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A dreaded call from her millennial during pandemic surge: ‘Mom, I don’t feel well at all’

It was a call this Chicago mother had feared since the start of pandemic lockdowns — her millennial offspring, calling from one of the four states worst hit by a U.S. resurgence of COVID-19. Arizona, California, Florida and Texas now account for 50 percent of the 40,000 new cases daily.

Outdoor diners celebrate Fourth of July Saturday at the Downtown Tavern on Rush, 1031 N. Rush St., nary a mask in sight.
Outdoor diners celebrate Fourth of July Saturday at the Downtown Tavern on Rush, 1031 N. Rush St., nary a mask in sight.
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

“Mom, I don’t feel well at all.”

It was a call this Chicago mother had feared, ever since the start of the pandemic lockdowns.

Her millennial offspring was calling from one of the four states worst hit by new coronavirus outbreaks nationwide.

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Under a resurgence of the highly contagious virus, Arizona, California, Florida and Texas now account for 50 percent of the 44,000+ new cases daily.

Experts say the U.S. could soon reach 100,000+ cases daily — absent an immediate U-turn.

That’s led states like New York and cities like Chicago to impose quarantines on visitors from impacted states in the South and West. The new rule takes effect here Monday.

Of particular note, at COVID-19’s six-month anniversary in the U.S., infections are skewing younger.

In several states, nearly half the new cases are occurring among millennials — in California, among those under age 35; in Florida, those under age 37.

The resurgence, public health experts say, is traced to Americans not wearing masks and shirking social distancing precautions, as states reopened in May and June.

Officials in the worst impacted states are also pointing the finger at millennials ignoring safeguards when packing into bars and social gatherings, where COVID-19 can spread.

“We’re going in the wrong direction,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, said last week at a U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing. “I would not be surprised if we go up to 100,000 a day if this does not turn around.”

Nine Millennials are seen enjoying a day out at a venue on Chicago’s Gold Coast Saturday — only two are wearing masks.
Nine millennials are seen enjoying a day out at a venue on Chicago’s Gold Coast Saturday — only two are wearing masks.
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

When that Chicago mother got the call from her millennial, her heart sank.

She quizzed her young adult. Symptoms? Headache. Fever. Fatigue. Nausea.

When did it start? After a weekend at the bars. You get tested for coronavirus? No.

“Go!” she said, adding, “Please.”

Like many millennials, hers had no interest in doctors. It took three days of pleading, increasing misery, loss of taste and smell, before her offspring dragged himself to urgent care.

Textbook COVID-19 symptoms, doctor said. A coronavirus test, antibiotics for a sinus infection, the millennial sent home to quarantine.

As the novel coronavirus spread these first six months, sparking nationwide lockdowns and travel restrictions, the Chicago mother, like all of us, worried. About loved ones we were prohibited from visiting, loved ones we couldn’t get to in the event of a dreaded call.

Spread by respiratory droplets from an infected person, COVID-19 is responsible for the deaths of some 129,676 Americans since January, with more than 2.8 million people infected.

Source: Testing.com survey of 1,209 people. Generations determined by the following age ranges: Millennials (18-34), Gen X (35-54), and Baby Boomers (55+).
Source: Testing.com survey of 1,209 people. Generations determined by the following age ranges: Millennials (18-34), Gen X (35-54), and Baby Boomers (55+).
Provided

Of those infected, an estimated 25 percent are asymptomatic. There is still no cure or vaccine. Thus, this Chicago mother could only pray.

She stayed on her knees and stayed on the phone with the millennial as his body fought the virus. And won.

It never found its way to his lungs, where it wreaks dire consequences.

The worst of it was sinus infection, body-wracking pain, extreme fatigue.

Based on those symptoms, his millennial roommate got it, too. But the roommate wouldn’t get tested.

And while her millennial self-quarantined for three weeks, his roommate still hung out with friends, at bars and social gatherings. But this isn’t surprising.

A recent survey by Testing.com found an alarming 31 percent of respondents ages 18-34 would not self quarantine if experiencing COVID-19 symptoms; one out of four of those millennials said they wouldn’t self-quarantine even if they tested positive.

States seeing skyrocketing infections begin to overwhelm hospitals have backtracked on lifted restrictions, again closing indoor restaurant dining, bars, beaches.

Other states and cities watch, hoping to learn from the lessons.

Source: Testing.com survey of 1,209 people. Generations determined by the following age ranges: Millennials (18-34), Gen X (35-54), and Baby Boomers (55+).
Source: Testing.com survey of 1,209 people. Generations determined by the following age ranges: Millennials (18-34), Gen X (35-54), and Baby Boomers (55+).
Provided

Meanwhile, the pandemic still rages globally, warns World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom. It’s killed 500,000 people and infected 10 million to date. Another 160,000 infections are confirmed worldwide daily.

In America, our desire for normalcy and politicization of mask wearing by irresponsible political leaders, has disintegrated our adherence to the pandemic protocols that helped flatten the curve in the first place.

Sadly, the Chicago mother will tell you her millennial was not scared straight.

He returned to his social gatherings and bars the moment he felt better, until the state shuttered the bars again. But he’s grown. What more can a mother do?

From the beginning, millennials have failed to take this virus seriously. Because initial data showed the disease more deadly to their elders, they decided it didn’t apply to them or reasoned that if they got it, they’d escape severe consequences.

It’s unfortunate for the rest of us that their age group — one-fifth of the population in most densely populated cities — holds the key to stopping COVID-19’s spread.

Source: COVID-NET: COVID-19-Associated Hospitalization Surveillance Network, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Accessed on July 2, 2020.
Source: COVID-NET: COVID-19-Associated Hospitalization Surveillance Network, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Accessed on July 2, 2020.
Provided

In states where millennials are driving new infections, it’s a matter of time before those infections overflow into vulnerable populations and deaths begin to spike, public health experts say.

“If what is happening are outbreaks in young people, it seems likely that these young people will go on to transmit to others in their communities. This spillover would cause a subsequent rise in cases among older people, followed by a lagged rise in deaths,” University of Florida biostatistics professor Dr. Natalie Dean tells The Covid Tracking Project.

At the same time, millennials aren’t immune to racial disparities in deaths from COVID-19.

The Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies finds that among millennials ages 25-34 who contract the virus, Blacks are 7.3 times more likely to die than white peers; Hispanics, 5.5 times more likely to die.

So take these pandemic precautions seriously, millennials. COVID-19 data shows you could be up next. Wear your masks and social distance. If not for yourself, do it for your praying mother.