It is no secret that since COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic, people (especially Generation Z) did not take it seriously enough. You heard talk of Gen Z being “invincible” or that the virus really only affected older people, aged sixty and up, with underlying health conditions. Yes, the more vulnerable population are those that fit that description along with those that are immunocompromised, but the truth is, it can still affect anyone. The idea of being invincible to a global pandemic simply because you were born between the years of 1995 and 2015 is just ignorant. I mean, hello, did we forget about all the college Gen Z’ers that walk around using a Juul or some other vaping device in every location possible -- sometimes even their 8 a.m. lecture halls? I hate to break it to you, but those small little devices make your lungs far weaker than the average, therefore placing you in the category of “underlying health conditions” without even realizing it. Not to mention, even if you were not feeling sick, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that recent studies still indicate that people who were infected but do not have symptoms still play a major role in the spread of COVID-19. So what about our age made us feel like it was still “business as usual” as we approached the second, even third week of March?
I get it: You weren’t sick. You had your spring break trip planned for months and being refunded was not even in the question yet. I’ll even be the first to admit, I was in Savannah, Georgia the first weekend in March, not really thinking twice considering nothing was actually shut down yet. But what really started the bad reputation on Generation Z was the selfishness that most of these spring breakers showed while on vacation. In fact, CBS News played a big role in exposing Gen Z after they published a video that went viral on Twitter and multiple other media platforms. The video showed young adults saying things like, “If I get corona, I get corona. At the end of the day, I’m not going to let it stop me from partying.” Now I know the people in this video do not speak for everyone. Just because you were on a spring break trip does not mean you felt this way about COVID-19 when it first began. However, it was still said and unfortunately documented for a world of people to see. Gen Z must now try and clear their name by doing our part today since we obviously could not a couple of weeks ago. Spread awareness to those that may not be taking this as seriously as they should, because trust me, we all want to save ourselves from the Gen Z jokes when this is all over.
Now us UNC Charlotte students were a bit luckier. When we returned from our spring break trips, other universities had just started theirs, and most schools even declared an extra week once it looked like they were going to have to move to remote instruction indefinitely. That extra week is what seemed to really set Gen Z back. Students heard “two-week spring break” and noticed extremely cheap plane tickets and decided it was time for another vacation, which was the worst thing to happen. I mean, do I have to remind everyone that this virus was here in January? Actually I might, since our government does not want to do it enough. Besides the point, that extended spring break and remote instruction should have made students realize just how serious this was. It should have sunk in that maybe, just maybe, this was a little bigger than the flu.
Instead of preparing, a lot of people sat in denial. They forgot that just because they were not in the age category of being “vulnerable,” it did not mean they did not know or care for someone who was. Taking that extra vacation time to party until beaches and bars literally shut down in front of you probably was not the smartest. And for those that may not have been sitting on a beach but instead were sitting in the comments or email inboxes of their university, demanding refunds before they even allowed the educational system to breathe, remember this is new for everyone. In a recent Forbes article, author Karl Moore interviewed two former CEOs of major global companies both over the age of seventy-five. The two claimed that today’s crisis is unique, that in fact it “seems that you have to go back to World War II to find another period of similar tumult.” So if this virus is going to teach us anything, it is how to be selfless, how to be patient and even how to be early for once. And maybe that is not just geared towards us Gen Z’ers. It is also geared towards anyone that thought America itself was invincible to this disease, because clearly, we were not. Once it was clear that our government was downplaying this as another flu season, even after the CDC had said it was not, all generations including Gen Z should have done more sooner.
As my dad has always said, there is no punishment for being early, only late. In this case, whether you agree with me or not, being late caused some pretty severe punishments. So I think if it is not obvious enough by now, stay home. As North Carolina enters its third week of the stay at home order, it is not the time to disobey these rules. Find ways to be social but still social distance. Care about others’ health just as much as yours. Gen Z: start replacing the word “invincible” with the word “asymptomatic.” Although this moment is temporary, for Gen Z especially, it is going to define the way we continue to live life in our new normal.