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Young people, don’t forget: Our voices matter

My recent feelings surrounding coronavirus are complex because I feel that many of us young adults were not well informed on the severity of its global impact. Young people do not often ponder mortality and our day-to-day existence is taken for granted. When colleges began to close down, I noticed that every public venue remained open. Many young adults felt that colleges were over-reacting and that if this was serious, our local spots would also have to close their doors. I, too, felt their sentiment and began to wonder if our fear of the pandemic was truly being sensationalized. I feel that misinformation through social media along with the slow government response led to the spread of COVID-19 and shortages of toilet paper, sanitizers, disinfectants, bread, soup, etc.

The health care system in the United States is deeply broken; we do not have enough hospital beds or medical staff to provide life saving care for people with pre-existing medical conditions, COVID-19 patients, and people in need of emergency services. My mother is a Registered Nurse and she is still expected to go to work everyday amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Social distancing is not something everyone can do. I often think of our young adults experiencing homelessness navigating social distancing and protecting themselves during the pandemic. I think of the people who fall through the cracks of our health care system and the people who struggle to protect their own health while delivering life saving care to those affected by COVID-19. My mother informed me that hospital staff who have tested positive for COVID-19 are still expected to attend their job duties if they are symptom free. It seems that we cannot afford to send hospital staff home during the pandemic even if they are possibly a risk to patients or vice versa due to the lack of treatment centers, supplies, and providers.

It amazes me that our government was ill-prepared for instituting COVID-19 testing measures, in terms of access and affordability. Testing individuals provides information on locations in need of quarantine. Test results allow people to communicate their testing status with people they have been in contact with that might be positive for COVID-19 as well. The hope is that this pandemic is a wakeup call for our nation to be proactive in advocating for the urgency of a health care system that is affordable and accessible to all in need.

The impact on our education system will be heartbreaking, as we lose sight of the financial burden it places on students without access to Internet and technology. The education system now relies on students to own their own computers and cellphones for video class instruction, online submissions, and online reading assignments. Perhaps technological advancement is a burden to higher education; perhaps higher education is becoming a luxury only the wealthy can afford.

If I can share any hope in the most challenging of times for young adults, I would say that our anger and fear is not something to incite helplessness, but instead something to organize upon and lead the way for change. Young people often forget that their voices matter, that their voices are the difference we must advocate for, the future is ours. No one is alone, we are more than our fears.

Elena DeNecochea is a student at UC Davis and a member of Young Invincibles’ Young Advocates Program.