By: Diana Bello Aristizábal
DORAL, FL – Florida is one of the main states in the country with the highest coronavirus case count, while Miami-Dade County is considered by many to be the epicenter of the pandemic worldwide. In view of this scenario, public opinion has placed the blame mainly on young people between 20 and 30 years old of the increasing high rates.
“Young people are now the enemies of humanity”, “What kind of values ??are we instilling in our children?”, “They are being irresponsible for spreading the disease among the elderly and children”, are some of the thousands of comments that we read on social media every day about the perception people has of this population.
Those who make such statements do so based on the idea that young people are the ones who socialize the most and go on with their lives outside home without following restrictions such as the use of a mask, frequent hand washing, or social distancing.
This perception has also come from some political leaders such as Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who made young people responsible for the dramatic increase in cases due to their tendency to socialize.
They are accused of being “silent spreaders of the disease” as in most cases they show no symptoms while developing the disease, but have the ability to spread it among others, especially over those who have preexisted medical conditions or are over 65 years of age.
But are they really to blame for the situation we are experiencing in South Florida? Doral Family Journal gave the floor to young people to learn what they think about this matter.
A shared responsibility
For Zuriel Gonzalez, 25, who works in an MRI office, the accusation against his age group of being 100% responsible for the increase in COVID-19 cases, due to their reckless behavior, is unfair.
“I would not put the blame on us, although it is true that many aren’t cautious enough to avoid getting sick or making others sick, maybe thinking they are immune to the disease or because they don’t see it as serious as it actually is,” he says.
In his opinion, we are experiencing high numbers today due to the reopening plans. “Businesses opened too early and some have not enforced compliance with health restrictions. This gives many people reasons to go out and break the rules.”
Also, he finds no logic in reopening certain businesses like gyms that for him can become dirty places since most members aren’t prone to clean machines properly after using them.
Anthony Montecelo, 25, who is currently on a temporary furlough related with the coronavirus pandemic, has a similar point of view. “I don’t think gyms constitute essential places to be opened,” he says.
Like Zuriel, he believes that with the economy reopening, the coronavirus cases skyrocketed and that is why he doesn’t agree with putting the blame on young people. “I know it’s a crossroads because if businesses don’t open, people can’t create revenue. However, in order to stop the spread, it would have been wise to wait a little longer to reopen,” he states.
Zuriel’s and Anthony’s views match with that of Dr. Gabriel Ruiz, trauma surgeon and critical care physician of Jackson Health System, for whom it would have been ideal to keep all businesses closed for two or four more weeks in order to avoid reaching the current situation.
“Ever since the restrictions were relaxed, we saw an increase in positive cases that resulted, for the most part, from people between the ages of 20 and 35, that is, those who are most willing to be outside,” says Dr. Ruiz.
For the medical professional, the problem of young people getting sick is that they normally don’t show severe symptoms, which has allowed the disease to spread unnoticed, making it hard for the health system to track it down and thus reaching the most vulnerable population such as those of over 65 years.
“I would not say that young people were to blame for the case count because there are many variables that come into play. However, the number of young people who became ill at the beginning of the pandemic helped this disease seek the route to people who are at greater danger and this is the reason behind the current situation,” says Dr. Ruiz.
He thinks that during February and March the opportunity to flatten the curve was lost due to the fact that residents and visitors, especially young people, crowded the streets with no protection and without following social distancing. He also explains that some celebrations were decisive in the course of the pandemic locally such as Memorial Day when even people from other states visited Florida.
In light of all this, Dr. Ruiz considers that the problem finds its root in an institutional failure. “It is an institutional responsibility to keep people informed. Controlling a pandemic without establishing clear policies on lockdowns and of closing of businesses and beaches is very difficult, we are naturally social and the youth even more so.”
Along the same line, some argue that the responsibility is shared with people from other age groups who have also socialized without complying with restrictions. “I have seen more middle-aged people not wearing face masks or practicing social distancing,” says Zuriel.
About this, Joyce Artigas, 25, who works in an MSO, thinks that those who are in the earlier years of college, among 18 and 20 years of age, are usually the ones who fail to follow the rules, while college seniors are more likely to take the virus seriously.
However, she states that sometimes people within her age group are blamed for all the failures in the system with no basis. “The most frustrating part is that sometimes the wrong of a few reflects on our entire generation. I would like for young people who see this as a hoax consider the fact that they can infect members of their families while they also make us all look bad,” says Joyce.
Anthony, on the other hand, says that he doesn’t get upset by the way on which people perceive his generation, labeling them as irresponsible, because in his opinion this message can potentially create change in those who are not behaving appropriately.
“I have been cautious and I barely go out, but I do know not everyone is like that and perhaps if restrictions were stricter, more people would see the seriousness of the situation. Sometimes, people only understand when they are personally affected,” he adds.
A “politicized” virus and a disobedient youth
For Crystal Cáceres, 25, who works as a child behavior analyst, the use of face masks has become a matter of politics. “Most young people make decisions based on what politicians do. Many decided not to use face coverings when Trump didn’t and then began wearing them once he changed his mind. As a professional, I always recommend following science,” she says.
Slightly more inclined to think that young people are responsible towards what is going on, Crystal finds county residents too disobedient to adhere to the rules.
“The reputation we have today began with the behavior seen in the riots and based on what I have seen in social media and in my own environment, many young people are not being responsible. A few of my relatives, that are also of my age, are not taking the pandemic seriously. If we are not healthy, how are we going to enjoy the economy?,” says Crystal.
Jacob Morera, 20, who works with the county’s Parks and Recreation in the maintenance area, agrees. “I think young people are playing a significant role in the increase of cases, I’ve noticed it in my job. Many are visiting parks without social distancing or wearing a mask and although I know it is difficult to stay at home during the summer, sometimes you have to sacrifice yourself for the common good.”
He explains that under the current circumstances it’s more important to care for one another than having fun. For him, it makes no sense that people are in awe with the statistics but, at the same time, continue to disregard of safety rules.
For all this, we can conclude some youngsters feel that not all factors are being taken into account when judging their role in the pandemic, while others speak of shared responsibilities and a few tend to think that their generation needs to be educated and willing to change.