It is all that you read and hear about on our 24/7 news cycle…..and we have all had our fill. COVID-19 fatigue is moving across our country, especially in the younger generations and just when we are all prepping to head back to school.
Canadian health officials are begging young adults who are actively pursuing close physical contact to act responsibly. It is now clear that the “under-40 set” are driving up the country’s average daily coronavirus case count, which is still can put Canadian lives and livelihoods in jeopardy.
Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, has told reporters in the past that she worried about the upward trend in daily case counts, though not unexpected . As the virus spread has slowed, provincial restrictions have eased and many who are tired of feeling isolated have ventured out, eager to participate in the outside world once again.
No doubt, it is confusing. We get daily updates on the virus as the scientific community continues to learn and understand more about this novel-COVID-19 virus. It’s “novel” because it has never been seen or experienced before. This seemingly conflicting information can at times lead to skepticism and apathy towards the virus.
In the early weeks we heard that children were not as vulnerable to the virus, that they were not likely to spread the virus and even that masks were deemed essential only for those interacting with the infected. Then we learned what made it really stand apart from “the cold” or “flu”, the long incubation period. A time in which one could be asymptomatic but spreading the virus through ones daily activities. Sadly, this gave way to the sentiment of “when I am sick, I will wear a mask” for way too long.
At first it was compared to past corona viruses (the common cold viruses) and we were warned that touching contaminated surfaces and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes with unwashed hands could be a major route of infection.
Recently we have learned that there may be an airborne transmission. This occurs by breathing in respiratory droplets from an infected person’s cough or sneeze, or being within 6 feet (2 meters) of them when they laugh or sing. The tinier the droplets, the longer they could linger in the air surrounding the infected individual. Some masks that are a fine single layer cloth, simply work as a filter to further reduce the size of the droplets, thus, letting them linger longer in the air. This could also be an ASYMPTOMATIC infected individual. Make no mistake, the risk is very real, those with mild or no symptoms can (and do) spread the virus to friends, family members, coworkers and clients.
We now know that younger people can get very sick and even die from COVID-19. Nearly one-third of infected 20 to 40-year-olds require hospitalization. A small subset of this group, are “super-spreaders” who can go onto infect dozens from one event, one gathering at the lake, one BBQ in the back yard or one birthday celebration with a large group of “just” family and friends,
We’re also seeing increasing infection rates in those under the age of 20, which may be due to increased socialization in teens and sharing toys and playgrounds for younger children.
We often hear about young people feeling invulnerable, which explains why they take more and greater risks than older people. They come by their sense of invulnerability honestly because the ability to think ahead and think critically about the outcome of a decision is not fully developed. The brain’s prefrontal cortex (PFC), located behind the forehead, is our “executive” brain. It allows us to organize, plan, think ahead and critically think. On average, the PFC is not fully mature until age 25. Anyone who has raised or is raising a teenager can fully appreciate this development time. They feel invincible and for their brain it’s a challenge to grasp the gravity and consequences of an invisible virus that likely won’t affect most of their friends.
We will soon be heading into the fall and our “flu season”. Yes, we are so done with hearing about COVID but, we cannot let that lead us into a place of skepticism and complacency. It would be so easy. The virus is here, and it will likely be here through our winter and spring. The fight against this virus is like a puzzle, no one piece stands alone but in combination a few of these pieces physical distancing, the wearing of a mask and good hand hygiene will have impact. Let’s do our part. Let’s keep our critical care beds free this fall winter for the many other critical ailments and accidents that afflict Albertans.