any prior autoimmune or respiratory conditions. I work out six times a week, and abstain from cigarettes. I thought my role in the current health crisis would be as an ally to the elderly and compromised. Then, I was hospitalized for Covid-19. …

While I was shocked at the development of my symptoms and my ultimate hospitalization, the doctors and nurses were not at all surprised. After I was admitted, I was told that there was a 30-year-old in the next room who was also otherwise healthy, but who had also experienced serious trouble breathing. The hospital staff told me that more and more patients my age were showing up at the E.R. I am thankful to my partner for calling the hospital when my breathing worsened, and to the doctor who insisted we come in. As soon as I received an oxygen tube, I began to feel slight relief. I was lucky to get to the hospital early in the crisis, and receive very attentive care. …

Millennials, if you can’t be good allies, at least stay home to protect yourselves. Our invulnerability to this disease is a myth — one I have experienced firsthand. Countries in Europe and Asia are reporting younger and younger patients. The New York Times reported this week that nearly 40 percent of hospitalized Covid patients in the U.S. are under 54 years old. What’s worse is that when medical professionals have been forced to make choices about who lives and who dies, our generation is often chosen to receive treatment. So not only are we risking our own health, our presence in hospitals diminishes the care other groups may receive.

Hospitalizations for younger people seem to be the exception rather than the rule. Testimonies like this are helpful, but the broader point seems to have remained constant, which is that the risk for younger people (say those 45 and younger) is more about the older loved ones you might compromise as an asymptomatic carrier.

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