Do young people care about COVID-19? They do. (We took a survey.) But not as much as Murphy would like

Answers from college and high school kids throughout N.J. show governor is right to continue to preach to them about COVID-19

By Tom Bergeron
New Jersey | Mar 19, 2020 at 11:21 am

Gov. Phil Murphy made the plea — or the shoutout, as he likes to say — to the young people of the state again Wednesday at his daily coronavirus briefing.

Take this seriously, he has all but begged repeatedly, knowing that buy-in from everyone is key to flattening the curve.

Are young people doing so? We went right to the source.

Through the connections of the college- and high school-age children of ROI-NJ staffers and the ROI-NJ college interns, we asked more than 125 young people in New Jersey how they view coronavirus.

The response: Seriously, but perhaps not as seriously as Murphy and health officials would like.

We asked, “How serious do you think coronavirus is?”

More than 80% answered in the “very serious” or “serious” categories.

But, as expected, most young people did not fear they would contract coronavirus, with 38% saying they thought it was not likely or not at all likely that they would do so. And more than 71% felt there was little likelihood they themselves would be hospitalized by it.

Murphy’s biggest fear — that young people would unwittingly give coronavirus to their senior relatives — was not a huge concern for respondents.

More than 26% said it was not at all likely or not very likely that they would do so. Only 21% felt it was very likely.

The individual comments on the survey showed just how mixed this generation is in its feelings.

A few didn’t appear to be impacted by coronavirus at all.

“Global overreaction,” said one youth. “Overblown,” said another.

Most saw it as a somewhat serious situation.

“I think it is serious, but can end easily if people take the right precautions,” one student said.

“If it is as serious as everyone is making it sound, we should’ve been shut down when the first case was diagnosed in the county,” another responded.

Some got it straight on — and were bothered their classmates did not.

“Young people need to stop going out and thinking they’re immune or above it,” said one.

“Absolutely insane. People need to understand the severity of it,” said another.

A third youth was angry.

“Our generation does NOT see the severity of this pandemic. I have seen countless people hanging out with friends and going out to get food when everyone should be STAYING HOME!!”

Murphy is hoping more young people will embrace that sentiment.

“I can’t say this enough to our young folks,” he said Wednesday. “You may feel like you’re above it all, you may feel that you are the picture of health. But, if you gather, you run the risk that you spread it from one to the other.

“And, by the way, you could get sick. And, more importantly, when you sit with grandma or grandpa, or an older relative, mom, dad, teacher, coach, you could be unwittingly spreading the virus.”

That message isn’t getting through to everyone just yet.

“Look at the facts and not the drama and hype,” said one student.

“It’s both terrifying and fascinating to be experiencing such a historic event,” said another.

This idea of being a part of history played out for a few.

“The ’30 For 30’ (documentary) on this is going to be crazy,” one said.

Read more from ROI-NJ on coronavirus:

Editor’s Note: The survey was taken by New Jersey college and high school students. Due to the nature of social passing, we’re not sure where all of the young people are from. But the survey was distributed by students at Rutgers University, Rider University, Saint Peter’s University, Kean University, Montclair State University, The College of New Jersey, New Jersey Institute of Technology and Morristown High School. Approximately two-thirds of the respondents were female. Students were asked to answer on scale of 1-10, which was converted as follows:

On a question regarding the ‘serious’ nature of coronavirus:

  • 9-10: Very serious
  • 7-8: Serious
  • 5-6: Somewhat serious
  • 3-4: Not very serious
  • 1-2: Not at all serious

On questions involving the ‘likelihood’ of catching the coronavirus:

  • 9-10: Very likely
  • 7-8: Likely
  • 5-6: Somewhat likely
  • 3-4: Not very likely
  • 1-2: Not at all likely