Yesterday afternoon at the COVID-19 briefing BC Premier John Horgan told the 20 to 39 years old cohort to “not blow this for the rest of us” when speaking about the latest province-wide restrictions aimed at curbing the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. I can only assume that this is in reference to the fact that this age cohort currently has the highest age-specific COVID-19 incidence rate in the province. As a member of this cohort, I felt a range of emotions from anger to betrayal to disheartenment after hearing Premier Horgan’s statement.
Like the rest of the population in the province, we have been asked to make immense sacrifices over the course of the past year. It seems as though Premier Horgan has forgotten that many of the burdens of the pandemic - like essential work, and caring roles within families - have fallen on 20 to 39 year olds. We make up a significant proportion of the labour force and many of us are classified as essential workers. Simply put, it’s not realistic to assume that everyone can reduce their bubble to their own household while still making ends meet and fulfilling caretaking roles within our families.
Vancouver is one of the expensive cities to live in in the world and for many of us, the pandemic has only made that harder. For those of us fortunate to work from home, we often find ourselves working longer hours and spending an exorbitant amount of time on Zoom. Trust me, we want this over as much as any other age group, we are missing out on endless experiences with our friends and families like the rest of the population. Additionally, there have been very few policies in place specifically designed to support this age group. For example, provincial and federal student loan payments were paused from April to October 2020 but have since resumed. As we are still in the midst of a pandemic, this puts further strain on new graduates in the bleak and competitive job market.
The province needs to be realistic about its expectations and understand that for many of us we are being pushed beyond what we ever thought was possible. With that in mind, all of this has taken a significant toll on our mental health. Recent studies have shown that the pandemic has had the greatest impact on working mothers. This group, which falls largely within the 20-39 year old age cohort, has been burdened with impossible expectations and is unsurprisingly leaving the workforce in droves. There has also been an unprecedented demand for mental health services over the course of the past year. Simply put, we are burnt out. It is not lost on me that this cohort is one of the last in line to be vaccinated, which means that we will need to be vigilant the longest. With the current four-month timeline for the second dose, many of us will not be fully vaccinated until this fall.
We have all been asked for more stamina and sacrifice over the last year than any of us expected, and this had led to various levels of compassion fatigue within the province. I’m not naive enough to believe that everyone will perfectly follow the guidelines, but this is true for people across all age groups. By singling out the 20-39 year old cohort as the potential reason why the current restrictions might not get us back to the “new normal,” it removes accountability from the entire population to continue doing their part. Furthermore, it ignores the lack of continued support that this cohort has received since the start of the pandemic.
Statements such as Premier Horgan’s devalues our worth, overlooks our tremendous losses, and minimizes the sacrifices that we have already made over the course of the past year.