Without question, the presence of Texas A&M University is the defining feature of the Bryan/College Station community. Like the rest of our community, CapRock Health is full of Aggie students and graduates. We love Aggies and are so glad to have you back! However, having one of the largest universities in such a small town can understandably create unique situations and challenges, including with healthcare.
As it relates to the COVID-19 pandemic, our community has consistently struggled with a higher than predicted level of Coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths. A close look at the data can help identify much of the reason for this, as at times, as many as 70% of our cases have occurred in people younger than 25 years old, mostly between 18-24 years old.
While the disease is less serious in younger people, it certainly is not harmless, and there are other reasons why following the precautions is critical even for young, healthy people. Here are some reasons to follow the recommendations of always wearing a mask, limiting group size, proper spacing and good hand hygiene.
COVID-19 does kill young people.
While the rate of death is much lower than for the elderly, younger patients continue to die from COVID-19 infection. Furthermore, we don’t currently have a way of knowing whom the disease will kill, although it appears that genetic factors are involved, and smokers and vapers are more seriously affected. Either way, even young people should recognize COVID-19 as a deadly disease that is best avoided.
Young people spread the illness to the more vulnerable.
During our local spike of the summer of 2020, while the majority of infections were in young people, we still saw a surge of infections in our more vulnerable patients. Our hospitals filled to concerning levels and our deaths increased predictably. Sadly, many of these vulnerable patients who died or were hospitalized were infected by young people, often grandchildren or coworkers.
Will there be long-term consequences for those infected?
Given that COVID-19 is caused by a novel virus, we simply don’t know what, if any, will be the long-term problems for COVID-19 survivors. But there is reason for concern. Many young patients report symptoms of fatigue and flu-like feeling for months after infection. Currently we don’t know how many young patients with persistent symptoms will have chronic after-effects. More concerning is the possibility of chronic cardiac inflammation. The presence of inflammation of the heart muscle is well-documented in COVID-19 infections in many patients, and at least one study was able to measure cardiac inflammation in 78% of patients who were affected out to at least 3 months. When severe, chronic heart inflammation leads to heart failure, though it’s too early to know if this will be the case with COVID-19. Either way, the only way to be sure to avoid such possible, long-term consequences is to avoid infection altogether.
Infections affect the entire community.
In addition to the significant loss of life and physical misery the virus has caused, controlling it has caused changes to how we live and how our economy functions. Therefore, even if a young person is infected and survives, or is completely asymptomatic for that matter, at some point the burden of disease in the community will force civic leaders to enact tighter restrictions. Examples of things that might be canceled include college football and other sports, extracurricular activities or meetings, or social gatherings of any size. If things get bad enough, it might require closing campus altogether. We all want life to return to as normal as possible as quickly as possible. The best way for this to happen is for all of us, even college students, to prevent the spread and risk of COVID-19.
Aggies and the B/CS community really are one big family. Therefore, what each of us does effects all of us. In most cases, that is a wonderful thing and what makes this the greatest community to live in. But being a member of the family comes with responsibility, and we all must do our part during this pandemic, even if the virus doesn’t feel like a big threat to us individually.
Stay healthy Aggies, remember the more vulnerable in our community, and let’s beat the hell outa’ COVID-19 together!