First, let’s get the hard things out of the way: We aren’t sure who still needs to hear this but … This. Is. Not. Spring. Break.
We love the unexpected day off just as much as the next person, but this is not that. This is so much more.
Every brunch, every barre or boxing class, every “quick trip to Brooklyn” — each of these leisurely, seemingly harmless activities puts many people, including the elderly (your parents!), the immunocompromised (more people than you think), and health-care workers (like us and the nurses, techs, security, cleaning staff, and clerks we depend on) at risk for exposure and further spread of this deadly and highly contagious disease.
Second: Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but even millennials are not invincible.
Despite all the kombucha, we are not immune. We will be infected, and while some of us won’t even know it, others will end up in the hospital. In fact, 40% of patients sick enough to be hospitalized so far are between the ages of 20 to 54. That said, please don’t come to our emergency departments unless you feel very, very ill. We get it — you really just want to know, but trust us when we say you and all of our critically ill patients are better off if you stay home. If you can’t breathe or it is a true emergency, then please, come see us. Otherwise, please stay home, get rest, and use other methods like telehealth and drive-thru testing sites to get evaluated.
Now for the fun part: Fellow millennials, this is our moment. This is when we make our parents glow with pride and inspire the younger generations to try and outdo us. This is our opportunity to show the world how innovative, compassionate, and resourceful we truly are. This our moment to lead.
We have sometimes been labeled as the entitled and lazy generation. This couldn’t be further from the truth. We have a strong desire to make a tangible difference, and what better opportunity than this one.
They say we are obsessed with technology and social media. The world is different today, but our inclination toward the digital world is our secret weapon during this pandemic. Use this to amplify the message across social media platforms. Our fellow frontline health-care staff, young and old, are quite literally begging for masks and other personal protection equipment. Now is the time to do what we do best: crowdsource, innovate, connect producers to consumers, and help get health workers more equipment.
Don’t let the other generations label us as “not caring about our communities.” Offer to buy groceries or supplies for your elderly or quarantined neighbors. Drop it off for them on their doorstep. Support local restaurants by ordering takeout. Encourage others to social distance, and if they don’t, call them out, teach, and lead by example. Stand up against xenophobia and racism — we’ve always been better than that. Lend your support to friends and neighbors who are out of work. Make calls to your loved ones and let them know that even though you are not physically present, you will always be there for them.
If this social distancing has stunted your creativity and you can’t think of anything else, then just give us your blood. We can tell you based on our last few shifts in the ER that COVID-19 does not stop gun violence, car accidents, cancer, intestinal bleeding, or the progression of chronic illness. In this uncertain time, blood banks are in critically low supply. Find the donation site closest to you and help us help save a life.
This is going to be a long, hard fight, but we, more than any other generation, have the potential to shift the tide and make lifesaving differences. And maybe the term millennials will mean so much more when we get through this.
Utsha Khatri is an emergency medicine physician and a first-year fellow in the National Clinician Scholars Program in Philadelphia. @UtshaKhatriMD
Anish Agarwal is a former fellow of the National Clinician Scholars Program and current assistant professor of emergency medicine at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. @agarwalEM