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They’re Young. They Carried Coronavirus. They Had No Idea.

Trump said young people were ‘feeling invincible.’ Their own experiences tell a different — and terrifying — story.

While the rest of the country began social distancing in mid-March, students on spring break kept partying in Miami. “If I get corona, I get corona,” said Brady Sluder, a Soundcloud rapper from Milford, Ohio, in an interview with CBS News. “At the end of the day, I’m not going to let it stop me from partying.”

Sluder ended up apologizing for those comments, but not before President Trump said the young adults still out partying were “feeling invincible” to the coronavirus. Trump, the political right and other billionaires have been pushing the recent message that Americans returning to work would give our economy the boost it needs — regardless of who dies. They cite early reports that young people are at low risk for contracting COVID-19. Why shouldn’t healthy, hardy young folks get back in action if they’re likely to cruise through the pandemic unscathed, they argue?

The latest data tells a different story. Nearly 40 percent of patients hospitalized in the U.S. with the coronavirus are between the ages 20 and 54. A California teenager died this week, becoming one of the state’s youngest individuals to die from coronavirus-related disease.

As testing ramps up across America and the world, many young adults are discovering they’re positive for the coronavirus. They’re unsure what lasting impact the virus may have on their health — or the health of their loved ones. They’re lucky to be showing mild symptoms, but they now realize they may have spread COVID-19 to friends, family and more vulnerable people around them.

One thing they do know for sure: Spring break is over.

Now My Mom Is Sick Too

Mike Camilleri, 24: I was moving out of my current room in London, and my upcoming plans fell apart with the pandemic so my next best move was to go back home with my family in Malta. I got back home on Friday, March 20th, but I might’ve caught something traveling.

From day one, I was super-achy and lost my sense of smell and taste — which apparently are key signs of being a carrier for the coronavirus. I was telling my friends and family how the food was tasteless and needed salt. I thought it was a lack of seasoning from my mum. The lentil dal was totally tasteless, but the mango chutney had a strong zing.

Testing isn’t really an option at all because I have to do a 14-day mandatory quarantine. Everyone who travels to Malta, regardless of the place, has to spend 14 days indoors or get fined 1,000 euros per day if you’re caught outside. Dad moved out before I arrived, since he’s asthmatic, but I still have 10 days of mandatory quarantine left indoors.

And as of today, my mom’s sick. So ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

Half My Study-Abroad Group Had It

Joelle Tenderich, 20: I was abroad in Madrid, and we knew about the coronavirus for a while. Things were looking bad. Every day, numbers were getting worse and worse. On Tuesday, March 10th, the University of Southern California told us our program was shut down and we would be sent home ASAP. When I got home, I only went to the grocery store and the gym. Then I found out on Sunday, March 15th, at least two people in my program tested positive, and there are more waiting on results. I went right away to my urgent care. The results took six days. I got my positive results on Saturday, March 21th.

I’ve had no symptoms at all. Ironically, this is probably the healthiest I’ve been in a while. Of this shitty circumstance, I got the best version of it. There are now officially eight out of 16 kids that have tested positive in my abroad group. And my professor and my program director both have been feeling very unwell and have like all the symptoms of the virus. So basically we all got infected.

Spreading the Virus on My Way to Testing

Matthew Duchesne, 26: My chest kind of felt tight, but I’d chalked it up to anxiety. I had slight errant breathing issues. I had a headache, and my boyfriend suggested I should take my temperature. It was right around 100 degrees, and that was the moment where I was like, Oh, fuck. Panic set in.

I contacted my primary care physician’s office and they set me up for a video screening through my Mount Sinai health app. The doctor asked me if I had directed contact with someone who has it. “Yes, I had direct contact with someone who has it through work.” The doctor said I would qualify for a test and essentially gave me the option of whether or not I wanted to take a test. He actually tried to get me to say no two or three times.

Whether or not you test positive, what you’re supposed to do is the exact same: stay at home and self-quarantine. My response was that I wanted to test because I wanted to know for sure.

