Originally selective in its approach, COVID-19 appeared to have little effect on the enigma that is Generation Z, but if 2020 has taught the world anything, it’s that nothing is guaranteed.
With an age range of 8 to 25, those in Generation Z are typically thought to be in good health, only impacted by the UV rays coming from the newest social media trend or video game. The recent spike in coronavirus cases is challenging this idea.
Michigan’s chief medical executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun reported Generation Z accounted for a higher number of coronavirus cases than any other demographic in late June.
“Early in the outbreak, most new cases were occurring in people under the age of 50, but in June that changed,” she said. “The rate of new cases is now higher for people under the age of 50, and in the past two weeks the rate of new cases is highest in people ages 20-29 – 23% of cases in June were in this age group, 20-29.”
COVID-19 has quickly become a global crisis; the shift in virus carriers and their age demographic has done little to ease the concerns of worried Michiganders.
Many born into Generation Z are concerned that their health will be at risk if recognition given to the virus continues to decline. Kyla Wright, a native of Detroit, recalls how her stress level has risen since the start of the pandemic.
“I’m definitely worried for myself and my peers. To see my constituents brunching without masks, traveling and living life as if times are normal, makes me want to stay in the house since people are living so irresponsibly,” says Wright.
As with any major global issue, the coronavirus pandemic is impacting everyone differently. Studies have shown those with immune deficiencies are at an increased risk of dying from COVID-19.
“The virus has made me incredibly paranoid,” says Keauna Lenton, a 22-year-old Detroiter. Every time I cough I think ‘is this lupus or is this COVID?'” Lupus, technically known as systemic lupus erythematosus, is a chronic autoimmune disease that can cause tissue damage and inflammation.
Lenton, who has had lupus for years, says she has been very cautious about protecting herself and others. Despite her efforts to remain healthy, circumstances outside her control have created issues in her health journey.
“I’ve run out of my medication, and my doctor has had to prescribe it in bulk, three months at a time,” says Lenton. “People have been using it as a way to try and prevent COVID.”
The medicine Lenton refers to is Plaquenil, a drug typically used to treat symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis or lupus. The drug can cause severe damage to the heart when combined with other medicines. On June 15, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration annulled Plaquenil’s emergency authorization for COVID-19 after studies showed no evidence that it protected against the coronavirus.
With no clear evidence of a coronavirus vaccine being available anytime soon, Lenton worries her chances of going without her medication will increase.
“It’s only going to get worse,” says Lenton. “The pandemic has really shown how selfish people can be; they’re taking kidney medicine for an autoimmune disease, going without masks, and traveling across state lines.”