Jira: It’s not Gen Z’s fault…at least this time

gen+z

Appletkaa1 / Public domain

Every year, university students flock to beaches and bars to enjoy their spring break--even when social distancing is the new trend.

Violet Jira, Opinion Editor

Nearly a month ago to the day, I sat around a table with my fellow peers and one of our teachers. At the time, the coronavirus was background noise in the minds of most Americans, but we gave it a month. A month before things got bad, but even then I don’t think any of us imagined it getting this bad. The United States is now first in confirmed cases (as well as active cases) in the world, trailed by Italy and China. Dr. Cornelia Griggs, a New York physician, said she felt like the sky was falling, and to be honest, I couldn’t agree more. 

There are a million things about this pandemic that are worthy of writing, but today, I write in defense of Generation Z. Nightly News, otherwise known as the 30-minute long coronavirus update, featured a short video at the end of their broadcast that I guess was meant to boost morale. Harry Smith said, “America is going through a kind of vision test. An exam of how we view one another. Do we see only ourselves or do we get the bigger picture? Those Gen Z types partying on the beach could use some corrective lenses.”

Ouch. 

Is it wise to share drinks and cram into eateries in the midst of a community spreading virus pandemic? Nope. Is it advisable to flock to packed beaches rubbing elbows with people from literally across the country and the world? Definitely not. Still, despite the blatant disregard for the crisis in progress “those Gen Z types” are not the problem. Money is. Seeing young people partying on the beach should beg yet another question: Why are the beaches, bars and nightclubs these individuals are pouring in and out of even open? It’s no secret that everyone loves to pin their problems on young people, but the simple fact is this: if the beaches are closed, then there can be no young people partying on them

Just over a week ago when Florida had 192 confirmed cases, Governor Ron DeSantis refused to close beaches. He even attempted to downplay the size of the crowds claiming that it was “not uniform throughout the state that you’re seeing massive crowds at beaches.” Maybe he was unaware of just how serious the virus was. Maybe he missed the school closures and stay-at-home orders happening in other states across the country. Or maybe, just maybe, he made his decision based on the fact that his state, more than any other, relies on tourism to drive its economy which alone brings in $51 billion, roughly 10 percent of the state’s GDP. That sounds like an incentive if I’ve ever heard one. 

Open beaches, however, are not the only thing to blame. People were at the beaches not solely because they were open but because they felt comfortable enough to go. The government’s response to the coronavirus, by and large, has been very delayed. President Donald Trump spent weeks that could have been spent warning and preparing projecting a chimerical sense of safety onto the American people. On March 9, he uploaded a tweet that insinuated that the coronavirus was no deadlier than the flu, saying, “So last year 37,000 Americans died from the common Flu. It averages between 27,000 and 70,000 per year. Nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on. At this moment there are 546 confirmed cases of CoronaVirus, with 22 deaths. Think about that!” If I trusted the President and believed the coronavirus was no worse than the flu, I’d be at the beach too!

The day he tweeted that (March 9), there were 748 confirmed cases in the United States. Today (March 26) we are pushing 90,000 cases. At the beginning of this article, I said we predicted the worst would happen in a month, and anyone with basic knowledge of exponential and logarithmic growth could have done the same.

President Trump said, “It’s going to disappear. One day — it’s like a miracle — it will disappear.” But the thing is, it won’t. It’s like a snowball. The longer you let it roll, the bigger it gets. You can’t just walk casually behind it hoping for a convenient eastern wind–a miracle–to break it apart. You have to be two, three steps ahead of it, and right now, I can’t help but feel that we aren’t

Almost all beaches everywhere are closed now and while most Gen Z-ers have returned to their homes, hopefully to embrace a more socially-distant lifestyle, the numbers are only rising. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, but the fight is far from over. 

In the meantime: 

Keep track of the virus domestically and abroad here

Follow CDC guidelines and find ways to protect yourself here

If you have these symptoms you can get tested at these places in Mississippi.