Young, Immunocompromised Students Discuss Their Pandemic Fears, Frustrations
Over the course of 2020, the world has gone through the coronavirus pandemic. To keep the public safe, preventative measures have been put in place in the form of mask mandates, stay at home orders, social distancing and limiting the amount of people who can be included in social functions.
For most of the world, this is something that — if they got sick — they'd be able to survive. But there are some in our society who do not have that luxury. There are people who are immunocompromised.
“My name is Kaitie Cindrich and I have an autoimmune disease called lupus.”
“Hey, my name is Tyler (West). I'm 20 years old. Yeah, I was diagnosed with Crohn's disease.”
“My name is Daxon Gale and I'm 20 years old. I was diagnosed with Type One Diabetes.”
For them, this pandemic is more dangerous. Where if they get sick, it could cost them their life. For them, coronavirus is more than just a pandemic.
A lot of the main problem that comes along with these younger people who have these autoimmune diseases and having this pandemic is an added societal pressure and want for them to still live a normal college life — to still socialize with others and date and get out there and try new things.
They have this added societal pressure to participate in those things, but also at the same time have to be careful because it could be a very serious medical condition if they were to contract coronavirus.
A lot of the common issues that we're seeing between these people were they were frustrated and anxious and really want to go and live that common life that they're expected to live at this age. And they see other people living, even during the pandemic, as much as they can. But they, themselves, can't participate as much as they want to because it could spell their end.
“You know I gotta say, it's limiting my social life, I guess,” West said. “I'm trying to be careful so I don't get sick, but at the same time, like dating is a lot harder. I’m not really meeting as many new people, I don't see, you know, friends, family so it kind of makes that social aspect of college a little tougher.”
It’s especially more frustrating for them to witness those people in society who are giving push backs towards the mandates and regulations put in place by the government to help protect the main public.
Things like protests about mask mandates, people declaring they're not going to follow social distancing, still going out of their house when they have contracted coronavirus or when they're feeling symptoms. These things cause a lot of fear within the people who are younger and immunocompromised. Or they want to be safe and they want this pandemic to be over so that they can continue with their lives and grow and become the person who they want to be, but people are protesting the things keeping everyone safe.
One of the main factors keeping these people who are more at risk from participating as fully as their peers is the fear of contracting the disease and not knowing who their peers have been around.
If you look at the demographics on COVID-19 cases in the state of Utah, the Utah Department of Health attributes 25% of all cases in the state towards people from the ages of 15 to 24 years (this recording was made in the fall and these numbers may be different now).
A lot of that can be attributed to people of this age range, continuing to participate in that college life that is expected of them, even though the CDC — or Center for Disease Control and Prevention — recommends wearing masks and social distancing and washing your hands, not touching your face. They try to still live their own life as much as they can, but may not follow all aspects of the CDC recommendations so that they can try to live that college life.
Because of this, it is more terrifying of a prospect for the people who are immunocompromised to associate with their peers for not knowing how safe they've been before and giving them an increased risk of infection.
And, as most of them say, if everyone were to abide by these recommendations, it would be easier for them to live this life, easier for immunocompromised people to participate fully in the areas of this college life and date and meet new people, even during the pandemic. But they can't due to others not following recommendations and becoming more of a risk towards their own life.
“And if I could say one thing to those who aren’t helping out as best they can because they think it's a hoax: even at the end of the day if it's a hoax, you took the effort to try to look out for other people and not just yourself,” Gale said. “No matter what at the end of the day, that's a good thing in my eyes.”
“Don't put other people's lives in danger,” Sandridge said. “Like, it's not worth it. It's really not. And I think that a lot of people are going to look back at their lives and look back at themselves in like 15 years and be mad at themselves because they were being stupid, in all honesty.”
“If you want the number of deaths to go down and people in the hospitals and stuff, then you're going to just be more responsible, I guess, and wear masks and help other people to prevent the spread, being more careful, right?” West said. “Because people take it home to their grandparents or people that are immunocompromised, right? Save lives. Make life easier for everyone.”
For more information on the coronavirus, how to help prevent spread, ways to protect yourself and others against the coronavirus, go to cdc.gov or coronavirus.utah.gov to learn more.