2 Years Into the Pandemic, How Much More Must Youth Suffer?

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As we enter 2022, we approach the two-year anniversary of the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s quite shocking for me; I was 16 at the start of this and I’m now old enough to be able to vote.

Despite this gap of time having passed, it feels as though we haven’t progressed. A new variant arrives and we, the youth, are told we can’t go back to school, we must go to online learning, we must mask up. At the start of the pandemic, any of these demands seemed completely reasonable. Back then we lacked data, therapeutics, and a vaccine—there was only ambiguity around COVID-19. Now, two years later, we know a lot more about the virus.

Most notable for young people is that we are neither affected by COVID nor the main transmission vectors. A December 2021 study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control on the transmission of COVID in K-12 schools found that teachers are more likely to transmit the virus to other teachers, rather than transmission from student to teacher, teacher to student, or student to student.

Additionally, there have been roughly 700 deaths from COVID between the ages of 0 to 17 in the United States, and in that age group nearly 7 million people have contracted the disease, making their chance of death roughly one in 10,000 (and that’s not accounting for people in that age group who had health issues to begin with.)

Going into this year, we have a vaccine that is 70 percent effective at preventing hospitalization for Omicron, according to a study published in the new England Journal of Medicine. We have an antiviral from Pfizer that is 89 percent effective at preventing hospitalization if taken within three days of symptom onset. Finally, an analysis from Imperial College London shows that Omicron is only 20 percent as deadly as the Delta variant, making it slightly more deadly than the seasonal flu.

Considering all this, what more can we do and why hurt young Canadians more than we already have?

According to Statistics Canada, youth are at a higher risk of experiencing poor mental health during the pandemic compared to other age groups, while a report by the Mental Health Commission of Canada showed that, due to the upheaval caused by the crisis, “many are being left behind in education, economic opportunities, health, and well-being during a crucial stage of their development.”

In July 2021, research by SickKids showed that a majority of children and youth reported worsening mental health during the initial COVID-19 lockdowns, with 70 percent of 520 adolescents reporting symptoms of clinical depression during the second wave, from February to March 2021. The researchers also found that the more time students spent learning online, the more symptoms of depression and anxiety they experienced.

Regarding online learning, I have seen firsthand how useless it is to kids my age and how it does hardly any good, if even any. It leads to rampant cheating, the unfair use of calculators which give you the answer and the steps to show your work, students not actually retaining information, and even suicidal tendencies as I saw in two of my friends.

Young people have been cheated out of music programs, trips, sports, making friends at school activities—staples of one’s youth. While this may have been understandable when there was little to no data or solutions, it certainly isn’t now when we have data, therapeutics, and vaccines which all help in significantly lowering the numbers of deaths from COVID.

We cannot prevent the spread of Omicron, but we don’t have to anymore. We have the means to make sure as few people as possible will die. Stop hurting the youth when the data no longer supports it. Lockdowns, online school, and the prevention of youth being able to live their lives normally is not helping anyone anymore, and in fact is only hurting them.

The youth gave up some of the best years of their lives so that there would be time to find a vaccine, develop therapeutics, and accumulate sufficient data. Stop being selfish and continuing to take away their time as kids, teenagers, and young adults.

There is little more that can be done, so let’s coexist with COVID and let the youth enjoy their youth.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Mark Heinrichs

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Mark Heinrichs is a first-year engineering student in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.



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