By Parisa Vega
I first heard about COVID-19 in early February. I heard that it mostly affects older people and those 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, but 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 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 individuals need to take special precaution as hospitals have filled up quickly, making treatment inaccessible.
Patients recovering from drug and 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 and will be 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 underaged, this is a time when people are developing strong habits that can carry on throughout their life.
In the beginning, we knew it was only affecting people in China and South Korea, but it quickly started spreading to other parts of the world because of travel. My high school was not concerned in the beginning but eventually they put up posters educating students on how the virus spreads and why it’s important to consistently wash your hands.
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.
With all this extra time, I’ve been able to relax and exercise by going running and hiking around my house. But I really don’t have much to do, and I fear the quarantine will become repetitive.
This whole pandemic has put into perspective how difficult it is for low income people to survive in the United States. 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 here. These resources need to be more accessible to people from every financial background.
COVID-19 has affected public health in the South Bay as a whole because it is a community in which lots of families don’t have access to health care and experienced food insecurity even before the pandemic. The South Bay is still progressing as a community and COVID-19 will negatively impact it during this time.
It’s important for community members and city officials to know that public health is the foundation of a thriving community. It’s the basis in which families can thrive. We need to study the patterns in history when pandemics took place and learn how they could have been prevented.
Public health begins 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 junior at High Tech High School in Chula Vista and a member of South Bay Youth 4 Change, a coalition of students advocating for healthy, safe and thriving neighborhoods.
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