Why you should care about COVID-19, even if you're a healthy young person

Dying from BASE Jumping is statistically less likely than dying from COVID-19 as a young person

“I’m young and healthy. Why should I care about this coronavirus?”

Reason 1: You’re more likely to die than you think

COVID-19 is more than just a bad flu. Picture some of the most dangerous activities you could do. How would you rank something like COVID-19 to something like skydiving, for example?

Odds of Dying (per activity)

Activity or EventOdds of Dying (Given Event)Source
Playing College Football 🏈1 in 59,000,0001
Walking 27 miles 🚶1 in 1,000,00014
Cycling 28 miles 🚴1 in 1,000,00014
Motorcycling 7 miles 🏍️1 in 1,000,00014
Driving 333 miles 🚗1 in 1,000,00014
Taking a train 7,500 miles 🚆1 in 1,000,00014
Taking a comercial flight 7,500 miles 🛫1 in 1,000,00014
Taking a light aircraft 15 miles 🛩️1 in 1,000,00014
Going Bungee Jumping ➰1 in 500,0002
Going Rock Climbing 🧗1 in 333,33414
Going SCUBA Diving 🐠🤿1 in 200,0009
Working any job for 1 year 👔1 in 166,66614
Running a Marathon 🏃‍♂️1 in 125,0003
Going Hang Gliding 🛡️1 in 116,0004
Going Skydiving 🪂1 in 101,0005
Receiving general anesthesia 👨‍⚕️1 in 100,00014
Running a Triathlon 🏊‍♀️1 in 66,0006
Having Flu (age 18-49) 🤢1 in 50,00011
Giving Birth 🤰1 in 8,33314
Giving Birth (C-section) 🔪1 in 5,88214
Coal mining ⛏️1 in 2,31714
Going BASE jumping 🦸‍♂️1 in 2,3174
Having COVID-19 (under 40 years old) 👨‍🎓1 in 5007
Having COVID-19 (in your 40s) 🦠1 in 2507
Having Flu (over 65) 👴🏻1 in 12510
Climing Mt. Everest ⛰️1 in 8314
Having COVID-19 (in your 50s) 🦠1 in 777
Having Prostate Cancer 🧫1 in 768
Having COVID-19 (in your 60s) 🦠1 in 287
Having COVID-19 (in your 70s) 🦠1 in 127
Having Skin Cancer ⚫1 in 108
Playing Russian Roulette (revolver) 😨👈1 in 612
Playing Russian Roulette (semiautomatic) 💀👈1 in 113

As far as sickness goes, a young person’s chances of dying look much more like an elderly person’s chance of dying from the flu in a bad year.

In fact, if you’re a “healthy young person”, you’re chances of dying from COVID-19 if you catch it are much higher than dying if you go BASE jumping in a wing suit. Seattle hospitals are already reporting seeing critical cases of people in their 20s with no comorbid illnesses. (They don’t clarify what “critical” means in the thread, but in other contexts that has meant multiple organ failure.)

Statistically safer than coming down with COVID-19 as a young person

In the early AIDS epidemic, a lot of the response was delayed because it was assumed that it was only a “gay disease”. By the time a lot of politicians and policymakers started to collectively say, “Oh shit! It’s not just the sinners that are dying from this!” containment was much harder. In a way, this article is intended to show you that COVID-19 is not just a “old person disease” or a “boomer remover”.

After all…

Reason 2: Even if you survive, it’s still going to be hell for you

Picture the worst sickness you ever had. Chances are this will be worse even if you don’t die.

You’ve probably gotten the flu before. Chances are one of those times was much worse than the others. This was the 2 weeks you were out of school/work because every part of you ached, you were breathing manually, you felt like your head was on fire, and everyone that saw you usually said something to the tune of “Woah! You look like s**t. Are you all right?“. You probably do not have fond memories of this time.

For COVID-19, that worst-case flu is way more common.

Thanks Lady Gaga. That’s exactly what my eyes and mouth felt like last flu season. I just couldn’t find the right words.

Many people alive today have no memory of what it was like to live with diseases like Polio or Smallpox. Even if you survived, you could be left with lifetime effects like heavy scars or paralysis.

COVID-19 has only existed for 3 months, so we can’t have definitive data on what the long term effects are. However if you look at the effects of SARS (very closely related), it was not good. Permanent lung damage, chronic fatigue, bone necrosis, psychiatric issues. With coronaviruses in general, there isn’t even the promise of long-term immunity (like how getting flu one year doesn’t make you immune to next year’s strain). That means it may be possible to get sick with this more than once (and rolling the death dice each time) before a widespread treatment or vaccine is available.

Of course, the problem isn’t just you getting sick, it’s everyone else getting sick from you. Which brings us to the next point…

Reason 3: You can still spread the virus, and if people find out you were the source, they will probably hate you

You’ve probably seen a lot of zombie movies. There is always that one person who hides the fact that they were bitten, until it’s too late and they’ve endangered the rest of the cast (you know, the character that is usually unsympathetic and that the audience loathes). That will be a pretty good comparison if you start spreading the coronavirus without any concern for others.

