Maggie Aldrich is a freshman English major
It feels like yesterday that I was first hearing about COVID-19, yet I was still continuing to take Muni, engage in long walks downtown, and go to work every other day. Now feels like a time I would’ve never predicted; I’m isolated in self-quarantine, taking all of my classes online, and I flew home, where I will stay for five months.
Initially, I resented this rapid transition — I couldn’t understand why a virus that is causing no harm to myself or those around me is turning my life upside down so suddenly. These feelings carry the weight of my own ignorance behind them and, if anything, demonstrate the underlying impacts ageism has set on our society. Most people downplayed the seriousness of this virus since it was initially characterized as primarily being fatal to a specific age group.
I know I’m not the only one who thought this way; some used this transition to have an extended spring break, hit the bars, or even travel to a new place by booking a cheap flight. It seemed like no one truly understood the importance of social distancing, even when epidemiologists and disease experts warned the public weeks prior. Part of this was because of the misinformation circulating in the media. While some were becoming overwhelmed by the threat of this mysterious illness, others were calm as they received reports from the Trump administration claiming they have everything under control.
Although each of us formed our own interpretations of COVID-19 early on, there are still ways in which we can come together to contain its spread through social distancing. Social distancing is an act of altruism on our end — it’s understanding that while this virus may not end up being as fatal to us as our older counterparts, there is a chance we could be saving a human life through preventing or obtaining the spread from other carriers. This is where true activism is established; where we perform acts that we can’t directly see the impact of, yet we can acknowledge are for the betterment of society and for the protection of those at high risk.
How Generation Z has reacted to the spread of COVID-19 is easily comparable to how older generations react to climate change. While we see caring for our planet as essential for the future of our lives and the lives of the generations ahead of us, it’s difficult for baby boomers to visualize the implications of this issue since it’s something they will never have to encounter the full adversities of. While this frustrates us, we must see the frustration they feel when some of us have coined this pandemic the “Boomer Remover” and avoid preventative actions since we can’t visualize the negative implications it holds for them.
While social distancing and loneliness can worsen the mental health issues that such a large percentage of the younger population are affected by, it doesn’t provide a pass to directly put the lives of older individuals at risk. Although people at high risk can stay inside and take preventative measures themselves, social distancing is the only effective method to contain the overall spread of COVID-19 across all demographics, as the fewer people affected means the sooner this pandemic will come to an end. Those struggling with the effects of social isolation can still take walks outside, interact with family and friends virtually, and reach out for professional help through online resources. The fewer people who come in contact with COVID-19 means that fewer hospitals will have to stock up on limited resources and will instead be able to bring care to those battling with their lives.
While no one receives a reward for pausing their social lives in the wake of this pandemic, it’s important to contemplate the true altruism that stems from staying inside. Although we don’t know when this will all come to an end, we can still use this time to our advantage. Rather than spending each day sleeping or scrolling through social media, consider establishing some mid-2020 goals, trying a new workout, or pursuing an activity that your normal daily life never permitted the time to try out. This period of our lives doesn’t have to be as frustrating as some of us are currently seeing it, and how we each handle this crisis will speak for our generation as a whole.