Then I had a really intense mental back-and-forth. The risk of me leaving the house was I could potentially infect somebody else. What was the safest way to get there? I ended up having to go to the Mount Sinai location on 17th Street in Manhattan, where they had a special area set up for coronavirus testing.

I had to take the [subway], and the train was completely empty both ways. I was super fucking freaked out that I was going to come in contact with people. I did not. I stood covered both ways on the train trying not to breathe on or touch anything. I was basically surfing. The anxiety of the situation was just about as bad as how I felt [physically].

The next morning I got my results. Maybe the healthcare system is just extremely overwhelmed right now, but they told me a doctor would be in contact. I still haven’t heard from a doctor.

Rushing to the ER With a Body on Fire

Kieran Harrington, 22: I’d gone to Costa Rica three weeks ago for spring break, and I left school at Boston College a week ago to come back to my house in Florida. The following Tuesday night, I only had a cough before going to bed. When I fell asleep, I felt a little warm.

Then I woke up at 4 a.m. on Wednesday feeling like my body was on fire. From head to toe, I felt hot. Immediately, I thought it was a fever. When I tried to go to the bathroom, I felt dizzy, like I was going to pass out. I then lay back down and tried to focus on breathing for a couple minutes. I was freaking out a little, especially because of the shortness of breath.

I woke my brother who drove me — both wearing masks and gloves — to an ER in Rhode Island where I got tested. They questioned me in the lobby before admitting me to a special room where the nurses put on full suits, goggles and gloves before interacting with me.

They did the flu test, which came back negative. At that point, I had a cough and a stuffy nose. I felt like I had a fever but my temperature at the hospital was 99. They tested me for the coronavirus, which came back positive.

I felt like an experiment. All the doctors and nurses were walking by and looking over like, What the fuck?

I’ve been feeling good. If it weren’t for the coronavirus-induced anxiety, I don’t think I would have gone to the hospital. The feeling of fire was real, but maybe the shortness of breath was anxiety.

Isolated and Heartbroken

Susan Garzonz, 24: After five days of symptoms, I had just a headache and no sense of taste or smell for a week. That’s when I was 99 percent sure I had coronavirus.

Before I started to feel anything, I thought it was people exaggerating everything. When I started to feel sick, I was not scared. It never felt like there was something wrong with me. You know when something doesn’t feel right — except for the no taste and smell, which really affected me. You’re stuck at home, you can’t move much and you cannot enjoy food. I know that it’s no big deal, but it just made me feel very annoyed and highly irritable.

My mom made me go to the hospital. She was getting pressure from my uncles and aunts. The doctors took my temperature but decided not to test me because there were very few testing kits. It wouldn’t change [anything]. At the end of the day, I was staying at home. 

I am now in Miami. I was not scared of coronavirus at all. I took it as a joke at first. Not anymore, of course. I know it sounds horrible, but I just isolated myself because I knew I was dangerous to the people around me.

I’m taking classes online, and it kind of sucks. I am heartbroken about school. I study physical therapy and most of what we learn is practical. I don’t know how efficient this will be in terms of what we will have to learn. It is very hard to just focus.

Coming to Terms With Being a Carrier

Emme Bebault, 22: On Sunday, March 15th, this phone call woke me up. It was my doctor telling me I have coronavirus. I was at my boyfriend’s house. I started freaking out. I say, “I’m so sorry if I gave it to you, but I gotta go.”

My boyfriend definitely has the same exact symptoms. They started appearing within him late the evening of Saturday, March 14th. It’s the day before I got the phone call. He has yet to be tested. Clinics just don’t have enough tests.

I work at the Seward Community Co-op and the local May Day Cafe. Both those places closed down temporarily. It was because of me.

At first, I was embarrassed. Oh my god, people are going to hate me. I have the coronavirus and I can’t help but feel guilt.

It took me a few days to get over that guilt. Had I known sooner, I would have gone to the doctor sooner. At the same time, I didn’t really think it was the coronavirus when I went into the doctor’s office. I just thought it was the flu.

So many of my friends — besides my boyfriend — were telling me, don’t waste a doctor’s visit. So I do feel proud of myself that I did go. If I had not been told on March 15th I had coronavirus, I would have gone to work on Monday.