Health officials under 30 weigh in on rising case numbers in young people

Published: Aug. 3, 2020 at 7:58 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - It doesn’t take a long look at the case numbers to tell that when it comes to who is spreading the coronavirus, people under 40 are the main drivers.

It’s easy for one to assume that the concerning levels of COVID in young people come from parties, bar hopping, or simply not caring about the virus. Only this past weekend, hundreds of people were gathered for outdoor concerts in Palmer. Based on the video, one can see a lot of young people, but not a lot of space or masks.

Dr. Elizabeth Ohlsen and Anna Frick with DHSS said social choices are definitely a factor here, but nowhere near the whole picture.

Frick said how young people tend to live impacts their overall ability to keep their personal contacts low.

“For example, a lot of people in their 20′s have roommates,” she said. “Instead of having maybe two or three people in the house, or having one family of five or six, you have really three, four, five, six individual adults that have their own lives and their own social circles.”

She explained that when you’re in that sort of social web, going to an outdoor barbecue where only a few people were supposed to eat outside can turn into more with just a few accepted invitations. She continued to say that a few drops of rain could put people inside and increase the risk of exposure.

Frick recommends that young people consider how easy it would be to do something while still practicing guidelines before accepting an invitation, even if it means missing out.

There’s also the fact that young people tend to be more likely to have jobs where they are dealing with people in close proximity.

When you’re working retail, waiting tables, pouring coffee, or a number of jobs where young people tend to work, the odds of getting sick are higher.

“If you have a job that requires you to talk with over a hundred people a day, it may be that your options for keeping your risk low are very different than somebody who’s in their 40s or 50s and has a job that they can safely do from home,” Ohlsen said.

Both Frick and Ohlsen sympathize with their fellow young people that the pandemic is messing up their lives and plans. They don’t negate in any way that this is challenging for everyone, it’s just different when you’re in a position to try to get your adult life started whether it be getting a degree, getting a career going, or helping your family get through the pandemic.

With so much uncertainty with the future, Frick said they understand why some people who aren’t at risk of death from COVID behave like they don’t have any regard for the virus. However, she said it’s all the more reason for those people to get creative with how they cope with the effects of the pandemic.

“You know, going to the bar maybe isn’t the best alternative,” Frick said, “but I think some people are looking for ways to have interactions with other young people because that’s something that they do really need as a human.”

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