Excepts of orginal article by Claus O. Wilke (Published USA Today March 21, 2020)

The COVID-19 pandemic is causing increasing illness and death around the world, yet many young people have resisted social distancing measures. Too many people have wrongly come to believe that COVID-19 “affects only old people” and is “just another flu.” This is not true.

"...and nearly every young person will lose family members and friends"

If young people do not take the necessary measures now, this disease will take many more lives — and nearly every young person will lose family members and friends. COVID-19 is definitely not just a flu. Social distancing is necessary across all aspects of life. We need to treat it with the respect it deserves as the most serious pandemic of our lifetime.

Social distancing is necessary across all aspects of life.


What’s more, they are putting themselves at risk. COVID-19 is consistently worse than the seasonal influenza at all ages except for little children. An adult at any age is approximately 5-10 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than from the seasonal influenza, and similarly more likely to be hospitalized or sustain permanent lung damage from a severe case. Although it is true that the absolute for young people is relatively low, this is no disease to take lightly.

Another way to think about it

Getting infected with COVID-19 will affect a person as if that person were 20 years older and had been infected with the seasonal flu. People in their 30s might experience COVID-19 as if it were a flu they caught in their 50s.


Widespread social distancing is the only option we have to get this pandemic under control. We have to assume that any person we interact with may be infectious.

Young people have the power to help contain the pandemic by keeping interactions with people outside their immediate families or households to the absolute minimum.

This means no parties, no going out with friends. It means going shopping only for the essentials like food, toiletries and medication, and going less frequently. When leaving the house for a walk, it means keeping a distance from other people, and preferably just going where nobody else is.

As we embark on protocols for social distancing, it is critical that young and old alike participate fully in social distancing now.

Claus O. Wilke is the chair of the Department of Integrative Biology at The University of Texas at Austin. T