Okay, how about a real-world example.

Mary Mallon was an Irish cook. All she cared about was making ice cream. She also happend to get the nickname “Typhoid Mary” due to her spreading Typhoid Fever to 51 people, three of whom died, before being arrested. She was the first known case of a non-symptomatic carrier of a disease (of any kind), so most of the public was on her side when she was first put under quarantine. However, public opinion quickly turned against her when more people died after coming into contact with food she prepared, especially when those dying from the disease she spread started to include babies.

An early “This person is dangerous and an asshole” campaign, long before social media.

Most people are probably going to be either affected by COVID-19 or at least know someone who catches it. Many of those will know someone that doesn’t make it. How will you know? It’s probably going to be hard to escape from on your social media feeds. When people start losing loved ones, and they remember how you were still going to dances and taking public transportation in the weeks before, you’ll probably find your popularity plummeting much faster than you were expecting.

Pretty much everyone’s reaction if you don’t take precautions against COVID-19

Also, if you’ve ver thought “oh man, cancel culture can’t get any worse”, let me stress that a highly-contagious pandemic absolutely can make it worse. It may not be long before doing something like riding the subway with no mask gets your picture posted on Reddit’s r/iamatotalpieceofshit subreddit.

Epilogue: “Okay! OKAY! I get it already! This is bad. What do I do now?”

That’s what you might be saying at this point. In fact, a few early readers of this post were already convinced by the 1st section, so the rest of this might have been overkill. Regardless, you probably want some guidance on what to do now that you’re taking things seriously.

For starters, avoiding public transportation and large crowds is very important. You’ve most likely heard the phrase “social distancing” a lot. Luckily, this is more like “socially close, physically distant”. For further guidance on specifics, here’s a good article on how to approach everything from dates, dinner parties, and gym sessions.

If you haven’t already, petition your workplace to let you work from home. If you have people working FOR you, make sure they’re properly equiped to work from home as well if possible.

Avoid putting your hands near your face and/or eyes. Even if you don’t have a full N100/N99 mask (which would make sense since they’re sold out most places), at least wear something that stops you from putting your hands on your face.

Find alternatives to shaking hands or hugging. Foot-bumping and elbow bumping were popular for a while, but those still might be too intimate. I recommend the “namaste” greeting as an alternative.

Just like this

…or that…

…or even this

Make sure you have plenty of hand sanitizer and soap on hand. Also, make sure you properly wash your hands. Properly. Multiple times a day.

You may have been able to get away with partial handwashing before the pandemic, but half-assing it now is not going to cut it. You absolutely need to WHOLE-ass your handwashing.

(clarification: please don’t put your hands all over your ass, let alone multiple times a day. That doesn’t help. Wash them instead)

Make sure to to do the following:

  • Scrub all parts of your hands. Between fingers, outer palms, all edges, everything.
  • Use warm water, NOT COLD
  • Do this for at least 20 seconds each time

Proper handwashing does a LOT more to protect you than you might think, even if you thought it was pretty damned effective before.

Make sure to clean all frequently-touched surfaces (e.g., desks, counters, doorknobs, stairs railings). If you’re wondering what cleaning products to use, the NEA has made a list of cleaning product ingredients that kill the virus:

And no, the fact that Ethyl Alcohol is on this list is not an excuse to drink excessively. Especially not Corona Beer.

Above all, keep in mind that by physically isolating yourself, you are doing your community and country an enormous service. Countries like South Korea have been focusing on containing the spread as much as possible, and now they’re having fewer cases. By contrast, countries like Italy have been following the “Flatten the curve” strategy, which is now obviously not enough. How much people take precautions during the pandemic makes all the difference.


  1. http://www.hcra.harvard.edu/quiz.html
  2. http://www.ehow.com/how_2053210_bungee-jump.html
  3. http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/10/20/are-marathons-safe/
  4. http://www.bandolier.org.uk/booth/Risk/sports.html
  5. http://www.medicine.ox.ac.uk/bandolier/booth/Risk/sports.html
  6. http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/10/20/are-marathons-safe/
  7. https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/coronavirus-age-sex-demographics/
  8. 10-year mortality for skin cancer (excluding basal and squamous), 5-year mortality for prostate cancer https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/understanding/statistics
  9. http://www.hse.gov.uk/education/statistics.htm#death
  10. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/burden/2018-2019.html
  11. Assuming 6 chambers with 1 bullet, so about the chances of rolling a 2 on a fair six-sided die
  12. Its a semiautomatic. A semiautomatic pistol, unlike a revolver, automatically inserts a cartridge into the firing chamber when the gun is cocked. Nobody’s ever survived doing this.
  13. https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0207356

Cited as:

  title   = "Why you should care about COVID-19, even if you're a healthy young person",
  author  = "McAteer, Matthew",
  journal = "matthewmcateer.me",
  year    = "2020",
  url     = "https://matthewmcateer.me/blog/covid-conflict-resolution/"

If you notice mistakes and errors in this post, don’t hesitate to contact me at [contact at matthewmcateer dot me] and I will be very happy to correct them right away! Alternatily, you can follow me on Twitter and reach out to me there.

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