Dear young people of Oregon, and elsewhere also,
I'm writing to you even though I know you aren't big on reading blog posts, or Facebook, where I'll be sharing this message. I just feel the need to reach out across a generational divide (I'm 71) and talk to you about the coronavirus crisis.
Things aren't going very well at the moment. After states started re-opening, new cases have skyrocketed. Today they surpassed 40,000 nationally, a record since the crisis began.
This afternoon Vice-President Pence said it's good news that now young people are accounting for a larger share of cases, a change from earlier in the epidemic.
Well, I doubt that you guys and gals feel that way, since even if you don't die from COVID-19, the disease can be really unpleasant with a long recovery period. But likely you're less concerned about becoming ill than old folks like me are, since we're at much greater risk of dying from COVID-19.
Which gets me to the main thing I want to say to you, so much so I'm putting it in boldface and red to make it stand out.
Us old folks don't want to die from COVID.
If this already is obvious to you, great. We're on the same wavelength.
But since I've seen lots of stories about how young people are flocking to bars and other fun places as reopening has been happening, usually not wearing face coverings or practicing physical distancing, hopefully you can understand why I feel the need to state the obvious.
Look, I'm qualified to be speaking to you this way because I'm an old person who used to be young. By contrast, young people have never been old.
So I have more direct experience about how you look upon life than you do about how I look upon life -- since your direct experience of old age is precisely zero. When I was in the 60's, the decade, not the age, there was an oft-heard saying, "Don't trust anybody over 30."
That's how crazed we were back then about staying youthful forever. At the time it didn't dawn on me that soon I'd be over 30 and, seemingly, wouldn't be able to trust myself.
I mention this tale from the Very Old Days to show that I realize how young people can look upon folks my age as if we were strange beings from another planet, with even those over 30 being difficult to grok. (Look it up; great word.)
Sure, you have parents and grandparents. I'm confident that you don't want them to die, but maybe you feel that after a certain age, 70 or 80 or 90, old folks are ready to cash in their life-chips and see what sort of game, if any, exists after this life.
I readily admit that some old people feel this way. Yet most don't.
I know this because I know a lot of old people, being one myself. Some haven't left their home since the epidemic hit, they're so afraid of getting COVID-19. Others are extremely wary of going to a grocery store or restaurant.
This is one reason COVID-19 deaths have declined while cases have been rising. Old people are continuing to shelter in place, or go out only while wearing a mask and otherwise doing what public health experts are recommending, while young people are party'ing on.
That'd be absolutely fine but for one not-so-minor detail. To repeat:
Us old folks don't want to die from COVID.
Yes, we're taking precautions.
But masks, physical distancing, and hand-washing only go so far. They aren't 100% effective. If someone is infected with the coronavirus -- and I'm talking about you, young people -- they won't know it for a while. Maybe not ever, if they remain without symptoms.
Yet they can unknowingly spread the disease to others. This is why it is really important that young people wear face coverings in public indoor places, and outdoors also when staying six feet apart from other people isn't possible.
Maybe you already know that. If so, I apologize for taking up your time. In that case, send this message on to some of your friends through whatever mysterious unknown-to-old-people medium you use to communicate with each other (TikTok?).
Lastly, I've got to say that there's a reason I said "Us old people don't want to die from COVID" rather than simply "Us old people don't want to die."
We know we're going to die.
It's a clear and present danger to everybody my age. The only question is, How will dying happen? Ideally, peacefully, at home, surrounded by loved ones. Which is precisely what doesn't happen with most COVID-19 deaths. It's a dreadful way to die, isolated and hugely distressing.
Keep that in mind when you're tempted to go out without a face covering. The life you could save might be mine. Or your grandmother's.