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THE EDITORIAL BOARD

Nurse, 28, offers a hard lesson about treating the Covid-19 threat seriously

Through her self-imposed isolation, Mercedez Deshae Mitchell is sharing on her Facebook page: “In order to stop the spread, we need to stay home. I wish that is something I really would have took seriously.”

It is too late for Mitchell, 28, to avoid the horrible stages of the virus, but not for others her age – many of whom have famously ignored the public threat they create – and really, Western New Yorkers of all ages.

Mitchell now knows this is not just about her, but about the other people she put at risk. She came forward on her own, telling The News that she is a nurse whose last contact with any patients was days before she felt the illness starting. If she had stayed home or practiced six-feet social distancing, she knows, others would have been safer.

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz is frustrated. He has observed huge crowds on Erie County’s 10,000 acres of parkland. They provide plenty of open space to practice social distancing, yet people gather in confined spaces such as the Casino at Chestnut Ridge. The recklessness is all but criminal.

Here’s another statistic: over 400 confirmed cases in the county and at least seven deaths. It is obvious the virus is spreading and, as the county executive asserts, people need to practice physical distancing.

Moreover, as Poloncarz said, there is a false sense of security following a negative coronavirus test result. A negative test does not confer immunity.

Mitchell is the self-proclaimed poster child of caution. As she recounted, she began showing symptoms around March 12 and visited an emergency room. When her symptoms persisted days later, she returned to the emergency room and was tested for the novel coronavirus.

On March 18, she discovered she had tested positive. Her family tested at the Erie County Health Department’s drive-up site in Lancaster. Thankfully, those tests came back negative. But she has now isolated herself in a room of her house, away from her fiancé and her two sons, ages six and 18 months.

Mitchell’s story smashes the myth that young people cannot become infected. Indeed, those between the ages of 20 and 40 comprised 41% of Erie County’s Covid-19 cases as of Tuesday. On a national scale, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found a significant percentage of adults under the age of 65 admitted to intensive care units.

Yet, people continue disregarding social distancing guidelines, gathering in groups, heading to the Florida beaches for spring break and, at least in one notable case, holding parties. That was in Kentucky, where Gov. Andy Beshear was listing do’s and don’ts for residents, including this gem – “Don’t: Host or attend a ‘coronavirus party.’

Yes, that’s right, some young people in Kentucky held a “coronavirus party” and one attendee later tested positive for the virus. It’s flat-out stupid, but we see it replicated here in different gatherings. Americans of all ages must take this pandemic seriously. Otherwise, they risk infecting themselves and their loved ones while prolonging the day when we can put this stressful event behind.

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