A teen’s view of the COVID-19 pandemic

By Parisa Vega

I first heard about COVID-19 in early February. I heard that it mostly affects older people (over 70), children (under 18) and people with health problems such as asthma and cancer.

Because there is a limit to how many people can gather in a space at one time, my peers and I haven’t had a chance to meet as a group for South Bay Youth 4 Change. This sets us back in terms of attending public events and raising awareness in the community on a more personal level.

Going to school was a major outlet for many kids my age and now we are required to stay sheltered at home with little to no public interaction. For some, this might increase their level of boredom and unproductivity. Sadly, for others, this could potentially mean more exposure to domestic abuse and/or substance misuse.

We are learning more and more about the Coronavirus each day. Because COVID-19 attacks the lungs, people with a history of heavy alcohol, marijuana, or vape use are especially sensitive to the virus. These types of people need to take special precaution as hospitals have filled up quickly, making treatment inaccessible.

Patients recovering from drug/alcohol issues or people seeking help are now forced to grapple with their issues alone because support networks might be shutting down or transitioning to online services. 

COVID-19 could have a hand in spurring increased substance misuse since young people are not physically attending school and not needed for jobs and internships. Along with several organizations across the region, South Bay Youth 4 Change meetings were cancelled these past few weeks and will stay cancelled for as long as necessary.

This means students like me won’t have weekly check-ins for mental health, physical health, recent living changes and more. Being away from school, extracurriculars and friends means students are turning to alternative outlets. Whether it’s working productively or drinking while under aged, this is a time when people are developing strong habits that can carry on throughout their life.

My parents are still going to work now, but it’s uncertain if they will still be going in a couple weeks. My mom is training to become a nurse and she works with chemotherapy patients, but they are very susceptible to the virus so she might need to take a break from work for their safety.

My dad works at a juvenile detention center and all the staff has to be careful they don’t carry the virus into the building. The virus could easily spread since the children live in very close quarters to each other all day.

This whole pandemic has put into perspective how difficult it is for low income people to survive in the U.S. as opposed to other countries. It seems as if the more money you have, the easier it is to get treatment or even testing for the virus.

Countries in Asia and Europe seem to be offering free testing for anyone who needs it but things like testing, treatment and food are hoarded in the U.S. These resources need to be more accessible to people from every financial background.

Public health prevention starts in our own communities, but we must always take into account the effect that other countries can potentially have on our own. It’s a good reminder of how connected we are globally.

Parisa Vega is a member of South Bay Youth 4 Change .