Millennials and Gen Z are spreading coronavirus, but not because of parties and bars

When paramedics rushed the pregnant Honduran woman into the emergency room, Chuan-Jay Jeffrey Chen, 28, was ready to receive her. It was April, and the pandemic had already swept through his final year as an emergency medicine resident. Of all the coronavirus patients that have swept through Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, this 32-year-old remains Chen’s most memorable.

The woman was so out of breath that she could barely speak, so Chen would need to intubate her, a delicate procedure that requires precision as well as speed. Every moment without oxygen lowers a patient’s chances of survival; pregnancy further complicates the scenario by causing the airways to swell, causing blood pressure to drop more rapidly. As Chen got to work and walked him through the steps in Spanish, he also tried to calm his own nerves.

“I knew I had very little room for error,” Chen says. The woman’s husband had not been allowed into the building due to coronavirus restrictions, and Chen knew that if something went wrong, his voice could be the last she heard.

In addition to the stress of life and death, Chen struggled with economic problems. Caught between astronomical Boston rent prices and rising student loan bills, he is now close to completing his residency and entering the workforce, where opportunities have dwindled due to job freezes. hiring induced by coronaviruses and hospital closures.

With regard to Millennials and Generation Z, defined by the Pew Research Center as persons born after 1982 and 1996 respectively — stories of crowded gatherings on the beach and house parties where guests try to get infected with COVID-19 made headlines. But these stories obscure the more complicated circumstances of people, such as Chen and his patient, shaped by economic and societal inequalities. An August 18 briefing from the World Health Organization has announced that people in their 20s, 30s and 40s are now the cause of the virus to spread, but that’s because most are just trying to do their jobs.

“Over the past few decades, we’ve seen the economy shift towards more service jobs,” including retail, food service, hospitality and childcare, says Sharon Sassler, professor of policy analysis and management at Cornell University. “Young people in these service jobs are now at greater risk of exposure. Moreover, emerging research confirms what many experts have observed with natural disasters: Economic vulnerability severely compromises a person’s ability to cope with a disaster, and this burden falls heavily on the younger generations.

In Boston, Chen managed to save the pregnant woman. Months later, she wrote to him and the ER team so they could learn more about the life they had saved. She had studied architecture in Honduras before coming to the United States, where her husband had found a job in a factory. This factory was where he caught the coronavirus, which he unknowingly took back to his wife and unborn child. Chen says the letter shocked him and reminded him of the impossible choices the pandemic is forcing young adults, including him, to make every day.

Of the 22 million jobs lost since the start of the pandemic, only 42% have been recovered from the beginning of August. This shortage puts young adults in a loser position: if they can find a job, many feel compelled to take it even if it means putting themselves in danger. Even though people between the ages of 18 and 34 are less likely to die from the coronavirus, they are not totally spared. One in five young adults in the United States required intensive care. (Here’s how scientists know COVID-19 is far more deadly than the flu.)

“The virus itself hits older people much harder,” says Kimbrough gray, economist at American University. “But the recession has hit the less fortunate people in society the hardest. These are people who are at the start of their careers, people who are less educated, people who have certain types of jobs that cannot be done at home. These people tend to be younger.

An economical catch-22

The older generations are known to be the scapegoats of the younger ones for the country’s economic woes. For the past decade, reports beginning with “Millennials Kill …” were so common that the phrase became a meme in 2016. But now we know that Millennials weren’t killing traditions like marriage and home ownership out of spite. From to the Great Recession, they were just too poor to afford these milestones, not to mention vacations, gambling, movie theater, and country clubs. The behavior of millennials was a reaction to the economic downturns they experienced, not a cause.

This heritage is now go into Gen Z. When the first wave of coronavirus layoffs arrived in March, Jade Jackson lost her job at a clothing store where she worked to cover her college expenses for the upcoming semester. Over the following months, the 19-year-old struggled to find a new job.

