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One In Four Young People Think You're Underestimating The Coronavirus's Risks

They're stepping up when it comes to pandemic response

People around the world are taking precautions to slow the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Some young people are making TikToks to blow off steam and inform people about the spread, and others are learning how to adjust to a digital-first school experience. But most young people are staying informed in one way or another, according to a Yahoo! News/YouGov poll conducted between March 10 and 11.

According to the poll, 31 percent of respondents aged 18-29 said they have been following news about the coronavirus “very closely,” while 48 percent are following the news “somewhat closely,” and only 5 percent said they were not following the news at all. As a result, 39 percent of respondents from the same age group said they were “somewhat worried” about the spread of the virus, while 20 percent said they were “very worried.”

By contrast, 30 percent said they were “not very worried” and 11 percent said they were “not worried at all” — which might explain the move by some people to continue to go out to bars and brunch between March 13 and March 15. (They won’t be able to do so anymore in many states, as governors have systematically closed most bars and restaurants to anything beyond takeout and delivery services.) A separate poll by The Economist/YouGov found that a combined 61 percent of people aged 18-29 were “somewhat concerned” or “very concerned” about the virus.

It’s crucial that young people take the threat of COVID-19 seriously, because they are just as likely as anyone else to carry the coronavirus, and some are just as vulnerable as their older counterparts to contracting moderate or severe cases of COVID-19. A 2013 report found that 9.53 million young Americans have a chronic illness of some kind, and roughly 70,000 young people are diagnosed with cancer each year. This is by no means the limit to who might be affected — while statistics about the coronavirus and COVID-19 are still in their infancy, we do know from countries that have been able to test residents that young people can and will test positive for the virus even if they don’t present symptoms.

“The virus isn't a mathematical formula,” Anthony Fauci, the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN’s State of the Union, per Politico. “There are going to be people who are young who are going to wind up getting seriously ill.” He stressed the contagion effect of the virus, which has droplet vector properties that adds to its ability to spread quickly.

While 39 percent of respondents to YouGov’s poll said they believed most Americans are “overreacting to the actual risks” of the coronavirus, a plurality believe Americans are either “behaving appropriately” (24 percent) or are even “underestimating the risks” (25 percent). Some of those precautions include closing schools, which 57 percent of respondents aged 18-29 approve of — despite the risks for vulnerable students, like those who are first-generation or are experiencing homelessness. A majority of young people approve of the decision by major sports organizations to call off their games and seasons (58 percent), and 71 percent think that affected workers should receive paid sick leave.

And young people are stepping up when it comes to their personal response to the pandemic: The majority (52 percent) of respondents said they were washing their hands more frequently, while 24 percent said they had stopped shaking hands altogether and 28 percent have said they purchased hand sanitizer as a result of the virus’s spread. While 34 percent of young people said they have begun to avoid public places, that number is only likely to increase now that many states have made drastic mandates to encourage social distancing and slow viral spread.

Meanwhile, 19 percent of young people said they have stockpiled food and other supplies, more than any other age group. But that might have more to do with culinary skills — and a lack of pantry space, given that most rent apartments — than any propensity toward avocado toast: According to one study, only 31 percent of respondents aged 18-29 feel confident in the kitchen. And even if you do want to use your time at home to brush up on a few recipes, you shouldn’t feel a need to avoid restaurants altogether: Ordering delivery — and tipping generously, if you can! — is relatively safe, and helps keep local businesses afloat, especially while foot traffic is down.

You can help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Not everyone has the option to stay at home, but if you can, you should! Social distancing is the new normal, and we’re here to help.