NEWS-SENTINEL EDITORIAL: Millennials are key to stopping COVID-19 spread

The warnings have been there all along, but they keep getting sterner and more specific: Practice social distancing to help slow the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus throughout the U.S.

But the warnings have not been taken seriously, and there is not enough consistency in what steps are being taken from one community to another. While the Trump administration Monday directed Americans to not gather in groups of more than 10 people and urged older people to stay home, the Associated Press reported that Arizona, Florida and Illinois went ahead with plans to hold presidential primaries Tuesday.

And Florida Gov. Ron Desantis announced he would leave it up to individual communities whether to restrict access to beaches, where one near Tampa was flooded with people celebrating spring break.

In spite of repeated calls for social distancing, supported by graphs and statistics that prove it is an effective tactic, young adults, in particular, too often are ignoring this pandemic. They crowded bars, restaurants and other gatherings over the weekend as if nothing had changed.

“The time for persuasion and public appeals is over,” Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said in a Chicago Tribune report Saturday. “The time for action is here. This is not a joke. No one is immune to this. And you have an obligation to act in the best interests of all the people.”

Gov. Eric Holcomb has joined the call for urgency after news Monday of the first Indiana death. On Monday, he called for the closing of all restaurants and bars.

Nearly all of Indiana’s school districts have already closed, and Indianapolis health officials ordered the closing of all movie theaters, along with live entertainment, recreation and exercise facilities until at least April 6.

“To those who think that we may be overreacting, I can assure you that we are not,” Holcomb said.

U.S. Special Representative for Global Health Diplomacy Dr. Deborah Birx, a key member of President Trump’s coronavirus task force, says millennials are the “core group that will stop this virus,” and the next couple of weeks are crucial to that effort.

She said Monday millennials are more likely to be carriers of COVID-19 because, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, adults between the ages of 20 and 35 now make up the largest living population in this country.

Young adults are also less likely to show symptoms, which means they are more likely to spread the coronavirus without realizing it.

Cynthia Mohr, a professor of psychology at Portland State University, has likened the warnings about the coronavirus to the children’s tale, “The Boy Who Cried Wolf,” saying in a USA Today report, “We’ve had other health scares, and they’ve been bad but not catastrophic. We heard so much about SARS and H1N1, but we seemed to be OK. So experience-wise, people are thinking, ‘Oh, we’ll be fine here now, too.'”

USA Today also quoted Regan Gurung, the director of Oregon State University’s psychology program, who said mixed messages from state and federal governments add to confusion, allowing individuals to pick who they want to listen to.

Birx, who is also the U.S. coordinator in combating HIV/AIDS, said government guidelines to combat COVID-19 are very specific, but “they will only work if every American takes this together to heart and responds as one nation and one people to stop the spread of this virus.”

This is a time for us all to do what we can to prevent getting exposed to the coronavirus and spreading it to older, more vulnerable people. To ignore the warnings and go about your daily life without making the necessary sacrifices is irresponsible, selfish and dangerous.


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