“It started to become like a race against time,” says Jackson. Determined to continue her education as a biomedical science major at Arizona State University, she continued to apply for employment. After more than three months of applications and refusals of unemployment, Jackson landed a job at another clothing store in his local Chicago mall. Even though the store took every precaution, from installing Plexiglas guards at counters to providing hand sanitizer to customers, the risk of exposure was always on Jackson’s mind. What worried her more than her own safety was the risk of her becoming an asymptomatic carrier and unknowingly infect her grandmother, with whom she lived. (Recognition of face masks has arrived in some workplaces, for better or for worse.)

“I would change my clothes in the car, then take them inside and wash them every day,” says Jackson. “After taking a shower to make sure I was clean, I could finally go and say hello to my sister and grandma.”

Jackson’s fear and caution are justified. Experts say people like Jackson whose low-paying jobs or wish to attend university putting them in contact with a greater number of people are more likely to contract and spread the coronavirus; hence the increasing number of cases in his age group.

“I see a lot of criticism targeting young people, especially people at universitySays Hannah Smith, a 22-year-old master’s student at Texas A&M University who studies public health and made the difficult choice to attend her classes in person this semester. “I think it’s unfair, especially when their university welcomes them with open arms.”

This increased risk doesn’t just come from the very busy nature of a job or school. Coronavirus risk is also strongly correlated with income, which influences our ability to distance ourselves socially.

Before the pandemic hit, well-off Americans moved through their cities – and beyond – far more than working-class people. But in April, those statistics changed. Based on in-depth analysis of anonymous cell phone data, 25% more people in wealthy areas stayed completely at home, while 10% more low-income people traveled outside their usual environment.

“The pandemic has focused on a uniquely American problem,” Kimbrough said. “Our social safety net has a lot of holes.”

Fall through the cracks

When income determines a person’s ability to socially distance themselves, it’s no surprise that those most financially burdened from generation to generation catch the coronavirus and deal with serious illness at high rates. This is even less surprising for researchers who predicted this trend with a metric called the Social Vulnerability Index, or SVI.

Created by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the SVI is an analytical system used to measure community resilience and determine what emergency services communities will need in the event of a disaster. The IVS takes into account factors such as socio-economic status, minority status, household composition, disability, type of housing and access to transport in order to calculate how severely people will be affected by disasters and the scale of government intervention their regions will need to bounce back. In the Southeastern United States, SVI is most often used to help low-income communities respond to hurricanes because over five decades of research has shown that poverty greatly increases the risk of serious injury or death in natural disasters.

The same trends are emerging with the pandemic. A team from Harvard and Stanford noticed a correlation between social vulnerability and a higher risk of catching the coronavirus from April.

“The most socially vulnerable people are also in the essential labor market, or they cannot afford not to work,” says Quyyumi arched, professor of cardiology at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia. “They will always go to work, often on public transport, so they will have a higher exposure rate. Then, at home, they will find it difficult to isolate themselves socially because they live in overcrowded housing.

More than one in four socially vulnerable American communities have experienced a high case fatality rate during this pandemic, according to analysis that Quyyumi’s research group created and produced as an interactive map.

“One of the reasons is access to treatment,” says Aditi Nayak, cardiology researcher at Emory and member of the research team. “There is an obvious disparity in access to experimental treatments, and there is a disparity in access to testing.”

Low wages, in particular, weigh heavily among the risks of contracting the coronavirus. People living in America’s poorest households are up to 32% more likely to die from the coronavirus than their wealthier counterparts, according to an analysis of Imperial College London.

Thus, while the younger generations are blamed, in some quarters, for the spread of the pandemic, they bear the heaviest burden of poverty and the weight of the risk of transmission that accompanies the maintenance of the economy, all with little. help in sight.

“The youngest are in the most precarious positions,” says Kimbrough. “When they lose their jobs, they lose their health insurance, but then they might struggle to get the benefits that were supposed to be designed to catch them in situations like this. When that fails them, they are alone.

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