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GROB: Let’s not blame the kids for COVID

By James Grob, jgrob@charlescitypress.com

I saw the photos, and I have to admit they made me cringe a little.

Crowds of kids at our state’s colleges and universities, hundreds of them — maybe thousands — crowded together, shoulder to shoulder, dancing, drinking beer, each having the time of his or her young life.

And, undoubtedly, they were spreading the virus.

They were definitely not keeping a social distance. And very few of them were wearing masks to protect others.

GROB: Let’s not blame the kids for COVID
James Grob

Sure enough, a couple of weeks after thousands of students returned to their college towns in Iowa, we had a huge spike in the COVID-19 numbers here in Iowa.

The statistics showed that 23 percent of all new positive cases in the state were adults aged 19-24. In Johnson County, where the University of Iowa is, that number was 69 percent. In Story County, where Iowa State University is, that number was 74 percent.

According to statistics reported by the New York Times and updated on Monday, Ames and Iowa City are now No. 1 and No. 2 per capita for new cases of COVID-19.

Although Iowa’s universities were reportedly the worst in the country, there were similar spikes everywhere colleges reopened. Somewhere around 1000 students at the University of Alabama, for example, have tested positive since school started there.

“Darn those blasted kids,” I heard several of my fellow old people saying, although we were using words stronger than “darn,” and “blasted.” And then, all the greatest hits about the younger generations began spinning on the proverbial turntable.

They’re ignorant, these kids. They’re reckless. They think they’re going to live forever. They think they know everything when they actually know nothing. They’re self-centered and have no regard for others. They feel entitled, and believe the world owes them something.

Let’s conveniently forget that we’re the ones who raised them. And never mind the fact that however old you are, when you were young, the older generation was saying all those same things about you. They said you were spoiled, they said you were lazy, they called you irresponsible. Guess what? There’s a pretty good chance you were. Then you grew up a little, probably, and changed.

Many of you did, anyway. Some of you didn’t change. And some of you who didn’t change got yourselves elected to public office.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, for example, shut down the bars in six Iowa counties last week, including the two aforementioned counties where our biggest universities are. This was a reaction to the photos from the college parties and the spike in COVID-19 numbers that followed.

If she runs for re-election, an honest campaign slogan might be, “Reynolds: Too Little, Too Late.”

The governor’s order will likely be about as effective as putting a condom on after sex.

Never mind the fact that people are amazingly mobile, these days, and perfectly capable of driving their horseless carriages across county lines to find an open bar, and then drive home again after a night of drinking.

Experts urged Reynolds to mandate stronger COVID-19 protocols months ago. She did not do that. We’re paying for it now, and we’re blaming it on those doggone college kids.

For a few weeks in the spring, we closed a lot of things down in Iowa. It was the responsible thing to do, although it wasn’t an easy thing to do. Understandably, it wasn’t popular among the many businesses who were losing tons of cash, and the many employees who couldn’t earn an honest living without assistance.

Gov. Reynolds, to her credit, took the heat and did the responsible thing at the time. And it helped. The COVID spread slowed considerably, and the “curve began to flatten,” as they say. There were still outbreaks in some expected places, such as meat packing plants and senior homes, but we could concentrate on helping those people and keeping the spread reasonably contained.

And then, restrictions were lifted. It didn’t take long for Iowa’s case counts and positivity rates to start rising again. Reynolds, it seems, governed as if they weren’t. It was more important to “reopen our economy.”

A White House task force in July recommended that Iowa close bars, limit social gatherings, mandate masks and impose several other restrictions in several places in the state where the virus was roaring back. We did not do that.

Over and over again, Reynolds and many others have said that COVID-19 is mainly a problem for us old people and those with underlying health conditions. Reynolds has insisted that all public schools reopen for on-site learning, at all levels, regardless of conditions at the local level.

She pulled rank on local school boards, public health boards and city councils. The long-time conservative ideals of “local control” and “keep the government out of people’s lives” were forgotten, when it came to the schools. The students are not at high risk for infection, insisted many people who do not know that for sure.

President Trump actually said that children are “almost immune” from COVID. That’s dangerously short-sighted and inaccurate, but Reynolds has echoed that statement with her action — and even more so with her lack of action.

So why should we be surprised when younger people get back together, they literally get back together? They have no fear of violating social distancing norms, because they don’t think they can get sick, because that’s what they believe they’ve been told.

Plus, they’re kids. They want to get together, they want to party, they think they’re going to live forever, they don’t think about things like spreading germs. And we — the responsible adults — have given them official permission to not think about that.

New COVID-19 hospitalizations in the state of Iowa are higher now than they were in June. Per capita, our state is currently one of the most infectious regions in the entire world.

Before it’s all over, at least one person you know is going to die before his or her time, due to COVID-19.

When that happens, don’t blame the kids. They were just being kids. They think they know everything, when in fact they know nothing.

This one’s on us. We’re supposed to know better.

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