Fauci: Young people, we can’t do this without you

Alternate headline: “We can’t do this.”

I prefer to believe that many young adults continue to socialize despite people pleading with them not to because they’re selfish and callous, not stupid. It can’t be that under-40s are collectively so idiotic that they can’t grasp how putting themselves at risk means putting more vulnerable people at risk too. It’s a family tree in reverse: You get the disease, you pass it up to mom and dad, they pass it up to grandma and grandpa. Or you pass it to grandma and grandpa yourself when you visit for Sunday dinner. Or you pass it to your friend and they pass it up along their own family tree.

Every single infection opens pathways for thousands more infections, some of which will inevitably land on the elderly, the chronically ill, and the immunocompromised. That’s the magic of exponential growth.

Question: How much less vulnerable are the young compared to the old? If you’re looking only at the death rate, considerably less vulnerable.

Of the first 100 reported fatalities [from coronavirus in the U.S.], many people appear to have had underlying health conditions, making it harder for their bodies to fight off covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Some had diabetes, kidney failure, hypertension or pulmonary ailments.

Nearly all — about 85 percent — were older than 60, and about 45 percent were older than 80. It’s unclear how some of them contracted the disease, but more than a third were living in residential care facilities when they became ill.

If you’re under 60 and in good health, your odds of surviving are very good. Your odds of avoiding a trip to the hospital, however, aren’t as good.

While 38 percent of patients in Italy have been over 70, 37 percent have been in their 50s and 60s, according to a study published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association. About a quarter are adults younger than age 50…

“In Italy, we’re seeing a lot of younger adults get very sick,” Dr. Peter Hotez, co-director of the Center for Vaccine Development at Texas Children’s Hospital and dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, told NBC News…

In France, health officials said more than half of the country’s 300 patients in intensive care units are under 60, The Associated Press reported…

At Holy Name Medical Center in Teaneck, New Jersey, most of the hospitalized coronavirus patients are younger than 65.

There may be complicated reasons for all that. It may be that older patients in France are dying off more quickly in the ICU, leaving a youth-heavy population of survivors. Just because the share of 50somethings and 60somethings in Italy is about the same as the share of 70somethings under treatment doesn’t mean that their symptoms are as severe. Meanwhile, all but one of the New Jersey patients had some underlying health condition, be it heart trouble, diabetes, or obesity.

But … so what? Lots of young Americans have those same conditions or know someone who does. They’re at risk. A week ago a 39-year-old guy who’s suddenly become famous on Twitter was posting memes like this, goofing on the media for supposedly cheerleading the coronavirus spread:

A week later:

That guy was able to get the treatment he needs because hospitals aren’t crowded right now. What if he showed up at the ER next month? Young people aren’t free and clear here, even if their risk is lower than their parents’.

The WSJ says America is about to fight a “generational war”:

Across Europe, where social life is shutting down faster than in the U.S., a divide is spreading between the young, many of whom say they don’t fear the virus, and their elders, including politicians and scientists, whose alarm about the illness is growing by the day.

In Berlin, a European clubbing hot spot, authorities ordered the closure of all bars and clubs on Saturday. Yet many establishments ignored the decree, forcing police to forcibly shut down some 63 establishments across the city.

That night, the Ernst basement bar in the trendy district of Kreuzberg was packed with patrons enjoying loud electronica. “Beware: Coronavirus” was sprayed on a bench near the entrance.

Inside the stylish Wagemut cocktail bar, a young woman pretended to sneeze in someone’s face, unleashing thunderous laughter.

Health officials in Berlin believe 42 people got infected in clubs that weren’t supposed to be operating.

Some people take precautions early, some people do not. Watch the video below, which I almost can’t believe is real, to see how that reality plays out in a different setting. And read this new op-ed at the Times co-authored by three doctors about what the battle against coronavirus might look like over the next 18 months, until a vaccine is available. This morning I asked the question of what the endgame is in containing the disease; these three think we’ll have little choice but to flatten the curve repeatedly with aggressive social distancing measures. We shut down for a month or two, then we come back online for awhile, then we shut down again a few months later as the disease begins to spread aggressively. We’ll be riding a roller coaster, they think. To which I say: If you can’t convince people to self-isolate now, when the threat is unknown and at its most frightening, how are you going to get them to do it a second, third, or fourth time?

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